Valerie Palmer’s large-scale oil paintings consistently feature a figure or two staring thoughtfully at some point beyond the picture plane, set against a scenic backdrop. Eunice is an excellent example of her characteristic style. The Michipicoten Bay-based artist was born in Toronto, received her BFA Honours from the University of Manitoba (1973), and has exhibited widely throughout Canada.
Eunice is a subtly compelling painting that beckons the viewer’s attention. A mature woman stares off to the left, sitting in what appears to be a black-stained wooden chair in front of the lakeshore. Her hands lay clasped in her lap, and she wears a long multi-coloured skirt, as well as a sweater, ostensibly to shield her from the wind that drives the whitecaps in the background but doesn`t tousle her hair. Significantly, Palmer paints directly from both live models and nature. Committed to her established practice, she repeatedly hauls her large canvases out-of-doors and props her easel on the lakeshore to work.
Eunice was on display in the Gallery as part of the By Request: Collective Curation of the Permanent Collection exhibition, until June 3, 2018, selected by co-curator Cathy Alex. Of Eunice, Cathy writes in her curatorial statement, “She appears solemn, but wise too, with perhaps a hint of bemusement and amusement. There’s a touch of grey in her hair, just like me. And just like me, she must have celebrated happiness and joy, sorrow and tribulation. Are those the moments she’s remembering as she looks off into the distance?…I want to join Eunice on that beach, feel the wind in my greying hair, share a cup of tea, and learn her story.”
Originally published in The Walleye – JUN 2018
By Andrea Terry, Acting Curator, Thunder Bay Art Gallery