There is an owl and a pussy cat and fields full of apple trees - where is the connection? In the paint brush of the artist - Tamara Kwapich.

artsblue 100x100By Pepper Parr

March 20, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

She was born in Burlington, graduated from Lester B. Pearson High School and went on to the University of Guelph where she earned an undergraduate degree in Fine Arts and a second degree in Landscape Architecture..

Tamara Kwapich then realized that unless she learned to drive a cab she wasn’t going to make much in the way of a living and took a course in Computer Aided drafting at Mohawk College, then toiled for a number of years and put oil on canvas while developing her art style.

Tamara without scar

Tamara Kwapich

She married her high school sweetheart (set her eyes on him when she was 14) and got to know him much better when she was 18.

Upon graduation Tamara and her husband spent eight months in Poland teaching English.

Now an established artist with two grown boys Tamara looks around her and wonders – “what’s next”?

She has been part of the Art In Action tours and was selected as one of six people to do a mural in a specific ward of the city.

Tamara chose Ward 5, the Orchard and, in a light almost whimsical way, she caught what the Orchard once was; acre upon acre of fruit trees that made Burlington the produce capital of the country.

The Orchard mural is on a field house beside Alexander’s public school on Sutton Drive. You can’t miss it.

When one stands back from the mural and glances to the left and the right you can imagine what those fields of fruit trees used to look like.

Orchard mural - close up

The Orchard. If you are in he area pull over and take a close look at the faces down into most of the apples. The community wasn’t called the Orchard because someone liked the name – that is what it once was.

The day we took the photographs it was cold, blustery with the few people that were out walking quickly to keep warm. One wonders if the earth did not ask – what did you do with the trees that used to be here?

owl and pussy cat

The Owl and the Pussy Cat.

Kwapich currently has an exhibit of her work on display in the Fireside Room and the Art Gallery of Burlington. The style she used in those painting is considerably different than the orchard mural. Her “The Owl and the Pussy Cat is one the best we have seen.

Big art however seems to have gotten a grip on Kwapich; she has entered the competition for public art on sports facilities in the city. She wants to paint large air balloons and have them floating along the side of the Mainway arena.

Kwapich wants to paint big – “I want more physicality in my work”, she said and dreams of being hoisted up on a lift and so she can paint away at a large picture that will be seen by thousands of people

The big big murals are not the only thing that interest Kwapich – she is thinking about doing paintings of older people, portraits that show the wrinkles and the character in people’s faces.

Kwapich doesn’t have much interest in the photo-shopped look that is sought by people who want to control what an artist creates.

Boy in the cherry tree

Boy on a roof near a cherry tree – the boy happens to be one of Tamara Kwapich’s sons

Making art in Burlington is not an easy row to hoe. Kwapich is aware of the city’s cultural stagnation and also very aware of how difficult it is to find affordable studio space. Burlington didn’t have very many factories that could be converted into loft for artists and musicians. Imagine what could have been done with the Aylmer canning factory that used to sit at the bottom of Brant Street – what an artist colony that could have become.

The saving grace for the arts community in Burlington is the amount of money the city is prepared to spend on public art.

There are murals, there is a nice piece of sculpture that was unfortunately out in the wrong place but that doesn’t take way from the quality of the art.

Kwapich-3-Mainway balloons

Tamara Kwapich’s submission for the art competition to celebrate what sports has done for the city.

There are plans to put murals on the sides or th grounds of sports facilities around the city.  The Spiral Stella outside the Performing Arts Centre is a treasure that doesn’t seem to get the public exposure it deserves

Fox and the boy

Is the boy the prey? Or is the fox wondering why he is there? And what does the owl have to say about what is taking place?

There was a bit of a hope at one point that space would be available in the Beachway Park that is still in the design stage but it looks as if the plan is to ‘Disneyfy’ that part of the city and make it a destination of some sort. Artists done grow in that kind of environment and while there is a segment of every population that will always buy Elvis on velvet – it isn’t what Kwapich sees herself doing in the years ahead.

The city is still groping and trying to find the artist in itself; no clear direction yet.

Kwapich sees artistic growth for herself in those large murals the city is putting real coin on the table to have done – and she kind of likes the idea of doing portraits that are different, something that is more interested in capturing the character rather than the look of the person.

Certainly something well worth trying – is Burlington ready for that level of art?

The Kwapich art is on exhibit at the AGB until the end of the month.

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