Much like the subject of many of her paintings – the Trail smelter – the art of Catherine Wetmore combines the utility of industry with a strange, if not terrible, beauty.
Visac Gallery invites residents to the grand opening of “Reflections on Light” on Friday, an exhibit of Wetmore’s paintings.
Visac director Laurie Merlo says the gallery is excited to have the Trail resident and her new collection of acrylic paintings, inspired by the local landscape.
Wetmore employs a unique technique that manipulates the medium to conceal, then uncover the life in the darkness of her images.
Her series of paintings started with the recycling of an acrylic work she didn’t like. She glazed the surface with a dark gel and began drawing through it to reveal parts of the under-painting.
“I was intrigued with the light created, seen as if under water or through pieces of darkened glass,” said Wetmore.
The UBC fine arts graduate returned to Trail three years ago with husband Douglas after 30 years in Vancouver and the Okanagan.
Her daughters had all moved back to the Kootenays so the Wetmores followed, and bought a house in Tadanac, two doors down from where Douglas was raised.
“I didn’t really like the dry climate (of the Okanagan),” said Catherine. “I found it hard to paint there.”
Landscape and industry are favourite subjects of her’s, so the Tadanac view of the river and the proximity to Teck provide apt and ready images for her paintings.
Her early years living in mining camps in the bush nourished her love of nature and strange attraction to industrial themes, and when Wetmore moved back to Trail, the ethereal glow coming from the smelter reaffirmed that.
“With Teck, the evenings had this orange glow and I just couldn’t believe it, it was so beautiful, so I incorporated that very strongly – I try to keep that glow coming in the under-paintings of the other pieces.”
The effect is one that is surreal or expressionistic; the contrast of dark and light, texture and fluidity, industry and nature, impart a philosophy of the co-existing forces of beauty, elegance and utility.
“For me, light in its various qualities evokes an encouraging response – hope – that we, as a community and in the larger world, will find the social, economic and ecological solutions needed to make a better world for all to share.”
“Reflections on Light” opens Friday from 5-8 p.m. at Visac Gallery and runs until April 15.