Entertainment Local

Local artist interprets Innisfil's stories

By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

Jacqueline Swanek, artist, listens to a participant read aloud during an group exercise at the opening of the Visual Stories of Innisfil exhibit at the ideaLAB and Library in Alcona, last Thursday. Swanek asked those in attendance to sit in a circle and read journal entries and other stories from Innisfil residents of yesteryear.

Jacqueline Swanek, artist, listens to a participant read aloud during an group exercise at the opening of the Visual Stories of Innisfil exhibit at the ideaLAB and Library in Alcona, last Thursday. Swanek asked those in attendance to sit in a circle and read journal entries and other stories from Innisfil residents of yesteryear.

A new art exhibit in Innisfil is re-imagining the memories of the community.

Canada 150: Visual Stories of Innisfil has been created by local artist Jacqueline Swanek. The show features 17 original watercolour paintings inspired by vintage photographs of Innisfil residents from the Innisfil Historical Society and Our Stories collections.

Swanek hasn’t merely reproduced the photos in her paintings; rather she has used them as inspiration, re-interpreting the likenesses they show. That was the plan all along.

“They aren’t representational,” she said at the gala opening July 27. “I’m interested in memories and the nature of memories. That nature of memory is not necessarily direct – you don’t remember it exactly – so there are all sorts of fragmented pieces coming from old memories.”

The watercolours on display show off that fragmentation. Faces are left purposely blank in some cases, while other photos are cropped to focus on one or two subjects, instead of the larger group that may have been found in the original.

It’s an art form Swanek has been perfecting throughout the better part of the past 10 years. A life-long fascination with old photos led her to taking a vintage picture of her grandmother and painting it before she passed away. At the grandmother’s funeral, Swanek’s painting was alongside other mementos and photographs of the recently deceased matriarch.

Swanek relayed the story during her opening remarks and the reaction it got from her uncle. “I remember that tablecloth,” she recalled him saying, reflecting on the pattern on the table recreated in her art.

“When you’re looking at a photograph, you’re looking at something that was once here,” she said.

“I use a lot of patterning, because, to me, that’s a personal connection to memory,” Swanek added. “You would look at an old dress that you would see your grandmother in, in an old photo, and would say ‘I remember her wearing that dress; I remember that old tablecloth; I remember that floral wallpaper.’ They say scent is tied to memory... patterns are as well.”

Swanek grew up in Bradford and lived in Barrie for 10 years before moving to Innisfil with her family. She is honoured to leave her stamp on the history of her new hometown, mere steps from where she, her husband, and their children have settled.

“It’s become a sense of place that has come out of the work,” Swanek said. “I’m looking at where these things took place and where I am living in the space now.”

Visual Stories of Innisfil will remain at the Alcona branch of the Innisfil ideaLAB and Library until the end of August. Following that, the exhibit will spend two months at the Cookstown library, and a further two months at the Stroud library.

It is hoped the exhibit will eventually be featured at the Innisfil town hall.

pbales@postmedia.com

@patrickbales