Amateur painter chronicles history of many Manitoba churches in watercolour
GIMLI, Man. (CP)— Millard Barteaux grew up in a lighthouse in Nova Scotia.
Perhaps that explains why he’s so attracted to rural Manitoba churches. They are solitary beacons, too, on the prairie landscape.
Barteaux, an amateur painter, has painted 160 churches in the Interlake, the region north of Winnipeg and between lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba. This includes every church along Highways 7, 8, and 9 in the eastern Interlake, from the Perimeter Highway to Matheson Island. Some churches that are no longer standing he has painted from archival photos. His medium is watercolours.
“Each little town would have six or seven churches. Gimli had 12, past and present,” he said. There have been nine churches in Stonewall that he knows of and painted, and eight in Teulon.
His paintings resonate for a lot of people who belonged to a certain parish or had a family connection. “They’ll say, ’Oh, my grandfather is buried there,”’ in the church’s cemetery.
Barteaux used to run a Chester Chicken/Sub Station restaurant just south of Gimli. He hung his first church painting there, of the Ukrainian Catholic church in Komarno, in 1993. “Then someone would say, ‘ Where’s my church?”’
So he’d go out and paint that church. Each church took about 20 hours to paint. “It just kept going. It was my holy grail. I’d go out on the road and find these churches,” Barteaux said.
“I ended up with 160 of them. ... In my restaurant, there wasn’t room to hang another one. People would just come in and stand around looking at the walls.”
The New Icelandic Heritage Museum in Gimli hung all 160 paintings on its walls in the summer of 2002.