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Art brings history to life at ‘Honouring the Past

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75th anniversary of the Porcupine Art club shows Timmins’ creative passion, then and now

It might not look themed, but all the paintings in “Honouring the Past” explore the artists’ personal connections to history in Timmins or further afield.

The pieces in the Porcupine Art Club’s 75th-anniversary exhibit were created for the show, except for the works of members from the 1940s and ’60s, on display in the centre of the Grey Gallery.

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The exhibit opened at a reception Wednesday evening and runs until Dec. 30th.

Current member Cathy Cribbs’ “Set in Stone – Deadman’s Point” draws from her memories of visiting the cemetery with her Finnish community on Christmas Eve. It was a tradition to snowshoe out to the family’s graves and leave an ice candle on it, she said. Cribbs illustrated the ice candles with pieces of glass.

Cathy Cribbs stands in between her two works depicting Deadman’s Point at the opening of “Honouring the Past,” the 75th-anniversary show of the Porcupine Art Club. The club’s longevity is a testament to the importance of the arts in Timmins. Its mission is to promote art appreciation, education, and the professional development of it’s members.NICOLE STOFFMAN/The Daily Press
Cathy Cribbs stands in between her two works depicting Deadman’s Point at the opening of “Honouring the Past,” the 75th-anniversary show of the Porcupine Art Club. The club’s longevity is a testament to the importance of the arts in Timmins. Its mission is to promote art appreciation, education, and the professional development of it’s members.NICOLE STOFFMAN/The Daily Press jpg, TD

Curator Karen Bachmann looked through the museum’s collection to select the best pieces from the art club’s founders and early members and put them on display in the centre of the gallery.

As Bachmann wrote in The Daily Press, the club was founded by a group of dedicated painters in the winter of 1947 and 1948. They were: Aileen Coombs, George Ransom, Doris Sturgeon and Betty MacMillan. The longevity of the club is a testament to the importance of the arts in Timmins, she wrote.

A convincing Timmins street scene by Doris Sturgeon was found at a garage sale and purchased by the club a decade ago. The small, fine painting is also on display.

“Early Falls Cascade,” a watercolour by Helen Chisolm from 1961, is a stand-out piece for Paul Raiche with the museum. Chisolm was the club’s only professional artist.

“She’s getting in a lot of information with an economy of means,” said Raiche, who holds a Bachelors of Fine Art from the University of Ottawa. “I love her free, gestural strokes that are suggesting trees, and the perspective of the hills in the background.”

The through line between the past and present for Raiche, is the contemporary work of Ellen Catherwood on the adjacent gallery wall. “Dell E. Hansen,” a portrait of her grandmother, raises watercolour to the level of photographic realism.

“Helen and Ellen, I feel like they’re talking to each other, they’re in the same caliber,” said Raiche.

“Say HER Name,” by Karina Miki Douglas-Takayesu, grew out of her frustrations as a reference librarian when trying to complete research requests about women who lived in Timmins. These requests can come from families who wish to know more about their ancestors.

“Say HER Name” depicts 12 women of historical significance, and the artist intends to add 12 more.

“Too often they were listed as Mrs. (husband’s full name) without any regard to her given first name and identity,” wrote Douglas-Takayesu in her artist’s statement.

The artist, a reference librarian by day, has written up short biographies of each of her subjects which include a female trapper, prospector and hotelier. She is most passionate about Laura Elizabeth Keon, a volunteer nurse from Quebec who served Timmins during two pandemics before succumbing to influenza herself.

In 1918, Timmins town council set aside $300 to raise a plaque in Keon’s memory, a plan which was never carried out. In was not until another pandemic in 2021, that council recommitted to honour the plan.

“Here we Are” by Lynne Nyman, depicts siblings playing amongst Hollinger houses on Laurier Avenue in the 1950s. Nyman saw the photo on the Facebook group, “Timmins, then and now,” and asked its owner, Marcel Gauthier, if she could paint it. He agreed, and Nyman brought the black and white painting to life by painting it in colour.

“It’s the mining story of Timmins,” said Nyman. “The story of the families that grew up with their father in mining.”

Gauthier attended the reception on Wednesday evening.

“My dad was a miner. He was what they called a sampler,” he told The Daily Press. “They’re the guys that went in to determine if there’s enough gold in the ore. They’d chip it and take it to the assay office who would assay it and see if there was sufficient gold to drill and blast.”

Gauthier said Nyman got it mostly right.

“The grass is a bit long, I think we cut it a bit better than that,” he joked. “It’s good. That’s the way the house and the neighbour’s house looked, and where the kids hid behind the wall.”

His siblings, Elaine and Mark, have yet to see the painting.

Young children ran in with their parents throughout the evening to see the community painting that was completed on July 1st to commemorate the Queen’s Jubilee. Wednesday’s reception was the first time they could see the piece in its entirety, as opposed to just the small six-by-six-inch canvas they were asked to paint in the summer.

The final product is made up of 70 canvases from a pattern by Cathy Cribbs. It shows Timmins year-round, in a swirl of activity from skating to picking blueberries. The northern lights are depicted, as is a logging truck about to collide with a moose.

Carpentry teacher Barry Trebilcock and students from Timmins Vocational High built the frame.

The 70 small canvases, when put together, reveal Cribbs’ design. It is marred only by one incomplete canvas painted by a four-year-old child who was clearly too young for the activity. PAC members voted to include it, nonetheless.

Belleve Peltier, 7, had been waiting to see the final piece since the summer. “I put a lot of feeling into my work,” she said of the tile she painted of the McIntyre Headframe. “I think it’s incredible.”

“Honouring the Past – an exhibit by members of the Porcupine Art Club,” runs until Dec. 30 in the Grey Gallery of the Timmins Museum, 325 Second Ave. Admission is free.

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