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A Wondrous Whole: The Still Lifes of Liza Gareau Tosh

Liza Gareau Tosh has been working as an artist for over 25 years. Originally from Saskatchewan, Liza first discovered Fernie in the late 1990s, has lived here transiently since 2004, and has taken up permanent residence since 2012. A great destination for raising her boys and teaching, Fernie continues to push her own boundaries in making art for which she is grateful. Liza, who dabbles in both studio work and plein air, gravitates to acrylic and watercolour through painting and drawing. Her work is largely representational but never predictable.

Liza’s style of art making is a product of varied experience, having been shaped by whatever her community has had to offer. Whether it was signing up for weekend painting workshops or acquiring her B.F.A at the University of Saskatchewan in 2006, Liza values a diversified education. Maintaining a constant discourse with other artists has always been important, as Liza seeks out her peers whether here now in Fernie, or in the past having been part of the art exhibiting group Artx9 in Regina (2006-2012). Liza has also been fortunate to make art her means of employment. She has been painting indoor and outdoor murals since 1988 and has 13 to her credit, including a 65′ x 10′ diorama for a museum in Harris, Saskatchewan. In that same town (where her husband Jim sustained the family farm), she created Routes Gallery, as an arts and entertainment centre in an appropriated church. Today, she maintains a studio here in town, basking in creating fodder for exhibitions and commissions. She also mentors students through a Grade 12 Art History program at the Fernie Academy, just as she was mentored when she was a teenager. Liza continues to be indebted to all that the arts community has to offer here in Fernie.

The Still Life as an artistic tradition has compelled Liza for the better part of the last decade. After much work with the larger scale (murals), as well as exhibitions of portraits and landscapes in drawing and painting, Liza turned to the Still Life to examine its components that make up the whole. What first inspired her to consider the classic “bowl of fruit” was the French translation of the word Still Life, Nature Morte (re-translated to signify ‘dead nature’) which led her to paint a series of vegetables and fruit that were frozen on the vine in her family’s garden. For this series, Liza is breathing new life into the fodder for the bowl, as the fruits of their labour are no longer in jeopardy. They are robust, plump, leaves, vines, and all. Liza plays with the shapes that surround the subject, the colour scheme that can be toyed with, and the oblique placement of subject, subverting its importance to the overall image. Liza contemplates nature for its visual effect and the role that could play in our perspective of things. We are all surrounded by things that we find beautiful, much ado to our proximity to the nature that either grows wildly or within our control. We can find beauty in more obscure places and notice all of the separate parts that make up a wondrous whole.

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British Columbia Arts Council The City of Fernie Columbia Basin Trust Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance The Fernie Fix Park Place Lodge