Sheila Patzke’s bold impressionist images greet a visitor’s casual glance as brilliant splashes of colour, lining a fourth floor hallway of the Langley Township Civic Facility.
But a closer inspection reveals a diverse collection of images that includes grizzly bears, birds, ballerinas, fine ladies in long gowns and an outdoor café.
All of Patzke’s acrylic pieces, as well as another pair of floral water colours, two storeys down, are being exhibited as part of the Langley Arts Council’s Art in Found Spaces program’s first seniors exhibit, featuring the work of artists, aged 55 and up
It’s not a solo exhibit, but Patzke feels like a bit of a star, nonetheless, with so many of her pieces selected for display.
After reading about Art in Found Spaces and making an appointment with organizer Rosemary Wallace, to have her work assessed, Patzke brought along a large sampling from her collection.
“She took all 10. I wished I’d brought all 150,” laughed Patzke, a self-taught artist whose paintings are piling up in her South Langley home, but can also be found on display at Dot’s Café on Fraser Highway as well as other Langley businesses.
Patzke, a retired hairdresser, moved to Langley 10 years ago, where she has settled in and joined three art clubs — Aldergrove and Surrey’s Port Kells and Arts West — and it was through her involvement with one of the clubs that she learned about the exhibit.
But it was a childhood spent in many different places that inspired several of the pieces she submitted. Growing up, Patzke moved with her mother, a teacher, from small town to small town, all over B.C.
However, it is time she spent in northern Alberta that she remembers fondly and that continues to impact her artwork to this day.
When she was eight years old, Patzke and her mother lived for a time with Patzke’s maternal grandfather in a rustic cabin in the bush near Grande Cache. Living without hot water, with animal pelts scattered across the floor, wearing moccasins sewn by local First Nations people and surrounded by bears and assorted other wildlife, it was a period that made a deep impression on the young artist.
A grizzly watching trip to Alaska years later brought a host of those memories flooding back — memories Patzke needed to get down on canvas.
And so she began to paint.
But far from creating photographic reproductions, Patzke opened up her palette and went wild, so to speak, conjuring up reddish gold bears set beneath purple or red skies and blue-furred creatures surrounded by swirls of colours not normally associated with the northern boreal forest.
Although she works from photographs it is crucial, Patzke said, to paint from her own experiences.
“You can paint better if you’ve felt the feeling (of the place). I don’t know how you can paint something if you haven’t seen it with your own eyes,” she said.
In all, 14 artists are taking part in the senior exhibit, most of them hobbyists in their 60s, said Wallace.
In addition to the Township hall display which features the work of three artists besides Platzke, including a husband and wife, there are numerous works hanging at Langley City Hall.
The exhibit will hang until July 28. Once it’s finished, Township hall will host an exhibit of work by artists from other Fraser Valley communities, as its part in the regional Biennale show, which is currently on display in Abbotsford and Maple Ridge.
Meanwhile, an equestrian-themed exhibit is next up for the wall space of City Hall on Douglas Crescent.