Ihere’s your home? How do you define where you belong?

Artist Mary Dolman defines home as “different places for different stages of life.” For example, as a young teenager accustomed to the big-city glitz of Vancouver, the idea of moving to a small town was chafing and “not home.”

“When I was living in Vancouver, I always thought I would get tired of it at age 50, and just pick up and move on,” says Dolman. “But that time came much sooner than even I realized—so by 31, I was up, out and moving to Dawson,” she says.

Dolman’s show Here and Back displays the sense of place Dawson exemplifies for her. There are local cross streets, the looming mountains covering up the last speck of winter sun, the highway between Dawson and Whitehorse flooding. It is Dawson in a pure form, done in acrylics.

“Dawson is my home. It’s a place you can’t wait to get out of, some days, and when you’re gone, can’t wait to get back to,” describes Dolman.

She credits the supportive community, and the artists that live there, to her love of the town. “It’s just a sense of knowing that if you get into trouble, people will be there to help you, rally around you and get you on your feet,” she says.

It may not be the case in Vancouver anymore, she adds, because as the city grows, the neighbourhoods become less connected, larger and unknown. Indeed, she left because she felt it was changing too much for her taste.

“Dawson is a city with challenges and heart,” says Dolman. The eternal struggle of human vs. the elements is reflected in her acrylics work, with roads flooding, the bone-chilling despair of winter and the vampiric lack of sun. But it is the human element, the considerate nature of community, that keeps artists like Dolman entranced.

“I have a feeling that the closer you are to nature in a small city, you lose the superficial importance of a larger city. It feels like people who live in a large city don’t necessarily have to worry about pipes bursting at -50, or wildfires on the side of the highway, or road floods, so they worry about surface-level things,” says Dolman.

Maintaining a sense of place and community is crucial to Dolman’s work. “Most of my paintings for this collection are from Dawson, and I’m interested in the intersection of humans and nature,” she says.

Now that the frenzy of completion is over for Dolman, she is taking a break — a sort of artist sabbatical in Catalonia, Spain. “I’m going to Spain to focus on the creative aspect of my craft. No pressure to show, focus or complete works. This is to stretch my imagination, let my senses and art flow,” she says.

She begins her first Spanish art residency September 30.

Dolman’s show Here and Back opened at Arts Underground on Sept. 17 and runs to Oct. 13. To view more of Mary Dolman’s work, visit her website at www.dolman-art.ca.