For this month, the Winnipeg River Arts Council revisits previously featured artist Mary Louise Chown. A woman of many talents, she is a storyteller, visual artist, musician, and observer of life. Over the years, she has done batik, printmaking, acrylic and watercolour, videography, writing, as well as performance art. She says, “I am no longer a prairie chicken, more like an old crone, and I have explored many art forms in my life.”
About eight years ago, she and her husband bought a farm near River Hills, on the Whitemouth River, where they keep bees and laying hens, and where she opened the Ladyslipper Art Studio and returned to drawing, painting, and teaching art in the Eastman area.
For most of Chown’s adult life, her main art form has been storytelling, having begun this arts practice in the 1970’s. She learned storytelling by telling stories, asking for feedback, and listening to her mentor-storytellers. She says, “I love the old mythologies and folktales, and the ways they can still speak to us.”
As far back as she can remember, she has drawn and painted. For a while, she had a studio in the Exchange District in Winnipeg. At forty-nine years old, she studied Fine Arts at university for four years, which taught her even more about all forms of visual arts. After that, the storytelling, drawing, and painting began to merge and feed each other. She says, “Everything requires practice, practice, practice …”
Chown feels a connectedness between all animate and inanimate things on Earth and experiences the deeper spiritual meaning of life through the intensity of the physical environment. She says, “My images are drawn from the flowing shapes I see around me. I’m always attempting to penetrate the mystery of the world and the wonder of my own existence.”
She has taught beginning drawing at several community clubs and also through WRAC programs. When she worked in Manitoba Arts Council’s Artists in the Schools, she taught painting, collage, and storytelling in schools across the province. She has also taken extra training in videography at Red River Community College, written a book about her work as a visiting artist in hospice and palliative care, and taught all levels of storytelling from beginners to masters’ level.
Her artwork has been displayed in several group shows in Winnipeg and one of her video installations was exhibited in Winnipeg, Inuvik, and in the loft of the barn on her farm. The video component of this installation won an award in Edmonton.
Chown believes that all the elements of life can be found in the creative arts — the commonplace transformed into the extraordinary through imagination and skill. Her words of encouragement for aspiring artists: “All art forms tell a story. Use your art to explore and celebrate the world around you.”