New exhibit explores the passions of Cochrane artists

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The work of two Cochrane artists is the focus of a new exhibit entitled Painted Passions II on display at the Just Imajan Art Gallery and Studio in Cochrane on June 17.

Painters Janet B. Armstrong, owner of Just Imajan, and Marla Blackwell said they framed their work on inspiration they take from the surrounding landscapes.

“I am really passionate about our landscape and where we live,” Blackwell said. “We are lucky to live here and I love painting it.”

Receiving her first set of oil paints from her mother when she was nine-years-old, Armstrong has been practicing plein air painting – French for open air – in parks and landscapes across Canada ever since.

The first installment of the Painted Passions art exhibit was actually Armstong’s first solo show as an artist held in Calgary 11 years ago and showcased everything that was a love and passion in her life.

Since opening the gallery in 2008 though, she said she hasn’t had the time to do another exhibit quite like it.

She asked Blackwell, an acrylic painter who rents space in Just Imajan to teach art, if she was willing to come together for the exhibit.

“We’ve been both working very hard and I’m excited to see what she’s painted,” Armstrong said.

With a thriving arts community in Cochrane, she said she excited to open a part of herself to the public through her paintings.

Since art is subjective and stirs a vast array of emotions, Armstrong said one can never tell who might walk through the doors of the gallery, how they’re going to react or what they’re going to say.

She said there is a sense of vulnerability when an artist displays his or her work, but she has learned to take comments, criticism and praise in a way that continues to move her forward in her artistic journey.

“Good or bad, you can learn from them and it opens your eyes as well,” she said. “That’s what art does, it causes conversation, which is interesting.”

Each time Armstrong completes a new body of work, she said she learns more about herself as an artist and of art itself.

She said the drive to push her art is ever-present and she aims to articulate her expression of the world by transforming a canvas for people to escape into and feel the emotions of what she saw.

“The world without art would be very bleak,” Armstrong said. “There’s still so much to learn as an artist.”

Opening night of the exhibit featuring more than 50 original paintings runs from 5:30 to 9 p.m. on June 17 at Just Imajan Art Gallery and Studio at 320, 1st Street West in Cochrane.

The event is free to attend and will remain accessible to the public during operational hours until June 30.

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