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Jesters, Buddhas and angels

By Daron Letts
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, November 26, 2008

To see more of Micheline Montgomery's work, check out www.pearangelart.com

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Toronto-based painter Micheline Montgomery exhibited a large series of work at Birchwood Gallery in Yellowknife earlier this month. "I see everything as a whole," she said. "Everything interconnects." - Daron Letts/NNSL photo

NNSL Photo/Graphic

A piece by Micheline Montgomery entitled I Live Up There. - image courtesy of Micheline Montgomery
Toronto-based painter Micheline Montgomery displayed a vast series of work at Birchwood Gallery earlier this month.

The collection included dozens of faces communicating placid expressions and peaceful emotions. The works integrate pleasing shapes, often centered around joyful images of nature or the sky, in vibrant colour to portray the artist's moods and perceptions on life.

The exhibit also featured Montgomery's signature motifs mysterious and mischievous jesters, calm and thoughtful Buddhas and loving angels.

Montgomery achieved her artistic voice while working as a psychiatric nurse in Quebec and Ontario. As a single mother, she earned her master's degree in applied psychology and then continued her academic journey with a PhD in esthetics at the University of Toronto.

"Art, if it comes from your heart, can change people in some way, even if it just makes them happy for a day," she said. "I started to believe that, OK, there is a purpose in art. It's OK to spend my life doing it. But, I had to convince myself and had to do a blooming doctorate to do that."

Her identity as an artist, a woman, a mother and a grandmother finds its way into her subjects and themes. Although many of the most successful women artists have eschewed bearing children to concentrate on their art - Montgomery cites the late French writer Simone de Beauvoir - the experience of creating art from the perspective of motherhood can open creative doors.

"I have three children and four grandchildren and I find that it's very important to me, and I think what I've learned from them is reflected in a lot of my painting," she said. "I don't intentionally paint women. I've been asked sometimes why I paint women. Well, I think the simplest answer is because I'm a woman."

Her male subjects also wear gentle, thoughtful expressions. Several gay men avidly collect her male works, she said.

With a career as a psychiatric nurse behind her, Montgomery has knowledge of intense pain and tragedy, though her work celebrates joy and tranquility.

"I've dealt with violent adults and pain I have seen," she said. "I think that one thing that can make people feel better is to try to see the other side. Tragedy and pain are there to teach us something. There are times when you have got to sit in the hole for a bit. But, if you sit in the hole, look up. I show what's up there."

Several of Montgomery's works are still on display at Birchwood Gallery this month.