My friend Kate Sara Bennie works at the Tea Trader shop in the Inglewood neighbourhood of Calgary. She’s an artist. She works enough to pay her rent and feed herself but otherwise protects her time to paint and to just be still. Being still lets daydreams and flashes of places distill within in her – which of course, often leads to more painting.
In this installation I’ll talk a bit about Bennie and the story behind the painting above.
Kate Sara Bennie always walks to work. In fact, come to think of it, Bennie always walks everywhere. There’s no room for a vehicle in her life plan slash work plan (a.k.a. budget) right now. That’s just fine by her. Time spent walking is where most of this artist’s inspiration comes from. Her work is cityscapes, countryscapes and wherever-she-is landscapes. She says she processes landscape in forms, patterns, colours and shapes.
I love the – Flood;Consume – painting above.
Bennie spent three months painting it. The owner of Tea Trader tea shop, Ted Jones, supports Bennie’s art by giving her space to show some of her work. When I’m in the shop I love to listen to her explain the story behind whatever work she’s placed for show.
This painting was Bennie’s therapy for surviving the trauma of the great Alberta flood of 2013. She says it was very difficult to tell the story of the flood – not because she was directly affected but because of all the suffering she saw around her. Tea Trader is in Inglewood and that neighbourhood was one of the hardest hit by the flood.
I think she captures the flood and its ability to consume all in its path very well. In the painting you can feel a storm that got stuck. You feel the river bulge and overflow. You see that down river the sun will come out and things will clear but you can stay stuck, like Bennie did, on that angry river, front and centre for some time.
Here’s a picture of that angry river near my home. I found it very frightening. Its power was so destructive and awe-inspiring.
The major colour that pops out of Bennie’s painting is purple. Though Bennie assures me it was not intentional, it does come off as a subliminal nod to our mayor and his favourite colour. Mayor Nenshi was everywhere during the flood. It’s almost like the purple in the painting is speaking to his reassuring presence in the midst of the turmoil. He was just re-elected as Calgary’s mayor for a second term this week.
Mayor Nenshi can be seen in the photo below in downtown Calgary at City Palate magazine’s really, really long table dinner to celebrate their 20th anniversary. He only stayed a few minutes as he was hot on the campaign trail right about then but I was able to snap this photo of him and my friend Gail Norton.
I think Kate Sara Bennie’s very purple painting of the great Alberta Flood of 2013 would make an excellent present for someone to give to Mayor Nenshi. He’s got a lot to celebrate. He was our city’s hero throughout the flood and he’s just one his second mayoral race. His purple reign chased away our fear during those June rains. The river has backed down and life is good.
If someone would buy this painting from this talented young artist, she’ll be able to splurge a bit and buy herself a new dress – maybe she’d even buy a purple dress.
Anyway, I hope you’ll drop into Tea Trader to see the painting for yourself and to meet this talented artist. Pick up some of the lovely tea she sells there and stay for a chat. Tea, art, chatting with an artist and seeing the world through her eyes – these are great ways to help us savour our lives a bit more (and someone really should buy that painting for Mayor Nenshi!).
Though Kate Sara Bennie says she was not impacted by the flood personally, she did send me this note…
One other flood related thing…I was part of the Calgary Timeraiser in 2012 (paintings selected and purchased for the purpose of being auctioned off for volunteer hours) and my painting was being stored downtown, along with all the other selections, until the auction winners completed their volunteer pledges. Unfortunately the flood hit and I guess they were all severely damaged! The painting had already moved on from my life but knowing it was lost and not in a new home was really sad…
Have a look at Bennie’s painting that was lost in the flood.
It is sad that this painting was lost Kate. But like hope, your talent has the ability to spring eternal. In a way, you have your own inner flood of ideas and the ability, the gift, of being able to express them. If that’s what you learn from the flood of 2013, well, that’s not such a bad thing after all. Savour it all. Cheers, Karen