Summerside, P.E.I. - Two years ago artist Bernadette Kernaghan had an idea to capture the diversity of Summerside.
She dipped her brush in oil and started to paint one person in the community at a time.
“When I presented the proposal to the Eptek Centre two years ago, I thought I could envision tonight. I had just finished a body of work that used women from history, repainted and abstracted, in an effort to emancipate them from their master artist ‘owners.’
“I wanted to continue referencing history using my own models, but I needed to make a distinction between using models and making portraits. I wanted to manifest the differences in individuals. To embrace diversity,” she explained.
The exhibit “Portraits in Oil: New Friends and Neighbours,” unveiled at the Eptek Art & Culture Centre on Sunday afternoon, reflects 48 individuals the artist has come into contact with since her move from Toronto to P.E.I. in 2014.
Many of the portraits have an influence from the past, while others reference an inner aspect of the individual.
“I found that there’s a huge difference between my previous work and a couple of pieces here that reference history, and how women were used to create art. Art was the big personality in the past, and the models were almost used and abused.”
Kernaghan took the time to study her subjects, before unveiling their personality through art.
“Patti (the subject) found this design very important on a spiritual level,” said Kernaghan, while pointing to a painting. “She wanted to include the nebula and the dual star in the background. The ladybug on her hand, as well as the lilac flowers has significance, too.
“She’s a writer and this painting is all very much a part of her storytelling. In my mind it’s all about the light on her face. She also made a point of including her birthmark, which she would normally cover up on her forehead, so this is about unveiling Patti in an honest way.”
Summerside historian George Dalton came to admire his portrait, along with the many others at the exhibit that will be on display from Jan. 14 to Feb. 23.
“I think it’s very gratifying to see the portrait, because in some ways I’m carrying on my late mother’s vision of promoting my ancestor,” Dalton said. “The other thing is that I know many of faces in the paintings here.”
He added, “This is no minor event. These are the faces of our community. And what we’re doing here is for the general public, so they can be aware that when they say ‘Choose Summerside,’ well we have to choose them and promote their talents.
“I feel there’s not enough gratitude for the people of the arts community, and what they give back to us.”
Keraghan said that artists should paint what’s important to them.
“Many things are important to me, but none more important than the people in my life. I have enjoyed painting you so much.”