Just Imajan, a gallery of healing for a sick world, closing

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, November 1, 2018

In Back Alley Hues, Janet Armstrong, proprietor of Just Imajan Gallery in Cochrane, celebrates beauty in a scene in need of healing. Photo by Warren Harbeck

“The world will be saved by beauty.” Fyodor Dostoevsky penned these memorable words amidst the troubled times of his 19th-century Russia. They are a healing prescription for our own troubled times, with particular implications for those entrusted with brush and canvas.

With that in mind, it is with mixed emotions that I write this week’s column as a tribute to Janet Armstrong and her Just Imajan Gallery in downtown Cochrane. This marketplace of artistic excellence is closing its doors this Saturday in order to free Janet up to spend more time at her easel.

Over the 12 years that Mary Anna and I have treasured our gallery visits, our souls have been refreshed by Janet and other worthy painters and sculptors whose imagination and skill have celebrated the beauty of our foothills landscape, as well as what is not always so beautiful.

Sometimes they’ve celebrated inspiration in unlikely places, only to be agents of a scene’s healing. As for example, Janet’s 24×36-inch acrylic-on-canvas, Back Alley Hues. But I’ll let her tell you about that.

“For many years, I would start my morning in the gallery by walking down this alley to grab a java and muffin over at Coffee Traders,” Janet says. “One morning, I headed out into the warm sun for my coffee. This particular morning, the white icy puddles and all the cool shadows were creating a pattern all the way down the bumpy route. I thought to myself what a fun painting this would be. The gallery was not particularly busy that morning, so I did a quick, on-site drawing onto a piece of paper and headed right back into the studio. Inspired to paint this Cochrane scene.

“The blue and green bins, the tree growing up the wire, Tim’s Pizza van, Coffee Trader’s in the distance. I wanted to capture it all. So I grabbed a large canvas and began painting. Finished it Sunday night and was happy with the results.

“This was an alley I had seen and walked down hundreds of times over the last decade, so I knew it well. I never did get my muffin or coffee that day.”

Two things Janet did get as a result of that painting, however, were an Honorable Mention Award and Ribbon from The Federation of Canadian Artists – and a response from the town’s road crew to repair the bumpy alleyway.

And if icy puddle-prone potholes can be saved/healed by beauty, why not our whole ailing world?

Best wishes, Janet, on your ongoing devotion to brush and canvas.


© 2018 Warren Harbeck

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