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Narrative and nature at the art gallery

When Marlene MacCallum, her husband Dave Morrish and their brother-in-law Mark Bartkiw discovered their individual artwork all followed the narrative theme, the three decided showing their work together would be a unique idea.

The related artists have individual exhibitions at the John M. Parrott Art Gallery, but they are all being shown at the same time, along with Nancy Sherk's oil and acrylic nature paintings in gallery 2.

“It’s always good to see what happens when you curate things together," said Morrish, whose exhibition consists of three cabinets full of interesting objects he's collected over the years, organized into themes. Together, the three full cabinets tell the story of natural history, human mortality and the need to collect.

Morrish said he has always had an interest in death and natural history.

"Even as a kid, I would collect animal bones, he said.

Using photography, and the collection and placement of objects, Morrish said he likes to explore himself and his thoughts.

"I try to learn from my own work: what interests me, but also what scares me. So that’s why I’m sort of focused on the idea of death. It’s a way of coming to terms with that short life span that we have," he said.

Wife and fellow artist MacCallum creates physical pieces as well, but in the form of artist books.

“It’s a way of creating an art piece where it makes reference to book but also challenges that format, or some of our assumptions about it," MacCallum said.

She too said she loved the idea of the cabinets to display some of her work and is also using the exhibition to meet new people.

“I see it as a way of starting to get to know the community, know the other artists in the community, (and) people interested in the arts."

She and her husband just moved to the county in August.

Meanwhile, Bartkiw has been in the area for 10 years, but started creating his photographic series three years ago.

His photos combine two different images using tiny little figures as the foreground and a monitor with one of his landscape photos displayed on it as the background.

“They’re all these different kind of implied scenarios," he said.

Bartkiw creates his photos in spurts whenever he gets inspired, he said.

"I get inspired by if I’m watching a movie or really cool film, or actually, lately I’ve been listening to these horror story short podcasts. So that gives me an image idea and I do that. So it comes from all over the place really," he said.

On the other hand, Sherk's art inspiration consistently comes from the outside world.

"I find something that interests me in nature and decide I want to paint it. I get my inspiration from nature," she said.

Unlike the other three artists, Sherk was born and raised in Belleville, featuring her art in multiple galleries in town.

She said she never stops improving her work.

"I’ve taken classes and I’m still taking classes and going to studios. You never stop learning. It’s always an ongoing learning process."

The current exhibitions can be found at the John M. Parrott Art Gallery's until Feb. 11.

Interview with the artists

Nancy Sherk

Retired elementary school teacher

How did you get into art?

"I’ve always had an interest in art and I started painting when I was a teenager."

What do you like about art?

“The creativity. And the problem solving. You’re very involved with a painting. When you’re doing a painting that’s all you can think about. You’re working through the problems of getting the colours right, the composition right… you’re always looking at it, changing it. It’s a living piece when you’re working on it."

What do you want people to take away from your work?

"I want them to look at it (and) feel they’re in that situation."

Dave Morrish

Retired photography professor

How did you get into art?

“It was always there. As a kid you draw or paint..."

What do you like about art?

“It gives me a reason to express and explore my own ideas."

What do you want people to take away from your work?

“Fascination with things and maybe more of a willingness to look death in the face."

Marlene MacCallum

Retired visual arts professor

How did you get into art?

“It’s been my primary interest my whole life and was something that I was quite involved with even when very young. And when I finished high school and was thinking about what I wanted to study, that was clear right away to me that I wanted to study visual arts."

What do you like about art?

“It’s one of the areas where there’s always something new to be investigating and to be exploring and to be expressing. And I think it’s an extremely important part of our cultural activity and our social activity that we have this kind of form of questioning and expressing that happens through art. So I think it’s the challenge that it presents to me as an artist to continue to find images."

What do you want people to take away from your work?

“What I would hope it opens up for people is possibility to realize that the things that make up our everyday life – whether it's the spaces we live in, the objects that are around us, our habits, our routines. All those things are in and of themselves significant, and that the ordinary is something that is worth looking at and it’s worth valuing and considering important."

Mark Bartkiw


How did you get into art?

“I’ve always been creative. You just are when you're a kid. That’s what play is. So (when) kids play with their toys and whatever they’re being creative, doing stuff. That’s always stuck with me I guess."

What do you like about art?

“It’s my kind of peaceful zen place. It’s sort of my meditation. It’s my alternate reality I suppose… almost to a point of reality."

What do you want people to take away from your work?

“I just want them to make people think. And be able to ignite some sort of, maybe, creativity in (their) own head."

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