McLay paints hope

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, March 12, 2020

Catherine McLay’s art celebrates southern Alberta’s natural and ranching heritage. Images by Catherine McLay courtesy Foothills Art Club

As Dostoevsky so famously said, “The world will be saved by beauty.” Amidst the troubling times we find ourselves in, it’s refreshing to encounter a local artist who, rising above her personal health-related issues, is offering a prescription of hope and beauty to our community this weekend.

In preparation for relocating to Cochrane’s Bethany Care Centre, longtime Cochrane resident Catherine McLay, with the assistance of the Foothills Art Club, is selling her extensive collection of paintings – several hundred pieces – at St. Andrew’s United Church this Saturday, March 14, 10 am to 4 pm, with all proceeds going to the church.

Her art celebrates our part of Alberta’s natural and ranching heritage, from river valleys, foothills and mountains, to its flora and fauna, to its weathered farm buildings and wagons.

Catherine, a retired professor of English at the University of Calgary, moved to Cochrane in 1993. But her love affair with our community began one night back in 1955 when Cochrane’s population was under 500 and she and her hitchhiking companion had only $2.00 between them. But that’s a whole fascinating story of its own, which she tells so engagingly in Barry Thorson’s Live Stories production, A Night on the Town.

The widely exhibited artist acknowledges the influence of Emily Carr and the Group of Seven, and we can sense that in her interpretations of our surroundings.

I also sense hints of my favourite Post-Impressionist, Vincent van Gogh, as expressed in his 1889 masterpiece, Starry Night. From the dark days of his asylum cell he has inspired many over the years with hope to carry on. Likewise, I think you’ll find in this Saturday’s exhibit and sale of Catherine’s art reason for hope to carry on in our own troubling times. Oh, and there’ll be a tempting door prize, to boot!


© 2020 Warren Harbeck

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