Growing up in Port Alberni inspires Merritt painter’s work

Memories of growing up in Port Alberni and on the west coast form the root of artist Cassandra Dolen’s “Wild British Columbia” paintings.

‘Sweet Desolation’

Memories of growing up in Port Alberni and on the west coast form the root of artist Cassandra Dolen’s “Wild British Columbia” paintings, currently on display at Blue Fish Gallery in Port Alberni.

“Much of my work contains elements of my childhood…the ocean, arbutus, forests, birds,” Dolen writes on her Facebook page.

Now living in Merritt, B.C., Dolen states the Alberni Valley is “one of those rare places left on the planet that still feels like wilderness.”

Dolen paints in walnut oil rather than linseed, as it maintains colour depth without forcing an artist to work with toxic solvents, she explains in her bio.

Her paintings evoke thoughts of Emily Carr, the bold colours and broad brushstrokes reminding one of the Group of Seven.

“I like the emotion; that her work is emotionally driven,” Blue Fish Gallery owner Cheryl Iwanowsky says of Dolen’s work.

“She works in large strokes. She’s got really good technical skills but I like the looseness in her painting. She reminds me of Van Gogh and the Group of Seven. You feel something when you look at her artwork.”

Dolen left the Alberni Valley when she was 17, Iwanowsky explains, but still has family in the area.

The two met via the Worst Place to Live Facebook site: Dolen noticed Iwanowsky’s gallery, and Iwanowsky in turn checked out Dolen’s artwork online.

“I remember being completely drawn in by her website pages,” Iwanowsky recalls.

“I said if you’re ever in Port Alberni would you consider having your artwork on display in my gallery?”

Dolen’s Wild British Columbia will be on exhibit at Blue Fish Gallery until the end of June.

Blue Fish is located at 2907 Second Ave. in Port Alberni.

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