Art in the wilderness

Local artist Earl McKay’s latest exhibit, ‘A Brush with Nature,’ is on display at the Grace Campbell Gallery until Aug. 29. (Josef Jacobson/Daily Herald)

PA artist brings images of wildlife to canvas and bison skulls

When Earl McKay first started painting in Thompson, Man. 34 years ago, he said no Indigenous artists were painting wildlife. He set out to change that.

“All the painters in Manitoba were doing traditional, native art. Free-flowing, woodland art. And I thought, everybody’s doing woodland style, why isn’t anybody doing wolves or eagles or nature?” said McKay, who has been living in Prince Albert for the last six years.

“I felt like somebody’s got to do wildlife.”

McKay’s paintings depict the forest and tundra of northern Manitoba and the animals that roam the wilderness. He describes his style as “semi-realism,” as he bases his work on his own nature photography, but then adds imaginative flourishes.

A painting of cougars, for example, was inspired by pictures taken at Saskatoon’s Forestry Farm Park. In the work, however, McKay removes the cougars from their pen and places them in the wild tracking their prey.

Other paintings depict the northern lights as stylized ribbons of colour flowing across the starry skies.

McKay’s latest exhibit, A Brush with Nature, is on display at the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library’s Grace Campbell Gallery until Aug. 29. The show features 40 pieces of art, including four painted bison skulls. The pieces were all created in the last four years and many of them have been exhibited before, including some that were recently on loan in Saskatoon.

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Got to go:

What? A Brush with Nature by Earl McKay

Where? Grace Campbell Gallery

When? June 30 to Aug. 29

Admission? Free