Artist protests industry’s greed through her artwork

August 24, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Emilia Perri is staging her art show: Natural Wonder, The North, with an opening reception next Thursday, August 30, from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. and running until September 13 at her art supplies store, workshop and gallery, Maggiolly Studio Gallery at 158 Broadway in Orangeville.

Ms. Perri applied for and received a Reed T. Cooper Art Bursary in 2016, meant to be used as a fund to new learning in the artistic field in which the artist works. In this case, Ms. Perri made her application to help her pay for a Canoe North Adventure package which would take her to the Yukon with guides and hosts Al Pace and Lin Ward.

The trip was a 12-day adventure, paddling in a canoe on the Yukon River from White Horse to Dawson City, camping on the way.

The trips combine the necessarily basic living of tent camping with the best in camp facilities and food, along with the last great wilderness in Canada – the grand scenery, the cleanest air and the most unforgettable days of your life. Thus it was for Emilia Perri, who went with very little experience of camping and canoe paddling but a big longing to see that world for several reasons.

She knew it would make a difference: to her painting and to herself as a person. She could not have known how or how much difference it would make; she only knew that something in her pushed her to find a way to go.

Her then 24-year-old daughter, Sara May, was going with her.

Lin Ward, co-owner and guide of Canoe North Adventurers, running the business and living on Hockley Road, where her husband, Al Pace, has his Farmhouse Pottery studio and their store and cafe, has commented that the Yukon River trip is for “the least experienced of our travellers. It’s not too challenging – no white water or rapids. The scenery is still great and there’s lots of wildlife to see. It’s a relatively easy 12 days but people still feel they’ve had a grand adventure – and they have!”

The effect of the trip was as life-changing as Ms. Perri felt it would be and she has naturally been left with the longing to return. For the present, she is excited to be painting in the way her voyage to the north taught her. It taught her other things she had not counted on and made a crusader of her: the devastation of the north by industry; the unreported damage and irreparable destruction of the land that media reports do not tell us and that industry wants kept quiet.

“My purpose was to expose myself to unspoilt nature,” she said. “I wanted my art to reflect what I learned up there. There’s a lot of interest as far as what it is we’re doing to the planet and how it is being destroyed.

“The rampant rate of development,” she exclaimed, “without giving it any real thought. Companies pushing their employees to do things too quickly for the sake of time and money, knowing in advance it will cause harm to the environment.”

She showed us a notice from the Art Gallery of Ontario about an upcoming exhibition, a contemporary art exhibition showing the effects humans are having on planet earth – the Anthropocene Age through a 50-piece photography exhibition. Much of it shows the reckless mistreatment of the planet for money, for greed.

“There is a growing interest and concern about this,” Ms. Perri said.

Certainly, her own painting has been influenced by the passionate colours and sights she saw on her trip. The heavy rock hills by the river, alive with mottled greens and browns, the island forests, but then – the startling Aurora Borealis flashing its vibrant greens and blues, the incredible mauve sunsets – all added up to an enriched idea of how colour should be.

Not long after her return to the south, taking a month to paint it, Ms. Perri produced her work, Natural Wonder, the North, an acrylic on canvas painting, five feet by 11, that shows the energy and the excitement of how she interprets what she saw and felt in the north. That and 12 other works will be on display during the upcoming show..

Her daughter, Sarah May, will be reading the poem she wrote, sitting on the banks of the Yukon River at the opening reception.

Ms. Perri wrote, “Paddling a canoe for 375 kilometres in the wild lands of the Yukon on the Yukon River for 12 days has made an incredible impact on my work. It’s two summers later and I’m still painting abstract impressions of my landscape experiences there, how I felt, what it smelled like! I am very proud of the work that I have made since returning from that amazing trip and, as they say, ‘the Yukon will cast its spell on you’ and as I’ve experienced, also your paintings!”

Natural Wonder, the North, and exhibition of Emilia Perri’s northern paintings opens next Thursday, August 30, at the Maggiolly Studio Gallery (and arts supplies store) at 158 Broadway, Orangeville.

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