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“Farming in the Dustbowl” exhibition on display at Coaldale Public Library

Posted on August 23, 2023 by Sunny South News

By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News

The Coaldale Public Library is displaying the works of artist Carol Bromley Meeres until August 30.

The exhibit, made possible by the Travelling Exhibition Program (TREX) is a program organized through the Alberta Foundation for the Arts (AFA) which brings travelling exhibitions to various venues across Alberta, including small towns such as Coaldale, where residents might not otherwise have regular access to gallery spaces, and a bid to make art more accessible.

Alberta-born visual artist Carol Bromley Meeres’ work takes on environmental and social issues, and her work explores colour, texture and historical mediums such as cyanotypes which impart a unique texture and detail on her work.

The current series, entitled, “Farming in the Dustbowl” references this time in history in a thoroughly-researched and detailed collection of images.

Nearly 100 years ago, in the 1930’s the prairies were subjected to a period of severe drought, which came to be known as the dust bowl due to the clouds of dust caused by prolonged dryness across the Great Plains. The ramifications were widespread and impacted crops and resulted in dust storms which could last days on end. Compounded by other ecological factors such as pests, and intense economic challenges of the Great Depression, many farmers were forced to abandon their farms entirely, as conditions made it impossible for many to survive.

Each work in Meeres’ series, “Farming in the Dustbowl” represents various elements of this point in history, and is comprised of work rendered in the historical mediums such as the cyanotypes, photography, and encaustic (hot wax) paintings.

Cyanotype photography is done without a camera, and involved placing an object on top of paper coated with iron salts and exposing the page to UV light, which imparts a cyan-coloured image on the page after washing with water. This technique was a low cost process for engineers needing to make copies of drawings and is the source of the term “blueprint”.

Encaustic painting, also known as “hot wax painting” involves adding pigments to a warmed wax, which is then “painted” on a surface such as wood or canvas. Surviving encaustic paintings date back to as early as 100 A.D.

Despite a “lack” of photorealism, the use of these historical mediums makes each work feel like an actual artefact, rather than a re-creation. Unlike a traditional print photo, the texture and detail of each piece creates a sense of “originality”, as though for the viewer, the image has not been “flattened” by contemporary printing.

Other TREX exhibits in the region on display until Aug. 30 include:

Adornment at the Taber Public Library, Now is the Winter at Fort Macleod Public Library, Fields of Vision, Lines of Sight at Cypress Hills Visitor Centre (Elkwater), Party On! At the Foremost Municipal Library, and Pretend Foraging in Sleeved Blankets at the Lethbridge Public Library.

For more information, and to see planned future exhibits, visit https://trexsoutheast.ca/, or to view Carol Bromley Meeres Farming in the Dustbowl series in person, visit the McCain Gallery at the Coaldale Public Library until Aug. 30.

People interested in trying the cyanotype process can follow Bromley Meeres tutorial at https://aggp.ca/art-at-home-details/meet-the-artist-cyanotype-process-with-carol-bromley-meeres/.

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