A fleeting moment 

Joan Baron’s paintings capture local scenes, figures with unique impressionistic style

click to enlarge 1606joan.jpg

What: "A Moment in Time" opening reception
When: Saturday, Feb. 14, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Where: Mountain Galleries at Fairmont

The scenes are comforting and familiar to most Whistlerites - crowded chairlifts, couples doubling on bikes, solitary figures snowshoeing on a blanket of snow. And with good reason. They are all moments that have been captured by local artist Joan Baron.

"I've always been involved in art, I just loved it," Baron said, adding that her mother is also a self-taught artist, so the visual arts were a big part of her childhood.

B.C. born, Baron completed most of her formal training in California. But for the past 15 years, she has called Whistler home, drawing inspiration for her fine art endeavours from the breathtaking natural surroundings of the Sea to Sky region.

"I like to focus on a moment in time," she explained, adding that her recent figurescapes have evolved out of her landscapes works, when she has paused to include figures that are within scenes.

"... That moment is something I want to express as a feeling, versus a statement of reality, and create that sensation for the viewer."

Though for most of her career Baron focused on design and the commercial side of the arts, over the past few years she has been encouraged to step out and explore her creative side, and has recently shifted to rediscover and explore the fine arts.

So far, Whistler's arts community has received Baron's work warmly. Her acrylic paintings have been on display at Mountain Galleries since last April, and she has thrown herself into a range of arts and culture events within the community, like the Whistler Arts Council's annual ArtWalk.

"There's a lot of talent here, and I think its great that the community can go forward and promote it as much as possible and build on that," Baron said. "... I think that the culture helps round out the whole resort experience and hopefully it will build to the point where it will become a destination for culture, also."

Baron strives to maintain a balance between realism and interpretation in her work, using an abstract, impressionistic style to suggest, rather than overtly reveal, her selected subject matter without intimidating her audience.

"I capture the scenes - I don't want to say with a totally abstract sense, but more of an impressionistic and interpretive sense. With sweeping strokes and vibrant colours," she explained. "...I'm actually trying to paint a sensation, rather than reality."

That approach to capturing familiar scenes may be key to her success.

Now, she's preparing for a new exhibition at Mountain Galleries, which will include over 20 new pieces and run from Wednesday, Feb. 11 until Wednesday, Feb. 18, with an artist's reception on Valentine's Day.

"The big reward for an artist is when your work does sell because you know you're touching the strings of someone's heart and you're communicating, so that really makes you feel great, that you're actually communicating to another individual and your artwork is speaking to them," she reflected.

But aside from the thrill of a sale, Baron said its equally exciting to exhibit her work to the public.

"I think, like every artist, you're completely wide open, your emotions are way out there, totally vulnerable, and you just don't know what to expect," she said. "It sort of takes your breath away, in a sense."

She loves to gather feedback at shows, but adds that seeing people's smiles when they view her art work, "is probably one of the biggest rewards."

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