True passion for art remains in spite of pandemic

Artistic expressions in South Dundas series.

Recently, The Leader launched a series of articles focusing on the visual artists who live and create here in our own community, discussing with them how their work and experiences may have been “influenced” by the “new reality” of a COVID world. Many of the artists also discuss how they perceive the future of the arts post pandemic. Week one featured artist Jan Mills. This is the second in the series and features Elsie Gallinger (pictured).

MORRISBURG – “I really understand how this whole COVID experience can depress people,” said Morrisburg artist, Elsie Gallinger, during our interview. “But I think maybe I’ve been lucky. I have been able to continue to paint, and I am still passionate about my work.”

Elsie’s home is filled with her art and with beloved books. She laughs that she enjoys this “personal time,” able to read and to paint as the mood strikes her. To that extent, the lockdowns and shut downs of studios and exhibitions have not stopped her, although she admits “these days, there is not a lot to look forward to.”

Instead, she has been going into the fields around this area with her camera, taking a lot of photos, seeking inspiration: then she paints in her studio later.

“I find that I have been doing a lot of series work. I start with one picture on a certain theme, and other paintings follow.” Currently, Elsie has been creating a series based on “the bay back by Cruickshanks. I call it my Marshland Series, and there are now three pieces in the series. Taking this series approach,” Elsie explained, “has been kind of exciting. How can I show each scene? How can I create a slightly different mood for each work? Truthfully, some days, something strikes me – or nothing does!”

I asked her about what some artists have described as “painting out” their feelings, driven by the pandemic.

“I actually did a series of paintings of some trees in Loyalist Park, which I ended up calling Stay in Your Own Bubble,” Elsie explained. “I kind of smiled when I studied those paintings later because I realized that the trees were all isolated and separated, which had not been in my original plan. The picture is not depressing, but it does show a kind of isolation.”

She stands to paint, and COVID has ended swimming and physical activities that helped her stay reasonably fit. “There has been some stress on my back over this last year. But I can still paint for myself, for the joy it gives me. I feel very sorry for the artists who must rely on sales to make a living. This is a hard time for them.” She stays in touch with some area artists, but admits that she is not really “online.”

“I miss the Brockville Art Studio, the meetings with other artists, the galleries and exhibits. Live exhibits are so important to an artist because people need a personal, interactive experience with a piece of art. That’s all missing now.”

Along those lines, I asked her what she thought about the future of the visual arts after these months of isolation and lockdowns hopefully come to an end.

“I believe technology may be a bigger influence than ever, especially for the new generation,” Elsie said. “It seems to me that that generation doesn’t buy paintings the way people once did.

They “bring up pictures on a screen,” maybe order, then move on. Perhaps they don’t value things the way we did, don’t value “stuff” in the same way. My house is full of “stuff” and I love it,” she laughed.

“I think some young people are missing the whole experience of art,” she said. “They don’t take the time for just standing in front of a piece or a painting, of walking away, then coming back and looking again. Sometimes, you know, you don’t actually “see” a painting really until the next day.”

Elsie misses art shows and “the interesting people” she always meets at these events. She is hoping to be able to take part in the Apples and Hearts tour out of Cornwall, coming in late September. However, COVID restrictions, lockdowns or not, artist Elsie Gallinger has no intention of slowing down. “Art is still a true passion and a love in my life.”

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