A passionate calling for Iroquois artist Brenda King

Artistic expressions in South Dundas series.

The Leader’s Wendy Gibb has undertaken 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. Previously featured were artists Jan Mills, Elsie Gallinger, Gene Ward, Karen Fisher, Anne Barkley, Dorothy Adlington, MiSun Kim-Hunter, and Margi Laurin. Those articles can now be found online at morrisburgleader.ca. This week, Gibb concludes the series in conversation with artist Brenda King (pictured above in her studio).

IROQUOIS – “I was literally the last artist to show at the Brockville Arts Centre,” said noted Iroquois artist, Brenda King, “before COVID shut everything down in February. And I was showing at the Cailuan Gallery until it was closed too. From that time on, people haven’t been able to actually look directly at my art, experience it. And I think that art should trigger conversations and thoughts. I have missed that. Of course,” she added with a laugh, “the chance to sell a work is part of it too: it’s pretty awesome when some one wants to live with a piece of your soul.”

However, COVID-19 or not, for Brenda, creating art is vital. “The difference between visual artists and performance artists is that performance artists need an audience, they create for an audience. For a visual artist, painting is the task, the end result. You are not thinking about an audience as you paint: all you want is to finish that art.” Visual art, is essentially, a solo activity.

“When the paint goes on the canvas, only one person is holding the brush.”

Brenda holds degrees in visual art, but also in art history. During the months of being restricted largely to her home, among other things, she found herself spending time focusing on the works of a particular artist, Modigliani: her studio walls carry reproductions of his highly distinctive portraits and nudes.”I think I was looking outside for inspiration. Perhaps it’s his passion that I sought. Of course,” she added laughing, “none of my paintings actually look like his works.”

She has been doing some commission work, most recently a series of oils entitled “People Who Live in Solitude.” She has also done pieces, abstract works, for book covers. “I actually have a book cover for a New York journal coming out in May 2022, edited by my daughter, Dr. Rebekka King.”

She has kept in touch, through the pandemic, with colleagues from galleries and she belongs to Focus Art, an artists association. However, she hasn’t engaged in on-line “group paintings” or discussions, and she has chosen not to enter any on-line shows. “I just felt that my paintings on line didn’t resonate.”

However, she has discovered some other, rather unexpected exposure and sales venues. “People doing Zoom meetings, so common during COVID, often display art pieces behind them,” she explained. “Others see these works and it has actually generated a resurgence of interest in art. I sold pieces and then I’ve seen them displayed on the wall behind the purchasers in Zoom sessions. Who would have thought that this could become a venue for art and artists! In a world where I once thought the only venue for art was in a gallery, I guess COVID has shown me differently.”

Brenda was one of a group of artists featured in an outdoor art show held at The Lost Villages in mid August, with the artists set up amongst historical buildings: visitors could experience both the past and the present in one, safe, open air place.

However “I will be excited to see galleries open again,” Brenda said, then added, smiling, “and my husband will be excited to see space open up on his walls and in his house!”

The closure of galleries and conventional artistic venues did, however, take Brenda in some new directions in one aspect. She is a dedicated gardener, who has – in some sense – found a natural palette in her yard. “I love my garden and so I created a series of abstract florals. I have never,” she laughed, “ever painted flowers in my life, or had the inclination to. Maybe COVID made me more reflective, made it possible for things that would never have moved me to move me now. My work has always been ‘non-objective’ or figurative. Flowers are quite a huge departure. I think I was simply taken by the colours, the shapes, the patterns and textures of the garden.”

Seated in her home, where many of her pieces are hung on the walls, Brenda King made a last observation about the nature of art, and, in some ways, about the nature of artists. “My brain is always making art: it’s a compulsion, not a job. I eat, sleep, breathe painting. It’s not a choice.”

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