While painting in the oceanside city of Parksville this spring, Linda Lundquist-Fraser found her brush moving home again—to a man ice fishing the Bulkey River, and to a friend teaching skating on a Telkwa ice rink.
Standing in the Smithers Art Gallery, she shows off the fisherman, hunched over blue ice in a red coat, a thermos full of warm drink beside him.
“I’m really a colourist, and I paint with bold strokes,” she said. “It’s my personality.”
In “The Homecoming,” her new collection that opens at the gallery Aug. 30, the bold “Linda palette” is clear.
It’s in the warm copper and gold sky over a painting of Main Street, circa 1924. It’s everywhere in a painting of the barn that still stands on what was once her family farm, now the Fink sawmill.
But her boldest painting of the collection, “Bulkley Valley History: On Canvas,” is not only striking for the vivid purples it shows falling on the face of Hudson Bay Mountain.
Under the bold strokes of acrylic paint are photographs and newspaper headlines. And all over the landscape, Lundquist-Fraser has hidden names of early Smithers settlers—people like skier Chris Daly and Joseph Coyle, who invented the egg carton and founded The Interior News.
“About halfway through I was going to burn it,” said Lundquist-Fraser, laughing. It was a challenge to draw in so many elements of Bulkley Valley history—from the Ski-Hi Drive Inn where she saw movies as a teenager, to the 50,000 acres of Bulkley Valley land bought by the speculating, scandal-ridden architect Francis Rattenbury.
But the painting works, evoking the Smithers she grew up in, along with some of her earliest memories.
From 1943 to 1944, Lundquist-Fraser lived on the mountain where her father cut rail ties for CN. He cut enough ties himself to lay track from Smithers to Moricetown, he told her, working by hand with a broadaxe.
She can still remember, at age three, running out of her house and up a mountain road to meet her father at the camp where he worked, and her mother coming up frazzled after hours of looking for her in the surrounding bush.
Such memories are a long ways off in time, but near at hand as Lundquist-Fraser points out the different parts of her painting, gleaned from her own memories and the old-timers who, since 2007, she has been gathering stories from on behalf of the Bulkley Valley Museum.
The painting, along with many Bulkley Valley scenes, will displayed at the Smithers Art Gallery from Aug. 30 to Sept. 24.