Committed to her Craft
Victoria Vanier, Georgeville
“Everything I do is related to my art,” said Catherine Young Bates, an artist in every sense of the word who divides her time between the Eastern Townships and Montreal, when she’s not off ‘plein air’ painting spectacular landscapes in
regions as far north as the Arctic and as far south as New Mexico. “I like that better than calling myself a professional artist,” added Ms. Bates in the interview at her home in Georgeville, where beautiful and imaginative works of art adorn every shelf and wall, some of them her own.
An accomplished artist and a mem
ber of the Royal Canadian Academy
of the Arts who has had over thirty solo exhibitions across the country, Catherine had been coming to the Townships to paint for several years, often exchanging paintings for room and board. “I stayed at a cabin in the woods once and even rented the building where Studio Georgeville is now as a studio, but I always wanted a place of my own. I bought this house the same day the For Sale sign went up. People in this area have been very supportive of my art.”
I asked Ms. Bates, a native of Windsor, Ontario, what brought her to Quebec. Often looking at the ‘big picture’, both in her art and in her life, she answered: “One grows. You have to grow all your life. If an opportunity comes up, you take it! At the opening speech of my exhibit at the Centre Culturel
Yvonne L. Bombardier, everyone applauded when I told them that I wasn’t born in Quebec, but that Quebec adopted me!”
Dedicated to her craft, Ms. Bates has been a prolific painter, organizing her life around her art. “When I taught, I taught for 80 % of my salary so I could take six months off to paint, with pay, every five or six years,” said the artist who has had artist residencies at Pouch Cove, in Newfoundland, and at Taos and Arroyo Seco, New Mexico. Her present solo exhibition at the Centre Culturel Yvonne L. Bombardier, which has been guest curated by Monique Nadeau-Saumier, features no less than sixty-five of her recent works.
“It’s important for an individual to be creative, and creativity is contagious! I was always creative; my mother would show people what I did in my sandbox!” she mentioned enthusiastically.
Owl’s Head, that graceful, solitary peak, figures prominently in many of Ms. Bates’ dramatic landscapes. “When painting outside in this area, you see it all the time, swirling skies at sunset. Mountains are very symbolic; they take us upwards. We see the ski trails, the scars. One reason I’ve painted landscapes is to show the beauty of them. Let’s not wreck it please!”
Ms. Bates’ Icarus Series also has an environmental aspect. “My Icarus Series is a symbol for the overreach of man into the environment.” That series, how- ever, has been evolving. “I didn’t like the ending of the Icarus myth, so I’m changing it. The figure has become female and she knows what she’s doing. She’s not going to get burnt.”
“I’m concerned about the environment, but I’m more concerned still about the creative attitude in ourselves. We must keep the creative attitude alive and thriving – it’s the healthiest thing we can do,” she commented.
It’s important to mention that the reason I was able to have a casual chat with the artist over a pot of Lady Grey tea was because, just a few years ago, Ms. Bates received a cochlear implant so she could hear again.
Both her loss of hearing and the regaining of that sense through the implant have impacted her creative process immensely. “I had begun doing many monochromatic works and I wondered if it was because I was losing my hearing. Then, after the operation, colours started coming back; I’m now doing a series of red landscapes. Maybe it’s because I’m happier, but I think that colour is more than just colour. It permeates me and I feel I can almost hear it.”
Ms. Bates couldn’t be happier about her exhibition in Valcourt. “I’m so pleased with the professional level of attention that was given by the Bombardier people. Monique Nadeau-Saumier and Andrée Bilodeau, who works at the Bombardier Centre, came first to choose the works, then they came back with a truck and took the works from my home, from my apartment in Montreal, and from my studio.” The artist was particularly impressed with how the gallery workers grouped the paintings, even painting the centre’s walls to accentuate the works.
This extensive exhibition continues until December 15th, 2013. Ms. Bates and art historian and curator Ms. Nadeau-Saumier will host a guided visit of the Entendre la Couleur exhibit followed by a talk about Mount Owl’s Head on November 3rd. For more information call the Centre Culturel Yvonne L. Bombardier at
Recent works by painter Catherine Young Bates, seen here at her home in Georgeville, are featured in an exhibition at the Centre Culturel Yvonne L. Bombardier until December 15th, 2013.
Catherine Young Bates poses beside one of her paintings of Mt. Owl’s Head, this one entitled “Trails”.