Story & Photos by Linda Lee Purvis
Long rays of streaming sunlight reach through the inviting rural gallery window, illuminating the assemblage of images that line the white walls, kindling them with clarity. Gallery keeper, Sarah Tacoma, has created the space to give light to artists, both established and emerging, as a means to showcase their original bodies of work at this local Cannington venue. The ART STUDIO Gallery & Shoppe avails a cozy, contemporary hub for artful exposure, reflection, and colourful conversation.
Cannington is home to an ever-increasing family of full and part-time artists that encompass a diverse representation of media. “There is such a strong arts community here and we're always brainstorming and helping each other out,” Sarah shares. Sarah's vision for the future involves initiatives with local and non-local artists – both for gallery interests, as well as for area artists collectively. Having opened the gallery this spring, as an extension of her own studio space, Sarah is elated with the keen reception and fortifying encouragement, not only from locals, but from the artist community at large.
Together with her husband, David Marshak, himself an accomplished landscape painter, both artists found their small home studio appeared to be shrinking beneath a swelling inventory for up-coming shows, and consequently, ever-depleting its prime real estate. Sarah flexed to accommodate the issue by seeking her own studio space in town. Since she is sensitive to the need for collaborative support within the arts community, creating the gallery flaunts a collage of reciprocal benefits for all. The space she found was in an ideal location just steps up from the main street, and conveniently adjacent to the cozy Cameron Street Co-op Café – all walking distance from home.
The studio resides in an historic brick building with the charming character of abiding architectural details, wall panelling, and wood plank floors to its credit; a tip of the hat to the past, and a wink to the present. In fact, with Sarah's innovative touches using naturalized wood fixtures and unfettered display elements, the vibe is pleasingly cohesive and congenial.
Inside, the space leading up to the studio is unpretentious and simple, with high ceilings and a broad-paned window. Much like the town itself, the gallery is small but magical, and with Sarah's ingenuity, this over-looked venue is now being looked over. Having opened earlier this summer, the response to Cannington's new gallery has been no less than affirming.
As a child, Sarah felt the first twinge of recognition that she wanted to be an artist during a family visit to a museum where she was awed by a liberating self-portrait of a nude woman, which somehow endorsed an intrinsic sense that she too wanted to articulate her creative voice visually. At 17, she spent a year in Japan as an exchange student, taking photos all the while, but not having the money to develop her film. When she returned, all of the rolls she had sent home over the year had been developed, and upon reviewing them, not only was her natural talent revealed, but so was a snapshot of her future.
Sarah met her (then) husband-to-be in Toronto, and eventually followed him home to Cannington, where she quickly adapted to the relaxed pace and affordable lifestyle that a quaint rural community can provide. With a more reasonable cost of living, Sarah is delighted to spend extra time exploring her craft, in lieu of relinquishing valuable time and energy to extraneous jobs just to compensate for premium city rates. It also provides her and David the opportunity to enjoy raising their one year old son, and alternate between parenting and work. While studying at Sheridan, Sarah met fellow photographer, Kelly Stacey, who also followed the blazoned trail to Cannington, and where she too can be found, on occasion, working in the studio.
Sarah is quickly becoming recognized for her unique approach to photography, including a recent series of photo encaustic images. This process involves brushing hot wax over a mounted photograph to alter the finish and add texture. Sarah often begins by distressing the image to impart a weathered appeal, and then may apply flourishes of paint, emphasizing certain elements within the photo, or add random splatters, or embed objects beneath and between the layers of beeswax. This evokes depth and draws out key features, often summoning a dream-like quality with a variable haziness that diffuses hard lines.
Her work expresses a romantic love of nature in telescoping spectrums, ranging from up-close profiles of budding branches to distant vistas of mountain landscapes. In addition to bucolic beauty, Sarah is drawn to architectural features, as is evident in her recent collection of period door and window images. She has traveled to many places to inform and inspire her work, but acknowledges that even Cannington stirs her creative curiousity. “Just the beautiful old buildings are an inspiration. I love that you can see the stars at night and smell the flowers and earth. Here, you open your door to nature outside each day.” Sarah discovered a newfound love of her neighbourhood when a co-op student was placed with her for four months. “We just wandered everywhere with our cameras, taking pictures of everything; it was great.”
Sarah is active in the art show circuit and participates in numerous Toronto shows throughout the year. Her work is displayed in a several galleries downtown, as well as the Art Gallery of Hamilton. But perhaps most dear, is her ART STUDIO Gallery & Shoppe, where she not only shares her own work in the making, but she also houses a little artist gift shop of primarily local work comprised of: rings, pottery, photo transfers, oil painting, wood carving, silk-screenings, alpaca yarn, cards, and a unique, artful cache of delights.
Gallery shows rotate on a monthly basis, each commencing with an opening reception for visitors to meet the headlining artist(s). The gallery's first holiday gift show opens soon, with a variety of works from an array of artists, and featuring smaller pieces and prices that make gifting original art both affordable to purchase and priceless to receive.