Sunday, 1 December 2013

Elephant No. 80: Guest Artist Lynn Owen

Ellie by Lynn Owen
iPad sketch, 2013
Image courtesy of Lynn Owen

Lynn and I have only really met in virtual terms, introduced by our mutual artist friend Peter Gould. As Peter would say, Lynn's a "funster" and we clicked immediately.

I was particularly thrilled when Lynn sent me Ellie a week or so ago. Not only do I absolutely love it as a work of art, but it's also created entirely on an iPad—something of a departure for an artist who works primarily in acrylics and mixed media.

Crimson Miasma 5 by Lynn Owen
Acrylic on canvas

Lynn has an impeccable sense of colour and form, resulting in lush and complex paintings that range across the spectrum from figural to abstract. As Lynn has written about her work:
I aspire to expose the character and spirit of the subject matter—and attempt to bring a new insight and sensitivity to it. My process begins with exploring the tactile properties of my chosen subject. This is where the core of my painting begins. Working with only the textural element of the composition helps me bring out the intriguing foundation I want to capture within the subject—be it to evoke a sense of movement in a figurative piece, the mood of a landscape, or the personality of a piece of fruit. Ultimately I strive to produce work that is unexpected, thoughtful and invigorating.

In my opinion, Lynn's work is all of those things.

Encroachment by Lynn Owen
Acrylic on canvas

According to Lynn, her earliest encouragement came from her grandfather, who gave her his knee to use as an easel. Growing up in mining towns across Northern Ontario—a blasted, barren landscape, if ever there was one—Lynn taught herself to see the subtleties of texture, and the hidden life in everyday objects. Her work today reflects that careful observation in works that I find strangely haunting.

Strata Series #2 by Lynn Owen
Acrylic and mica on canvas

Lynn has also been known to provide painted interiors for local restaurants. Not that long ago, she was asked by a friend, who owns the Moonroom here in Ottawa, if she'd be willing to paint a couple of doors at the hip wine bar. In describing the experience, Lynn said laughingly that "What began as a modest work—two bathroom walls—grew into two more doors and a thirty-foot wall. I teased that I was the victim of the biggest scope-creep ever. In truth, I would have painted there forever, if I could."

Crayon Box 3 by Lynn Owen
Mixed media on canvas

Then there's the serendipitous, as in the image below, which I originally thought was a painting of a couch with ghostly cat. I liked it so much that I wanted to use it in this post. When I asked Lynn about it, I learned that it's actually a photograph of her cat Daly, passing by an unfinished painting. Now, that's mixed media.

couch/cat by Lynn Owen
Unfinished painting with live cat
Photograph courtesy of Lynn Owen

Lynn has been featured in group and solo exhibitions across Canada, and her work is currently on view at a trio of galleries in eastern Canada. She is also part of the upcoming Group of Steven show at Irene's Pub in Ottawa, opening on December 4. To see more of Lynn's work, visit her website at

Mica Landscape 3 by Lynn Owen
Acrylic, mica and paste on canvas

Elephant Lore of the Day
When I learned that Lynn had grown up in mining towns, I started wondering about elephants and the mining industry. I couldn't find anything about elephants being used as heavy equipment for mining in antiquity—or any time since—but I did find a number of mines named for elephants.

There is the Pink Elephant Mine in California's Death Valley: a pink-fluorite mine that began operations in 1946. Because of its difficult location and the relatively poor quality of the ore, it was never significantly worked, and is now abandoned.

Abandoned tramway at Pink Elephant Mine, California.

There are also at least three abandoned Red Elephant Mines in the western United States, all of which were gold mines in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There is little information on how the mines got their names, although the one in Colorado was named for Red Elephant Mountain, where the gold-bearing ore was found. In California's case, the mine has lent its name to today's Red Elephant Mine hiking trail.

And then there's the White Elephant Mine in British Columbia. "White Elephant" seems a rather ill-conceived name to give a mine in Canada; however, it wasn't named for the unpromising nature of the endeavour. White Elephant Mine was, in fact, a gold and silver mine which produced 63,170 grams of gold and 9,549 grams of silver in its 1922–1935 heyday. Today, the mine is no longer active, but remains in private hands.

One of the openings to the White Elephant Mine, British Columbia.

So, why name mines for elephants? Perhaps the answer can be found in this rather cryptic statement made by Swedish mining company LKAB in May 2013. Talking about the fact that Sweden has the largest contiguous band of iron ore in the world, a spokesman said:
There's a saying in mining, especially when you're looking for big volume bodies, that if you're looking for elephants, you have to go to elephant land—and in our part of the world is elephant land.
Er, okay.

To read about elephants who actually mine minerals with their tusks, sometimes creating caverns, check out the elephant lore in this blog post and this one, from the original Elephant a Day blog.

Because their tongues are too long to lick salt from the rock, elephants mine salt
from the walls of Kitum Cave by breaking off pieces of rock with their tusks,
then popping the salt-bearing rock into their mouths with their trunks.
Photo: Ian Redmond

To Support Elephant Welfare

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