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Alton Mill artist shares her passion for fine art 

May 18, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Sherry Park sometimes asks herself what she wants to say with her paintings. Does she want to make political statements? Considering her current focus on portraiture, should she be conveying serious social comments? Or is she an artist who concentrates on painting a rose in the garden?

The truth is, she told the Citizen during an interview this week, “Really, I just want to paint – without thinking – just to paint.”

With a college background at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD), graduating in the early 90s, Ms. Park went back to painting only eight years ago. Her objective since those eight years ago has been to push herself to see how far she could go. She entered juried shows and kept getting accepted. She answered applications to join arts organizations as a way of getting herself involved in the wider arts community.

Last year, she applied and was accepted to an artist’s residency at Chateau Orquevaux, an inherited Chateau that became a centre for artists just a couple of hours outside Paris. The residency was set for two weeks, but she added a week in Paris before returning home.

Ms. Park told us: “All our time was spent 24/7 with that group of 10 people, from all over but mostly from America and Canada. It happened when a friend of mine went there. It’s such a beautiful place. I applied and got the notice I got accepted.” Admitting, “It was expensive.”

Her experience as an artist there: “[When] I was painting by myself secluded, just painting. [I] Got there not expecting too much, but it was quite overwhelming.”

“I’m quite shy and there I learned to open up,” she said. “That’s what they were doing. I was terrified but that’s an experience.”

During the course of the residency, there was no instruction as such; the experience of simply being there, particularly for those coming from Canada and the U.S., was deemed to be an inspiration in itself.

“You don’t get instruction,” said Ms. Park. “Some feed-back, discussion; everyone is their own artist, just there to experience the place and learn from the other artists. Everybody’s different. You see and talk and learn without knowing it. One gentleman from Belleville [Ontario] was in his 80’s. He was the one who partied the most, drank the most, stayed up the latest. He was amazing – we didn’t know how he did it.”

Ages among the group were varied, and Sherry Park found herself still trying to recover from it; for her, it was overwhelming.

“That’s another thing,” she continued, “travelling by myself, experiencing that and how to survive on my own.”

This is her fifth year at the Alton Mill, moving to a bigger studio last year after four years in a smaller studio. During the week, she works as a pharmaceutical technician and then spends the rest of the week in her Alton Mill studio. 

“I’m trying to open up myself,” she explained, “I just signed a contract with Sivarulrasa Gallery in Almont, Ottawa. I was willing to explore this area with galleries. I live with my partner and I only work enough to pay for my studio. I am trying to build up my portfolio, doing solo shows last year. I was proud of myself for that.”

The Ottawa gallery approached Ms. Park, rather to her surprise. The owner asked her if she had representation and, when she told him no, offered to represent her.

“I thought I would have to apply to studios …” she said.

She is a member of Headwater Arts.

Sherry Park also has a painting in the Forms, Faces & Spaces – Figuratively Speaking Exhibit, open until May 28 in the Falls Gallery at the Alton Mill. This weekend on Sunday, May 21, the exhibit welcomes the Mad Hatter tea party with light refreshments. This includes the People Choice Awards, with two pieces that have been chosen more than once. It runs from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. with live music from solo guitarist Paul Llewyn-Williams and a panel discussion.

“Reaching out … the role of art in growing community,” is facilitated by Robert Steven, Executive Director, Portrait Gallery of Canada, with other leaders in the arts field-photographers, artists, directors, and policymakers. You can register for free Eventbrite tickets. Light refreshments will follow the panel’s presentation and discussion.

Thinking back to Paris, Sherry Park toured as much as she could, commenting on the tremendous city, “It’s great; there are cafés everywhere. Here it’s all spread out,” she noticed. “There it’s clustered. I thought it was good.”

In the course of her thinking about her encounters, she learned from that gentleman.

“We’re keeping in touch,” she told us about the group, “with a small chat group; we keep each other up to date. Half them are from Canada.”

Oil paint is her medium of choice. She likes the texture, the depth and the colours, trying to mix a batch of the colours she wants, telling us, “When you paint, you get more; you can work on it longer than the acrylic. I try to mix a batch of colour. It takes me a long time to paint with the same colour or close to it.”

What she wants from her painting, always thinking about what she is trying to do – what she is trying to express – political, beautiful flowers.

In the Falls Gallery, the “Lady in the Blue Shirt” is her painting.

“Connie [Munson, organizer through her studio by design, of Forms, Faces & Spaces] invited me. I was going to be out of town but she said just put [your piece] in there and she would do the work. She had a lot of people helping her,” Ms. Park related.

Winding up a successful month of workshops, discussions and authors’ readings, Connie Munson’s two CONTACT Satellites have involved many artists and people in the arts.

The Awards Ceremony will be on Sunday, May 28, from 2:00 to 4:30 p.m. at the Falls Gallery with Featured Guest Robert Steven, executive director of Portrait Gallery of Canada, returning for conversation with special artist guests, including Sherry Park. “Awards are Cash prizes and Awards Certificates for Honorable Annette Grove’s Mayor’s Choice and People’s Choice. Light refreshments.” [Press release]

For her own part, Sherry Park reflected, “I’m more into painting people – that’s my parents. That’s what I’m trying to come up with, a concept for why am I painting my parents. That’s what I’m trying to say. But sometimes I just want to paint without thinking about anything. Just paint.”

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