By Steve Hubrecht
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For Columbia Valley artist Carol Gordon, art is not so much about a finished painting or photograph, however beautiful it may be.

“For me, it’s the creative process, the creative journey, that is the focus,” Gordon told the Pioneer.

It’s a journey Gordon has been on her whole life, and one reflected in the solo exhibit, 75 Years of Life With Art, currently on display at Pynelogs Cultural Centre.

Carol Gordon
Submitted photo

The show encompasses mostly paintings and photography, although Gordon is a writer and journalist as well, and counts the written word as another of her artistic mediums.

“Those three — writing, photography, painting — that’s my palette,” she said. “Each is another way that I use as a means of self-expression.”

The photos and paintings are a career retrospective, encompassing works stretching across time and across geographic locations, as well as across mediums.

There are plenty of images of nature in the photos, which hang mostly in Pynelogs’s eastern display room, with plenty of landscapes (the four-part Our Beautiful Earth series is an unmissable example), mountain-scapes (including an eye-catching one of the formidable ramparts of Castle Mountain) and lake-scapes, as well as eagles, starfish, flowers, autumn leaves, and an up-close depiction of the twisting swirls of a time-bleached piece of wood. But there is a cityscape too (Walk Bike), candid photos such as Mexican Dining, and many striking portraits of kids and adults, family (including Gordon’s parents and her partner), and friends. 

The water colours occupy the middle hall and the cafe display room, and in these too, there is a theme of nature, with outlines of mountains and other natural forms, although there are many that are more abstract, with their different vibrant hues open to the viewer’s interpretation.

Gordon was born in Minnesota, but grew up in California, surrounded by a Hollywood film-making family, and it was in Los Angeles that she first became interested in photography. Indeed 75 Years of Life With Art features a photo Gordon took at 10-year old, and another taken as a high school student, which won a local photography contest. The bright red ribbon Gordon was awarded — Second Premium, L.A. County Fair, Pomona, 1962 — is still attached to the image’s frame as it sits in Pynelogs. 

As a young adult, Gordon moved to Canada and became a writer and journalist, working for the Calgary Herald and also working on a freelance basis. While still in her 20s, she took up watercolour painting, as another creative outlet. She attended the Emily Carr University of Art + Design (then called the Vancouver School of Art).

The solo exhibit includes some of her earliest watercolours, including one created in 1975 and another in 1976, as well as several pieces from a series entitled Nature on Fire that she painted in the 1980s as a reaction to a wildfire that affected the Columbia Valley.

“I was horrified by the devastation brought by that fire,” Gordon told the Pioneer.

75 Years of Life With Art grew out of a similar career-retrospective solo exhibit of Gordon’s work displayed earlier this year in Kimberley’s Centre 64 Gallery.

Initially, Gordon had been planning on showing 10 of her works at Pynelogs as part of a group exhibit, but then Columbia Valley Arts reached out to see if Gordon was interested in doing a solo career retrospective here in Invermere similar to the one in Kimberley.

“I did have to scramble a bit,” said Gordon. “The majority of the pieces are the same ones as in Kimberley, but I didn’t want to just reproduce the same exhibit entirely, so I had to figure out which new ones to include. I had to pull everything together to see what I’ve got. And it’s been a great process. It’s been really wonderful. It’s very unusual to do a solo show of this size, usually you exhibit in groups, so I’m very grateful for this opportunity.”

75 Years of Life With Art also includes some works that have never been shown at all, as Gordon explained to the Pioneer that she has a habit of sometimes putting a piece away, sometimes for quite a long time.

“After I finish a piece, or I should say after I think I’ve finished a piece, I sometimes like to keep it for years. This allows me to reflect on it from a distance, i.e. at a later time,” said Gordon. “Sometimes, when you think something is done, it’s not quite done. That’s all part of the creative process. You do change over time, and sometimes you see things you didn’t the first time around.”

Valley residents wishing to check out 75 Years of Life With Art firsthand can do so at Pynelogs, Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The exhibit runs until Tuesday, Oct. 30.