Liza Gareau Tosh
Where I come from is very important to me, as is where I am now. I tend to feel a constant sense of displacement and belonging at the same time. Perpetually trying to find the balance between the two is what I strive to express, especially in art. It’s a battle and I see this as a good thing.
I was raised in a little French-Canadian and Métis community in Saskatchewan but have been inhabiting Fernie with gusto since the early aughts when we moved here permanently from the farm after having been a “winter family” for over ten years. Birch tree-lined valleys have been replaced by Old Growth and mountains that compete with the sky for best views. Is it possible to find common ground between both? I say yes, as I think I found it amongst the weeds. That is the theme of my latest and the most ambitious series of works I’ve ever had the pleasure of putting together. I have the honour of having these 30 works be housed in the Fernie Museum exhibition space over the course of the upcoming summer.
As for many of us, my favourite way to explore the landscape has always been to walk through it. So painting and drawing what I see in close proximity has always made sense to me. My first paintings in my youth were of landscapes in oil, working amongst adults at a cultural centre my town had built, under the mentorship of an artist in residence who would take me around the province as I sketched and she sculpted. Art, music, and theatre were valued in my town so it never occurred to me to not do it, or to not teach it to my own boys as they came into their own. Community workshops wherever I ended up teaching in my career led me to discover watercolour and a Fine Arts degree at University of Saskatchewan led me to acrylics. I can’t help but profess myself in these different mediums as this show will attest. I want the room to feel like a nature walk through fields of hawkweed in acrylic, bunches of kinnikinnick in watercolour, and line drawings of dandelions.
Switching up the medium isn’t the only way I keep myself from getting bored. Giving myself something meaningful to explore and diving into it wholeheartedly ensures it as well. I’ve had a glorious year hiking on the Fernie trails with friends, collecting images and sketches along the way. I’ve also had the privilege of meeting a lot of the Métis people across the Elk Valley collecting stories about their relationships with the plants that surround us. Or coming together with my own Métis relations who have reconnected with the land as they recall experiences with relatives who taught them to gather. My hope is that the viewers of this exhibition have a similar experience to that which I had putting it together — one that makes you want to connect with the land and its people, wherever that may be. But especially here in the Elk Valley, because it’s awesome!
Liza Gareau Tosh received a production grant from the CKCA to put this show together. She also wants to give particular thanks to the Elk Valley Métis Nation and the Fernie Museum for all of their support.
Liza’s exhibit Into the Weeds - Making Relations opens at the Fernie Museum June 29. For more on her work, visit gareautoshart.wordpress.com or follow her on social media @gareautosh.