BY SARAH LINDSTEIN
Copper trees twist in a glass background, beckoning viewers to stop and peer closer. A multitude of eyes – some happy, some surprised and all mysterious – gaze out.
The eyes, hooded with eyelids and lashes, are suspended in a gauzy, dark background with a hint of shine. Horses run across blasted glass; bears and ravens make their surprise appearances in otherwise idyllic landscapes.
Self-taught artist Judy Matechuk explores the Yukon in ways nobody has yet. To her, the landscape speaks in dyed textiles, sandblasting and photo transfers.
“Art is a way we can alter the reality around us,” says Matechuk. “For example, scenery I painted looked like it needed grizzly bears, so I simply added them in a two-dimensional way.”
Experience has been an important teacher and Matechuk’s abilities have developed organically through experimentation rather than formal instruction.
Admittedly a different outlook on the mysteries of the North, Matechuk’s practice with different techniques has led to some very interesting creations.
“The eye paintings do tend to intimidate some people. It’s the aspect of the unknown, I think, because, to viewers, those eyes could belong to anyone, even creatures from outer space.
“They don’t bother me as much because I know who each set of eyes belongs to,” says Matechuk. One set of eyes, for example, is from her son’s former girlfriend who visited the Yukon from Belgium. The paintings can appear a bit eerie, as different-sized eyes float in an ephemeral, dusky background.
Some of the creations speak of experiences. The white horse, sand-blasted and displayed upon a dyed textile background, tells us of the time her son went horseback riding and the ensuing adventure of galloping across country.
Wiry copper trees in green, gold or purple emulate the scrawny, windswept trees of the high country or Bove Island, struggling to survive. They also look like coral found in the ocean, something you’d find in Haines or Skagway. Ravens, the ubiquitous symbol of the Yukon, are also prevalent in her artwork.
Textiles have always been a part of Matechuk’s artistic life, albeit in a domestic way in the beginning.
“I sewed clothes for my children until the artistic tension in my life just expressed itself in my initial landscape painting.”
Matechuk added the potentially hazardous skill of sandblasting to her repertoire, after attending a workshop, and has worked on her techniques over the past five years. Her work is innovative in its approach to combining textile work with sandblasting and painting.
The landscapes speak of her knowledge of the land and of an intimacy built up in over 40 years of living in the Yukon.
Judy Matechuk’s show, Of Critters, Trees and Memories is on display at the Chocolate Claim until Sept. 30.