Kelowna artist’s pandemic reflections on display at Vernon gallery

Kelowna-based artist Melissa Dinwoodie created 60 paintings in 60 days during a layoff period caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which are on display at the Caetani Cultural Centre Saturday, July 18, 2020. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

A Kelowna-based artists is bearing her pandemic ruminations to the public at a Vernon art gallery.

After the pandemic caused Melissa Dinwoodie to be laid off from her bartending job in Kelowna, she endeavoured to paint every day until her day job could resume.

The result was 60 paintings created in 60 days, all of which are on display at the Caetani Cultural Centre tonight (July 18) until 9 p.m.

Dinwoodie began painting 10 days into being out of work—days she spent processing the shock of having directly felt the effects of a pandemic-related workplace closure.

“In those first 10 days I didn’t feel very inspired to do anything … I was kind of in denial about what was going on,” she said. “I needed something to get me through each day.”

Specializing in acrylic and mixed media painting, Dinwoodie’s work focuses largely on figurative portraits. The exhibit’s 60 portraits are a chronology of the thoughts and feelings she experienced throughout her layoff period.

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Hung beneath each portrait is the journal entry she wrote the day the portrait was created.

“I would journal in the morning and kind of figure out how I was feeling that day depending on news that I had watched or who I had talked to the night before,” she said. “However I felt that day, that was my starting point for the painting.”

For Dinwoodie, the process was not only therapeutic but also eye-opening in terms of her work as an artist. A silver lining to her work disruption was that it afforded her the chance to paint full-time.

“That’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “No matter what it is, if you do something every day you’re going to have breakthroughs. You’re going to get better or find some things out that you didn’t know beforehand.”

Dinwoodie added the extra time allowed to her experiment, and the pandemic served as an entry point for creating more topical work.

“This series has made me realize how important it is to do art that actually says something about what’s going on right now and is relevant.”

The Caetani Studio Gallery exhibit is holding a reception from 6-9 p.m. Saturday. Social distancing measures are in effect, and visitors are encouraged to bring their own masks.

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Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at
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