Exploring the Dusk in Small Doses

Under the gaze of soft artificial lighting, Meghan Hildebrand sits solo at a table. For only a single night and the better part of a day, in August, she adorned the walls of the other room at the Guild Hall with paintings both old and new.

It’s been about a year and a half since Hildebrand returned to her hometown of Whitehorse, with work in tow. And, this time, it’s personal.

“I have a really strong connection to this place, and the arts community here has always been so supportive of me that I just feel that it’s important to give something to the community,” she says.

“I had a painting teacher come up here one year and he said there’s a favourite time for people to paint, which is ‘the golden hour’. It’s kind of between afternoon and evening. And he noticed that here it just went on for hours and hours.”

It’s that time of day that Hildebrand says best describes the meaning behind the exhibit, which is titled, Duskies.

Over the course of two months, Hildebrand reached through her rolodex of memories and devoted a series of 16 small paintings to her former habitat. Her recognizable, whimsical touch is evident in Duskies as collaged, origami paper shapes dance within a rainbow of warm, soft pastel hues.

Mountainous landscapes are formed out of carefully torn maps, while ships and paddlewheelers test the dream-like waters. Animals once again rule Hildebrand’s imaginary worlds, but with a new aesthetic.

“I’m thinking a lot more about foreground and background … using a little more perspective and using characters as kind of narrators for the rest of the story. You might wonder what this bird is looking at and why,” she explains.

“And I’m starting to incorporate my own drawings as collage, instead of just using found images. I hadn’t made that leap before.”

Small silhouettes of dogs, llamas, birds and other inhabitants roam the surreal settings. At the same time, little sketches are cut out and placed amongst the paint on the wood surfaces.

Although, one of the most-noticeable adjustments to Hildebrand’s work is the sheer size of it. In 2007, her large-scaled paintings filled a portion of the Yukon Arts Centre Gallery. But, with Duskies, each piece is nothing more than about a seven- by seven-inch square, exquisitely framed in wood.

The decision to drastically diminish her surface area came from a workshop, with artist David Alexander, which Hildebrand helped organize in her current home of Powell River, B.C.

“You don’t need to create a big painting for it to be striking. It was just a real challenge that I wanted to go for,” she says as she walks around the exhibit.

“It’s harder to work a smaller canvas because the composition is less forgiving; it’s just smaller and you only get one shot.”

Hildebrand still manages to create tiny worlds with a sense of depth and strong attention to playful content and colour schemes. Duskies also provides a glimpse at what else she’s been up to. Half of the show is a pseudo-retrospective of her favourite pieces left over from shows gone by in the past two years.

But painting isn’t the only project on her plate. A ceramics class, sewing clothes, drawing a monthly cartoon, creating whimsical stuffed animals, gardening and selling signs out of her front car port also make the regular schedule.

“I have lots of messages I want to get out there, and one of my most-popular signs reads ‘Your ideas are amazing’ [and there’s also] ‘Grow salad not sod’ or ‘Right to bike’.

“The gift, for me, is that I can see them around town and know that it’s something accessible. It’s a bit of a way to mark my town, I guess,” she says.

Hildebrand is also working to revive the Powell River community radio station so that she and husband Tony can resume their spots behind the microphone again. Plus, she’ll soon begin work on a exhibit of new works for The Reach Gallery, in Abbotsford, B.C.

And then, she admits, perhaps she’ll look for some new experience and uncharted territory through an international residency and house swap, to boot.

“Every new series, I want to do something new. And I think I want my whole life to be like that.”

For more information about Meghan Hildebrand’s work, go to her website, www.meghanhildebrand.com. And read about her latest adventures in Powell River, via her blog, at www.meghanhildebrand.wordpress.com.

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