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Everyone has a story. Over the past 150 years of Canadian history, these stories are as vast and varied as the country itself. Tales of the Second World War, cherished childhood memories, rural farm-life, shoveling snow off the driveway.


These are only a few stories captured by Saskatchewan artist, Heather Cline, in her latest exhibition, “Quiet Stories.” Cline has taken the phrase “a picture is worth 1,000 words” literally. Taking everyday stories from a range of Canadian voices, Cline has spent the past decade combining these personal memoirs with her own artistic interpretation to create her work. Painting landscapes of seemingly average locations, a vacant street or parking lot, she breathes beauty and life into places that most would only see in their rear-view mirror. What might look like a regular 7/11 is where someone had their first kiss, hung out with friends after school, or hit rock bottom.


“Seeing the beauty in everyday places, and looking at them in a different way,” is how Cline describes her pieces. It has been a long road for Cline to complete this project, a road that started much earlier than a decade ago.


“I had a pair of scissors in my hands before I could talk,” Cline jokingly recalls about her childhood. Gaining an early appreciation for art as a youngster from the board game, Masterpiece, which incorporated 24 ‘painting cards,’ of which the originals can be found at the National Gallery in London, England. Works from da Vinci, Monet, Renoir, van Gogh, all had an influence on the budding artist.


“I loved looking at the cards… That’s when I first fell in love with art, especially portraits,” says Cline. Admitting to a particular fondness of the portraits featuring “women in big hats,” she laughs, “funny seeing as how there are very few people in my paintings.” A conscious decision in order for the viewer to visualize themselves in the illustrated space.


Cline was born in Sutherland, Saskatchewan, once an industrial rail town on the outskirts of Saskatoon before eventually being swallowed by the city. Although her parents weren’t professional artists, Cline describes them as being very “crafty,” having an influence on her becoming an artist, taking her to art galleries and attending her grade school art exhibitions. “My Dad was very good with his hands, working with wood and carpentry,” one of numerous skills that Cline has incorporated into her studio.

 Griffin Cline.Paintings


Her passion for art is shared and has been guided by her educational career, obtaining a Masters of Fine Arts degree from the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, in 2001, and now teaching an on-line art course for the University of Regina. Additionally, she instructs her own custom design workshops, Educational Instruction in the Visual Arts, teaching schools and community groups various styles and techniques.


The theme of community and sharing is an ideal held strongly by Cline, exemplified in her aforementioned decade long project, “Quiet Stories.” Over the past 10 years she has collected over 350 individual and personal interviews. Speaking to Canadians across the country varying in age (the youngest being five, to the eldest at 92), economic status, occupation, and personal history. Using these interviews, accompanied by still photographs and video, Cline has constructed paintings that embodied these stories into a single image.


Of the over 60 paintings completed for the project, most of the locations are fictitious, conjured by the accounts she was told and her own creative interpretation. Taking fond memories of outdoor skating rinks and hockey games from various people in different regions of the country and combining them into an imagined space that suits them. “For me it wasn’t about trying to show a specific region, it was more about showing the similarities between all the stories and incorporating that into a single space.”


A select few of her paintings depict real world places taken from her interview subjects (who remain anonymous in her gallery). One of her pieces, “Olive Ave.” visualizes a street with a row of small conjoined houses parallel to the sidewalk. The accompanying audio is a short autobiographical tale by a soft-spoken man, at the time recently separated from his wife. He found himself barely getting by, rubbing loonies together, until he came across Olive Ave. and this row of houses. One of these had a ‘For Sale’ sign out front. With help from the community and the realtor whom he formed a friendship with, he was able to purchase the home and get his life back together. He describes Olive Ave. as a space where “little miracles always happening and always working and… you just have to keep your eyes open to be able to see those kinds of things.” That story resonated with Cline, inspiring her to pursue more interviews and formulate the apropos title, “Quiet Stories”. To her, these stories “seem matter of fact and minor at first, but are actually quite important and moving”.


“I could’ve worked on this project for the rest of my life”, she said when asked about how it felt to be finished the exhibition and road tour, “but I needed closure… and those stories will remain with me forever”. It has been an emotional reception and conclusion to her decade long journey, sharing tears with her interviewees as she reveals her visual adaptation to their spoken histories.


Regina is the final stop for the “Quiet Stories,” exhibition which has gone on tour across Canada over the past year, back to the places and people who inspired its conception. When asked what’s next for the Saskatchewan artists she didn’t want to indulge much, holding her ‘painting cards’ close to the chest, but stated, “an artist usually has a few projects going on simultaneously.” Guess we will just have to keep our eyes open.


“Quiet Stories” is currently on display at the Dunlop Art Gallery (Sherwood branch), in Regina until March 14th, 2018.