My Journey with Burlington Artscape: Reflections on Creative Process and Catharsis
Written By: Sandra Hutton, @artimmersionstudio
Recently, I had the opportunity to take part in a wonderful initiative organized through Burlington Artscape–a fundraiser in support of Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ontario, Canada. Fifty artists were selected to participate in creating artwork on four foot aluminum leaves to be mounted on a stone base. The leaves will be sold for $750 with all monies raised going to the hospital to support its critical care expenses. When I first learned of this incredible initiative–an opportunity to link art with an important cause, I knew I wanted to participate. I believe strongly in the power of fundraising and I also recognize how art can help to foster a sense of community. Art and fundraising are a powerful duo! Additionally, this initiative appealed to me because of my connection to the hospital–both of my parents received excellent care there. This is where things get very personal for me–so much so that I realized that the personal aspect of this project influenced my selected subject matter, composition, title of the work, and all aspects of the process. The emotional element of creating this work caught me by surprise.
“Why are you crying, Mommy?” That was my daughter’s question to me as she heard me suddenly burst into tears after reading a summary I had written about my art piece, upon completion of the project. This was the summary:
“Woodland Enchantment” is inspired by a visit to Burlington’s Paletta Mansion and surrounding area where the wooded grounds are filled with lush greenery, wildflowers, and butterflies. Born in Burlington, Sandra is a regular visitor to her hometown and enjoys being immersed in nature. While visiting Paletta Mansion, Sandra became a watchful observer of the wildlife in the area, focusing in particular on Monarch Butterflies that danced before her feasting on the wildflowers. This moment of tranquility felt like a gift and Sandra knew then that the focus of her art piece would be to try to capture the enchantment of this wild, wooded area. Sandra was also struck by the feeling of gratitude for the beauty of nature and what it offers, particularly during challenging times. We can always turn to nature to find solace, escape, and peace. The Monarch Butterfly, with its short life cycle, lives in the moment. Sandra hopes that her art piece reminds others to do this too, making the most of our days, and enjoying unexpected gifts–like a butterfly’s dance. Created with a combination of realism and nods to impressionism with dabs of colour and textured brushstrokes, Woodland Enchantment invites viewers into a magical garden, where hope and optimism abound. The art piece was begun at her home studio and completed at her cottage in Woodland Beach and honours the memory of her parents who were longtime Burlington residents and nature enthusiasts.
My tears caught me by surprise. My parents have been deceased for a long time now and yet the memories are so fresh that when I think of this time, it feels very close to the surface. My parents were wonderful people. Wonderful. When they became ill and ultimately succumbed to their illnesses, it was devastating to our family. The fact that it happened a year apart with some overlap with them in the hospital, together–a few rooms apart, was devastating and traumatic for the entire family. And I felt way too young to be losing my parents. I felt, and still feel, that this was not supposed to be how things turned out. Never did I imagine that I would lose both of them while I was still young. But we cannot control how things are “supposed to be.” In fact, the very idea of “supposed to be” is just a figment of our imagination.
In the midst of the turmoil and tears, there were moments of gratitude and appreciation for the care they received. These truly helped our family navigate a very difficult time. The care that they received at the cancer clinic, as well as in the hospital when they were admitted was incredible. I have the utmost admiration and respect for those who work in health care and connect with patients and their families. My father’s doctor paid my mom a visit at the house after his passing. She had just gotten out of the hospital herself. Nursing staff attended the funerals of both of my parents. These acts of kindness and compassion were never forgotten.
Fast forward to 2021, when the opportunity arose to become a part of the Burlington Artscape Project. Artists were given full creative license to develop a vision for their leaf. Almost from the start, visions of butterflies popped into my head. I visited Paletta Mansion in Burlington and took many photographs of the wildflowers there as reference. As if on cue, butterflies began to dance around. I enjoyed this moment of reflection and solitude and began to develop my concept for my art piece. As I created the piece, and after my teary outburst, I began to draw parallels between the creative process and the grieving process. Neither are linear. And, they don’t follow a circle either! Often when you see the creative process depicted in a diagram, it’s a tidy little circle showing how the artist moves from one phase to the next. In reality, sometimes, it is two steps forward and two steps back. Sometimes it is zigzagged. I would like to suggest that grief is the same. It’s messy, it arises at unexpected moments, and it is part of life. It flows–just like creativity.
While the woodland enchantment depicted in my art piece was inspired by Burlington’s Paletta Mansion, we can find our own places of woodland enchantment if we choose to look. My parents did love nature, and so do I. As I created my art piece, they were with me with every brushstroke, every colour choice. My dad’s favourite colour was green and I felt him by my side.
You are in every line
You are in every colour
You are in every shape
To view close-up details of the artwork please view the Youtube video linked here.
Creating this art piece was cathartic for me. Thank you to Burlington Artscape for this wonderful opportunity and ability to give back. It has been an honour to work on this project. Leaves of all 50 artists will be on display and for sale at Grace United Church at Grace United Church at 2111 Walkers Line, in Burlington Ontario on August 8th, 15th, and 22nd from 10-4. You can view and purchase all leaves at the outdoor show or online at the Instagram account @burlingtonartscape or through the Burlington Artscape website. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for further details