Alumna wins prize for Suspend exhibit

July 30, 2014

IMAGE_STORY_Brenda_Draney_TentBrenda Draney talks about the award and being one of 42 artists selected for the 2015 Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art

After fire ravaged Slave Lake in May 2011 and displaced 7,000 people, the daunting task of rebuilding 40 per cent of the town began. In the wake of the fires, MacEwan University alumna Brenda Draney set out to use her paints and brushes to capture the strength and resourcefulness of the people in her hometown.

The result was Suspend, an exhibition of Brenda’s paintings at the Art Gallery of Alberta from late 2013 to March 2014, which was recently awarded the $10,000 Eldon and Anne Foote Edmonton Visual Arts Prize.

“When people were living in their temporary homes – in summer cottages, in hotels or with friends and family – and waiting to go back to Slave Lake, it was really a suspended way of living,” says Brenda. “These are personal memories, but I wanted to create a place where the viewer could look in and see something of their own. Even if people didn’t have any connection to the town, they still had an idea of a time in their lives when they had lived in a suspended kind of way.”

One of the paintings from Suspend was purchased and added to the Art Gallery of Alberta’s permanent collection.

“I want to express my deep gratitude,” says Brenda. “It’s been touching and amazing what has happened with this exhibit. When you receive lovely gifts like these it says that what you’re working on is something that is meaningful, so you should not be daunted and you should keep working. That’s the power of it.”

IMAGE_STORY_Brenda_Draney_TravisJoining the conversation at the 2015 Biennial of Contemporary Art

One of Brenda’s upcoming projects will see her joining more than 40 other artists in the Art Gallery of Alberta’s 2015 Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art. Among the artists from across the province are MacEwan University alumni Erin Schwab and Travis McEwan, and Leslie Sharpe, chair of the Fine Art program.

Brenda says she already has an idea in mind for her contribution, but hesitates to share it at this point. “I want to remain nimble of mind so that I can arrive at the gallery and not be rigid in an idea of what it must be, but rather open to what it’s going to be.”

She adds that regardless of what direction she ends up taking, her painting will keep company with the work and ideas of 41 other great artists. The thought makes her smile.

“It’s going to be so fun to see what all these other artists are going to do, how they are going to address the space and what will be sitting beside my work. Every exhibit is an opportunity to learn about your own practice in another iteration.”

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