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Collage artist presents arctic glamour in live-streamed Nanaimo exhibit

Trisha Oldfield of Chemainus to show ‘Northern Dames’ at Gallery Merrick
Chemainus artist Trisha Oldfield is unveiling her new series, Northern Dames, in a virtual opening reception at Nanaimo’s Gallery Merrick. (Photo courtesy Marley Ollett)

After living seasonally in Mexico for more than 12 years, Chemainus artist Trisha Oldfield and her family are now living full time in Canada and that geographical change is reflected in her new body of work.

Oldfield, whose work hangs in a Baja peninsula art gallery, said she still loves Mexico and is “obsessed with everything down there,” but in her new collection, Northern Dames, Oldfield sheds the vibrant, flowery designs of her Mexican oeuvre.

“When we decided to make the move, I was like, ‘You know, I really want to create the same type of series that I can really immerse myself in, but it to be about Canada,’” she said.

Oldfield was raised in the Yukon and Northwest Territories, and in the mixed-media collages of Northern Dames she draws from memories of her glamourous grandmother and the stark-white snowscapes of her youth.

“The majority of each piece is white … and as a child growing up there that was so much of our life. Travelling on the roads, just that blanket of snow constantly,” she said. “So a huge difference compared to the Mexico [series] where white was just a pop every once in a while.”

Oldfield said there were no chain stores or traffic lights when she was growing up in the arctic in the ’70s and clothing had to be ordered via catalogue. In defiant contrast to that austerity, her grandmother would “always look like a million bucks” with her sunglasses and fur coat. Oldfield said that got her thinking about combining that sense of style with the imagery and the colours of the North and some recognizable Canadian motifs.

“I just started playing with that and I have about five pieces … so it’s the beginning of this series,” she said. “I’m very excited about it.”

Oldfield will debut Northern Dames at Gallery Merrick in a virtual opening reception broadcast live on the gallery’s Facebook and Instagram pages. This is Oldfield’s first time exhibiting her work in Nanaimo and her first Vancouver Island show in nearly a decade.

“For the Northern Dames series I have beautiful photography of the northern lights and then I’ve painted old photographs to add more Canadian spin,” she said. “For example, some of their clothing I turned into the Hudson’s Bay stripes and the red mitts just to keep adding to the Canadiana of it.”

After living in the territories, Oldfield moved to northern Alberta, followed by the B.C. Interior before settling in the mid-Island. She said she plans to expand her series to capture each part of Western Canada that she’s called home.

“Every time I do another piece it gets better and better and then I get more and more ideas, which is exciting,” Oldfield said.

WHAT’S ON … Trisha Oldfield virtual reception for Northern Dames streams live on Gallery Merrick’s Facebook and Instagram pages on Friday, April 3 at 7 p.m.

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