Fernie-based artist Liza Gareau Tosh. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

Fernie artist inspired by nature

Still life collection “A Wondrous Whole” on show at The Arts Station until January 29

The common garden vegetable has been elevated to fine art in the latest exhibition by a Fernie painter.

However, it was the dead not the living that initially captured Liza Gareau Tosh’s interest.

The artist launched her fifth show at The Arts Station last Thursday with the support of her friends and family, who travelled to Fernie for the opening.

Titled “A Wondrous Whole”, the collection has been 10 years in the making and explores the French words for still life, ‘nature morte’, which roughly translate as ‘dead nature’.

“I had done a landscape show, I had done a portrait show, I had done a figure drawing show, and I always kind of rotate between acrylics, drawing and watercolour for series, so I was looking to what would be next,” said Gareau Tosh.

“We were on our farm in Saskatchewan and I was thinking of still lifes. I’m Francophone, so I was thinking how in French a still life translates back to ‘dead nature’ and our garden had just frozen over, so it was like dead nature – the fruit of a still life but in the ground – so that compelled me to do a series of decaying leaves.”

After several years of painting dead leaves, Gareau Tosh moved onto healthy plants.

When looking for her next subject, an interesting composition was key.

“… something a little askew, like the tomatoes are a little to the side and what becomes prominent is the stems and vines, and broad leaves or the back of a plant instead of the perfectly posed plant, so that is what this is an examination of,” she said.

Gareau Tosh admits she doesn’t have a green thumb and leaves the gardening to her husband.

However, she has spent plenty of time in nature, finding inspiration everywhere from the vegetable patch to farmer’s markets.

“I’ve been looking at various gardens for a couple of years now for fodder for this show, so it’s a quilted collection of images from travels, where I’m visiting friends on the Prairie and we end up at a football field at a farmer’s market and I find these great fuchsia kohlrabis which I never realized could be that colourful,” she said.

“It’s discoveries like that that made it kind of simple to know what I paint next.”

Thursday’s opening also coincided with the anniversary of her father’s death, which made the occasion extra special for Gareau Tosh and her family.

She said while he was not an artist himself, he appreciated the fine arts and encouraged his children in their artistic pursuits.

Gareau Tosh has been painting for 20 years and also teaches art history, and English at The Fernie Academy.

She enjoys variety, which is why she mixes her mediums and subjects.

“I feel like I’ve hit on something that I’m really interested in and it might work for the public as well,” she said.

“It’s a sweet spot right now, these vegetables. I really like them, I like everything about them so it feels pretty good to put up a show where you really like what you’ve produced.”

Although Gareau Tosh has already moved onto other projects, her garden explorations are not over yet.

“I want to continue with that a bit,” she said.

“I have a group project that I’m working on with two friends about plein airing the area, working from the area, and another project on where I’m from. My brother and I want to go back to where we grew up and collect images.”

A Wondrous Whole is Gareau Tosh’s fifth show at The Arts Station and she highlighted its importance.

“I grew up in a village where, at the corner of a village, we didn’t have a sports complex but we had a cultural centre, so I remember being 15-years-old and appreciating that centre was there,” she said. “It was like a gift, so that’s why I always want to take workshops or see the value of places like this for the community.”

The collection is on show at The Arts Station until January 29.


A Wondrous Whole opened at The Arts Station last Thursday. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

The collection also includes miniatures. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

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