The wildfires of recent summers gave artist Elaine Burns inspiration.
The result is her first-ever exhibit — Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide: The Birds — which will run from May 13 to June 4 at the Old Courthouse Gallery, downtown at Seymour Street and First Avenue.
The Birds was conceived during the wildfires of 2019.
“This is when I realized how devastating the fires are, not only to mankind, but to our precious wildlife,” Burns said. “After painting three small studies that year, the concept grew in my mind and gelled there until 2021.”
Last summer, of course, was the third-worst wildfire season on record with about 870,000 hectares of land burned and numerous buildings razed.
Burn also cited other climate change-related catastrophes, including the June 2021 heat dome and the November 2021 atmospheric river.
“My heart went out to all those displaced, but it broke at the thought of the fear, pain and loss experienced by animals and birds with nowhere to run or nowhere to hide,” Burns said.
That us when she began the art project.
Burns creates at her Lac Le Jeune studios south of Kamloops. The Birds was juried by the Canadian Federation of Artists and Burns was awarded active status with the Federation.
“I feel like I have a cohesive of amount of art that is all very similar. It tells a story and now I want to get it out there. I want to show people what I’ve done. I think it’s very impactful,” said Burns, whose preferred medium is oil.
“People may interpret the birds differently than I do, which is great. Everybody has their own subjective interpretations of art, but in my mind, I’m specifically telling a story with my birds.”
With climate change and its impacts right at the doorstep of Kamloops and her studio last summer right between two infernos — Tremont Creek and White Rock lake — Burns said she felt she had to do something, but what?
“I was painting the birds and, you know, I often ask myself, ‘What can I do about climate change? What can I do as an individual?’ I try to take care of my own backyard. I recycle. I try to, you know, eat more climate-friendly, with more vegetables. I try to waste less.”
Then Burns though she could do something, create a conversation, with her art and, hopefully, prompt people to start thinking about what they can do about climate change.
As she spoke with KTW on the phone, Burns noted she had earlier watched a hare scamper around her yard.
“You know, I feel for these little critters. I mean, it doesn’t take away what happens to humans at these times — so many people lost their homes and farmland and all the animals in the farms — it doesn’t take away from that. But how many people really realize, how important wildlife is to us? What if all the green is gone in our world. You know, what happens? I just can’t imagine what it would be like if there were no more birds flying in the sky and no more animals roaming freely on our land. It just wouldn’t be that special of a world anymore.”
Burns, who has been painting for six years, will have 11 oil on panel creations on display at the exhibit and they are for sale.
About the exhibit
There will be an opening reception on Saturday, May 14, from noon to 4 p.m. and Burns will be in the gallery on Saturdays from 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the exhibit’s run through June 4.
The exhibit will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, with the gallery closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Advice for beginners
What would Burns tell aspiring painters who might be a bit reticent to dive further into their art?
“I would tell them, if you love to paint, if you’re passionate about painting, keep painting, just keep the brush moving on the canvas. Put some canvas miles behind you. Paint what you feel strongly about. If you find you’re emotional about something, if you love something, paint, what you love because then your true, artistic self will come out.
“As long as you are putting yourself and your imagination into art, don’t worry about what other people think. It will happen because that’s what art is. That’s art.”