En Plein Air

Sarah Hilliard, Assistant to the Dean of Fine Arts at the University of Lethbridge, looks at paintings by Bev Muendela, at the opening reception of En Plein Air 2018.

The opening reception of En Plein Air 2018 took place on Dec. 8, at the Dr. Foster James Penney Building in Lethbridge, Alberta. En Plein Air events have been around since 2013.

En Plein Air Days was hosted on May 13, June 17, and July 22 at the University of Lethbridge’s Coutts Centre near Nanton, Alberta and was attended by over 100 visual artists. The Courts Centre Arts Festival, which was hosted by the Faculty of Fine Arts, was also hosted at the Coutts Centre on July 22.

“We have an exhibition every year,” John Oxley, manager of the En Plein Gallery, said. “The artists come together in the summer of each year on special days that we set aside for them to show their work. They can go to the Coutts Centre or other spaces at any time to create artwork and then in the fall, we start inviting them to submit artworks to this exhibition.”

82 works by 36 artists were featured at the reception and the displays included paintings; a set of beadwork, and photography done by local artist Janice Wilson; a sculpture piece, and a unique treadmill piece.

Several of the artists got the inspiration for their artwork from things they discovered while visiting the Coutts Centre, which was donated to the University of Lethbridge by Dr. Jim Coutts in 2011. Although Dr. Coutts passed away in 2013, his land and legacy is still appreciated by artists around Alberta.

An artist named Janice Wilson, who was in three previous shows, exhibited three pieces done entirely with beads, three photographs, and a painting. Another artist named Heather Macdonald-Sorochan, who was including herself in the exhibition for the first time, created a piece called Herb Garden and Gate is on sale at the exhibition for $300.00. Interested buyers can contact Macdonald-Sorochan at heather.sorochan@gmail.com.

The treadmill piece, done by an artist named Anonymous Smith, features designs imprinted on the belt of a treadmill and the designs changed as the belt ran continuously. Due to safety concerns, the piece was cordoned off by a wooden fence during the show. The piece, titled A Walk In Nature, for sale and priced at $675.00. Anyone who wishes to purchase the piece can contact Smith at aw.smith@uleth.ca.

“My thought behind it was how we humans work to contain nature through fences and other restrictions,” Smith said. “The idea behind the piece was me trying to answer the question of where a painting can be and what it can be on. Another question I wanted to answer was: why can’t we use the floor as an expressive medium for a pictoral device?”

Derek Olsen, the Dean of Fine Arts at the University of Lethbridge, was present at the opening reception and had positive words for everyone involved in making this year’s exhibition a reality.

“I want to express sincere gratitude and appreciation for the artists for all the work that's gone into what you're seeing here today,” Olsen said. “The artists made many trips to the Coutts center, they participated in the Coutts Arts Festival, and they spent a great deal of time preparing their art in time for this exhibition.”

The exhibition runs until December 24 at the Penney Building and anyone is welcome to come view it during business hours.

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