Mixed Blessings

Don Pentz
Louise Pentz

January 23 to February 27, 2009
Opening Reception: Thursday, January 22, 2009, 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Artist Talk: February 5, 2009 at 6:30 p.m. (Snow Date February 12)

Odara Watchful
Louise Pentz

Invocation
Louise Pentz

Tree of Life
Louise Pentz

Ancient Landscape
Don Pentz

Ancient Landscape
Don Pentz

Ancient Landscape Detail
Don Pentz

Ancient Landscape Detail
Don Pentz

Curatorial Statement

In Genesis 32 we read that Jacob wrestles through the night with an angel who wounds him. But Jacob persists in the struggle despite his injury and, in the morning, refuses to let the angel go unless he receives from him a blessing. Jacob receives his blessing: his name is changed to Israel (one who struggles with God) and his sons become the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel. But although Jacob prevailed in his conflict, it was not without cost. He was left scarred, his damaged hip a constant reminder of the struggle. And so it is with the most profound blessings; they are often earned through struggle. It is this tension between blessing and struggle we may feel when viewing the works by Don and Louise Pentz in Mixed Blessings.

Don's ancient landscape images document the struggle of their creation. They are developed intuitively, layer upon layer, colour upon colour, until the artist feels a sense of completion. The record of pushing and pulling the textured medium is visible on the painted surface of each finished work. Don's deep connection to the land, nurtured by years of wilderness hiking and canoeing (taking him to places unseen by most) provides the inspiration for his work. But Don does not seek merely to illustrate these sacred places in his paintings. Rather, it is the sense of the holy in the landscape, earned through struggle (the earth's and his own) that he records in his works through the process of painting them. While we may be attracted initially by the surface beauty of his paintings,
they remind us, by their underlying texture, of the struggle which helped to create the beauty we so admire.

Louise also addresses struggle in her works. Her figurative sculptures represent women who have been beaten down by culture and religion, but remain "strong and nurturing in spite of their difficult experiences." She attributes this tenacity to "the strength of spirit." Potter turned sculptor, Louise shapes and sculpts with the earth itself. After an initial firing, her figures are tinted with natural ochres (dug from earth and ground into pigment by her archaeologist son) and buried in sawdust and leaves. A fire is lit and the pieces are left to simmer. When the figures finally emerge from their sooty grave they bear the marks and stains of pit-firing, aptly representing the scars from a life hard lived. But there is also beauty in this sooty mixture. Swirls of soft grey tones and subtle earthy
colours on the surface of the clay remind us of the beauty we experience in strong women who have survived much. There may be aching from the struggle, but there is victory as well.

Don and Louise Pentz have been working and living together for more than three decades. That their works influence each other is to be expected. However, it is a gentle influence, one which respects and nurtures the creativity of the other. Mixed Blessings records the celebrations and struggles of these artists' lives and works. There is a spiritual quality in the works, but it is a spirituality which is not detached from the physical reality of daily living. These works remind us that, despite our struggles, there is beauty to be found by those who look for it.

-Regina Coupar
Exhibitions Director, AST Art Gallery