From the famous cave paintings of El Castillo, Spain and Lascaux, France to the sculpture of kokanee salmon at Nanaimo Square in Penticton, nature has always been one of the main inspirations for artists through the ages.
In fact, many would justifiably argue that this statement falls well short of emphasizing the importance nature plays in art — perhaps nature is the only important inspiration for artists. When the word “artist” is mentioned many of us immediately think of such painters as Monet, Robert Bateman, Tony Onley or Georgia O’Keefe — each of whom interpreted nature in their own special way.
But of course, the term “artist’ encompasses a far broader range of undertakings than just painting — sculpture, photography, writing, weaving, the list goes on. Even in many “non-nature” movies, from Thelma and Louise to Armageddon, nature plays a starring role. Who would remember the ending of Thelma and Louise if they had driven off an overpass in Nebraska rather than a spectacular cliff in Canyonlands National Park? Probably most books inspired by nature fall in the non-fiction category, but one only has to read Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea to affirm the role that nature has played in inspiring fiction writers over the years.
And while artists have been inspired over the centuries by all things natural, artists in turn have used that inspiration to kindle a conservation ethic in many who might otherwise not pay too much attention to the habitat destruction going on around them. From the 19th century writing of Thoreau to 3-D digital creations such as Avatar, artists have been challenging us to care about what happens to nature.
Here in the South Okanagan we are blessed with a multitude of artists of many persuasions — painters in various media, sculptors, writers, photographers and more. As part of the year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary, the South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club is co-sponsoring with the Penticton Museum a juried art show, South Okanagan Impressions, the natural South Okanagan as seen through the eyes of our local artists. We were pleased to have Paul Crawford, curator of the Penticton Art Gallery, act as juror for this show which will feature the work of 37 local artists whose depictions of nature in the South Okanagan include painting, photography, pottery, basketry, fabric art and sculpture.
The show opens with a reception on Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. Award-winning local writer and ecologist Don Gayton will be on hand to open the show with some of his thoughts on South Okanagan nature. If you are not familiar with Don’s writings or haven’t heard him speak, you should take advantage of this opportunity — come out to see some of the best nature art in our valley, be inspired by Don’s words and do some of your Christmas shopping at the same time. The show continues to Dec. 20.
The Nov. 22 meeting of the South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club will feature well-known Cawston resident Lee McFadyen. While best known for her skill as an organic gardener, Lee also has another passion: bluebirds — and she is going to share some of that passion with us. Lee has been involved in The Bluebird Society and the installation and care of bluebird nesting boxes for more than 30 years. In a departure from our normal routine, the meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the basement hall of the Penticton United Church on Main Street. Everyone is welcome.
Bob Handfield is vice-president of the South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club.