Art, as we know it, is a form of personal expression, of feeling; what we see, what we experience; people, colours, places, relationships, society… all combined.
For others like East Sooke artist Angela Menzies, art is much more than that; it’s a way of communicating to the outside world, to create a message or start a discussion.
One of her ongoing themes are expressive paintings of nude women, a subject she says is a fascinating point of discussion in today’s society.
“I started working really closely with women and seeing that, overwhelmingly, they had self-esteem issues surrounding their body,” Menzies said. “I found it shocking, because I’d look at them and say, but you’re so beautiful!”
Only she didn’t just paint a nude painting; she painted someone, a real woman, in her element, being herself. As such, she began by asking her friends and family to be her models, as it gave the theme a more natural form of femininity.
“I never use professional models, because they’re way too comfortable… I like capturing that vulnerability and stripping away all the outer layers and getting to know the real person,” Menzies said.
Coming from a psychology background, she says she’s fascinated by people and the way they think and feel of the world around them.
“Often when I paint women I interview them for hours first before they actually model for me. It kind of morphed to that from being interested in people in general.”
Growing upon a big farm in the middle of nowhere in the B.C. Interior with her brother, Menzies picked up painting since the age of two, and hasn’t let go of it since.
“It was either paint or do chores, there wasn’t a whole lot to do,” she laughed.
After moving to the Island, she began selling her work in small shops in Oak Bay, including paintings of animals she’d own, such as cats and dogs.
When she became a mom, she started painting portraits of her children, which is what got her into painting portraits in the first place. Later, she went on to launch her own studio, Brown Dog Studio, which she named after a chocolate-coloured lab puppy.
“I used to paint in the house, so when finally everybody went to bed, only one around to keep me company was this puppy who’d curl up at my feet… he kept my feet and heart warm,” Menzies said.
Now, she’s working on a new series, using a rare form of etching through multiple layers of paint; a process that takes painting after painting and lays it on top of one another.
The end result? A piece that is expressive, deep, and abstract, all at the same time.
Her most recent, “Jenna” – a painting of one of her students covering most of her face, yet peering through her arms with a powerful look.
“The whole point of this was going back to the psychology… this series is about the power of vulnerability, what lies beneath the skin… that vulnerability can be beautiful, can be powerful,” Menzies said.
Before Jenna, Menzies first experimented with the multi-layer method on the Never Ending Painting, which has six paintings laid underneath a face. As metaphorical and spiritual that is, Menzies said the process was frustrating to figure out at first.
“That was the point of the exercise, of letting go… it took me to all new places, I didn’t know what I was going to do, it was highly stressful,” she said.
The painstaking process did pay off though, and in its final form lays a piece of art that is unique and widely open to interpretation.
Going forward, Menzies says she’s happy she does what she does, as it’s a part of who she is.
“I don’t know what it’s like not to be creative. I knit, I sow, I paint, I write, I take photos. It’s not an inspirational thing, it’s part of who I am.
To learn more on Angela Menzies and her work, check out her blog at: angelamenziesart.blogspot.ca.