It is a relationship rooted in the soil of prairie landscapes and ranching traditions: Maple Creek and an artist intent on celebrating the lifestyle of the Canadian west.
No wonder Gena LaCoste feels at home in Cowtown.
On Saturday, September 11, she held an artist’s reception at the Broken Spoke Fine Art Gallery, which was an opportunity for her to catch up with friends and admirers of her art.
One of them was Nancy Bascom, from Eastend, who received a special gift for her four-month-old granddaughter, Ruby – a LaCoste painting entitled “Bedtime Blue Jay”.
“It’s a real treasure,” said Bascom, who also took home for her husband, Marvin, a LaCoste postcard of cowboys on a ranch.
LaCoste, who lives in Medicine Hat, was at the gallery for the inaugural Southwest Art Fest, a Cypress Hills-Grassland Destination Area event taking place throughout September.
Many communities throughout the region are involved, including Maple Creek, Shaunavon, Eastend, Leader and Swift Current. The concept is based on city art walks in which people visit galleries and shops while enjoying art, cultural entertainment, live music, and murals.
It is a chance for painters, photographers, musicians, and other artists to showcase their work. It is also a chance for businesses, public centres, and other venues to promote art in all its forms.
The driving force behind the event in Southwest Saskatchewan is Blaine Filthaut, a landscape artist and owner of the Broken Spoke gallery in Jasper Street.
Earlier this month, the gallery hosted a reception by Susan Woolgar, an abstract artist who brought many new pieces capturing the local area in acrylic, pastel and watercolour.
Two more artists had been lined up: Karoll Brinton, Canadian landscape and portrait artist appeared on September 18 and 19, but the scheduled September 25-26 reception of Lesley Schatz, singer/songwriter and artist had to be postponed amid continuing concern over COVID-19 and the reintroduction of mandatory mask-wearing indoors.
Filthaut hoped Schatz would be able to come to Maple Creek within the next few months, perhaps during the Christmas holiday.
LaCoste was delighted to be involved in the first Southwest Art Fest, particularly after 18 months of COVID-19 restrictions. At last, she had a chance to display her work.
“I think it’s a great idea,” she said.
LaCoste brought about 20 of her smaller pieces, mostly watercolours, a few oil paintings. She also came with a selection of her postcards, some of which were sold.
Her work reflects her background.
Born into a ranching family in Southern Alberta, she became enchanted with the beauty of wild native grasslands, sweeping skies, coulees and cut banks of the Bow River, wildlife, horses, cattle and the lifestyle of cowboys. The indelible print of those memories is seen in her art.
In 2019, during the Communities in Bloom Soirée in Maple Creek, LaCoste told how her prairie upbringing influenced her work.
“When I think of myself as a child, I remember how I loved to escape the house and be with the horses etc. No wonder – being in or around the house meant work.”
Horses, more than anything, populate her work, along with working cattlemen, women, dogs, handmade gear, wildlife, flowers and gardens.
“On some level, I think I’m trying to preserve what may be lost in another generation or two if we aren’t careful,” LaCoste says.
“We have one of the most beautiful eco-systems in the world and much of my motivation to paint is to re-experience magic moments in it and to share them with you, my viewer.”