Its rustic elegance overlooks the five-acre, Kalamalka Lake-front property full of life amidst the cool fall morning.
A family of deer has taken up residence in the fields, chewing at the surrounding vegetation and well-kept flowerbeds while a woodpecker’s vibrant call rings through Coldstream’s historic country mansion.
Jolene Mackie has observed the serene setting for inspiration during her three-week residency at the Mackie Lake House. And it’s an inspiration from which the Kelowna-based transplant has cultivated more than half of her estimated 20-piece exhibition, Curious Reflections, which will be on display at the Vernon Public Art Gallery from Oct. 11 to Dec. 19, with an opening reception on Oct. 11 from 6-8 p.m., as part of the organizations’ ongoing partnership.
“This is totally, absolutely new to me,” Mackie said as she sat at the large, wooden table that dominates the living room overlooking Kalamalka Lake. “I’m just learning a lot more about the history of the arts in the Okanagan.”
Mackie, an Emily Carr University of Art and Design alumna, was introduced to the program by her friend and former Mackie Lake House Artist-in-Residence Program participant Ann Willsie.
“I hope this will become something that I get to do every few years,” Mackie said, noting that this is her first residency. “It’s work that I never would have made had I been in my studio. I’m finding I’m loving the freedom of being embedded in my environment and being that sponge.”
Over the course of her three-week residence, Mackie said she hopes to delve into the history of the community and search for a familial tie to Patrick “Paddy” Fylton Mackie, who established and funded the Foundation. That search, regardless of what fruit it bears, is certain to influence the end product.
“I think the most interesting part about art is the story behind making the piece. Everything has a story, and there’s no lack of inspiration (here),” Mackie said. “It’s a beautiful place to fill the well.”
In her first week, Mackie said she explored the grounds and absorbed the nature that surrounds the house. From that first week came 10 paintings in various levels of completion.
Working primarily in oils for the past 15 years, Mackie’s creations juxtapose a traditional base with a modern contemporary aesthetic for paintings full of whimsical intrigue.
“It’s a process of refining – that’s why I have so many works on the go at one time. I love working in that way. I feel a lot more rushed if I work on something that I can finish in one sitting,” Mackie said.
Lubos Culen, Vernon Public Art Gallery curator, said the Gallery is enthralled to host Mackie’s work as part of the four-year partnership.
“Her prolific studio practice and focus on the settings and interior of the heritage house allowed her to assemble a visually rich exhibition,” Culen said. “The images will allow the viewers to glimpse into the current state of the house and its surroundings and contemplate its historical significance in Vernon.”
And, with only three weeks to cultivate an entire exhibition, it’s advantageous that the prolific full-time artist is most at home when she has a paintbrush or pencil in hand.
“It’s a meditation for me. It’s the time and place that I’m not worried about anything other than what is in front of me. It’s always been a respite for me,” Mackie said. “It’s like a compulsion. Regardless of wherever I’ve been in my life, I’ve always had a sketchbook.”
Now in her sixth year as a full-time artist, Mackie said she isn’t certain what the future holds but hopes to become involved in art education once again.
“I would love to get involved in educating artists of our community,” Mackie said. “In the Okanagan, I’ve never felt competitive with the community. I’ve always found it nurturing. It’s a really nice community to be a part of.”
Regardless of what her future holds, however, Mackie said she will always be an artist.
“The biggest thing any artist has to do is stay true to the things that inspire them. It’s been amazing that, somehow, I can make a living this way,” Mackie said.
The only potential downside, she jested, is her wardrobe is comprised exclusively of painting clothes.
“It’s a messy existence, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”