For Emilie Nunez, Maple Ridge and its surroundings have proven to be a rewarding inspiration for what she paints on her canvas.
Nunez, 25, has recently been awarded with the Port Moody Arts Centre’s Kwi Am Choi Scholarship, aimed at uplifting emerging artists who are either in a fine arts program or who have recently graduated.
The recipients of the annual scholarship are awarded $2,000, as well as a fully funded solo exhibition at the centre.
Nunez moved to Maple Ridge from Alberta when she was 12 years old. She creates narratives through her art that explore the connection that people share with the landscapes that surround them.
The B.C. terrain of mountains and forests is what shaped her own relationship with nature, Maple Ridge being a key part of that growth.
“I really love Maple Ridge. It’s really inspiring to my practice,” Nunez said.
Golden Ears Provincial Park has been the cornerstone of many of her pieces, and the collection that she is including in the show is all inspired by the forests in the park.
The vibrant colours she uses speak to the relationship between people and nature. Many of her paintings include a portrait of a woman, inspired by the strong women in her life – her mother and grandmother – as well as some of her own personal stories.
“I [use] landscapes as a stage to unravel these personal narratives,” she said.
Janice Cotter, gallery manager at Port Moody Arts Centre, said that Nunez has been wonderful to work with the past eight months.
Once winners are chosen, a lot of time is put into the young artists and their work, preparing collections for exhibitions, as well as taking them through and setting up the installations.
Cotter works alongside the artists until the day of exhibition, coaching and guiding along the way.
“She is very focused on becoming a professional artist,” she said of Nunez.
Having the opportunity to have a solo exhibit in a proper art gallery is a big step forward for a young artist, according to Cotter.
After Nunez finished her studies in fine arts at UBC in 2017, she moved back to Maple Ridge, eventually getting a job at The ACT Art Gallery.
After two years of doing her art on a part-time basis outside of normal work hours, she recently left her position at the gallery to pursue art and illustration full-time.
“It’s the dream,” she said.
Her creativity stretches beyond the painted canvas and transforms itself in her art installations.
At her exhibition, she will be showcasing, for the first time since her graduation show, an interactive installation that she made with a tent and a cloak.
She painted the tent and the cloak with the same pattern, urging participants to wrap the cloak around them before they enter the tent, becoming invisible and, in turn, inhabiting the space around them.
“You become one with it. With my paintings, I try to make almost like a pathway for you to feel like you’re in it, you’re surrounded by that landscape that I made,” Nunez said.
Her exhibition, Inhabit, runs from July 18 to Aug. 15 at the Port Moody Arts Centre.
• For more images of her artwork, visit her website at www.emilienunez.com.