For the past 20 years, Phyllis Obst has been in awe of the art community that she is so deeply immersed and involved in, in central Alberta.
Hailing from Buck Creek, Alberta she moved to Drayton Valley shortly after getting married and arrived in Lacombe in 2000.
“After only being here for a few months, I was excited about the thriving art community that we found ourselves in. At the time I was only aware of the musical community we had but as time went by and my interest changed.”
Over the years, she became more aware and involved in the visual arts community and was overwhelmed at the opportunities and access to art.
“There is visual art everywhere in this city, murals, sculptures in the parks, paintings on the fences, constant display of works at the Lacombe Memorial Centre, even the garbage bins have works of art painted on them.”
This month, Obst’s artwork will be the focus on Lacombe. Her art, which is an assortment of both two-dimensional paintings and drawings and sculptures, will be on display at the Lacombe Performing Arts Centre (LAPC).
“I have always brought creativity to all aspects of my world, my life with my family, my profession as an engineer, my church, various performing arts, and most importantly through my visual art. I generally work with a variety of mediums and styles, using the textures and feel of the materials to create my pieces.”
Among the work on display is a series of five drawings called, The Canadian Rockies; Banff National Park.
“These were mostly completed en plein air. En plein air, directly translated means “in the open air.” So these drawings were mostly completed outside while viewing the subject. They are value drawings using various “grey” alcohol markers. The largest one is my favourite of the five.”
“My second (two) favourites are the two ceramic sculptures that are replicas of pre-columbian vessels, which lead to the residency program I will be attending in the fall in Peru.”
A few years ago, while researching for a project pre-columbian ceramics project that she was doing while at Red Deer Polytechnic (RDP), she found a site for Arequetopia Foundation, an art and culture non-profit that offers residencies in Mexico, Peru and Italy. Some of the residencies that were offered were specifically for pre-columbian ceramics.
“I thought “wow how cool would it be to attend that?” after a few years I kept coming back to that website and thought of that residency so I finally decided to go ahead and apply. Worst-case scenario is I don’t get in. So I did the work, completed the application, entered the competition and was accepted.
During her residency, she will stay in the town of Urubamba, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, in Peru for five weeks beginning in September. It will allow her to experience the art and culture of pre-ceramics.
“It is fascinating that techniques that were used in 1500 BC are still being used today. It also helps me to understand and to be able to work with these techniques knowing the history. I plan to take that knowledge and incorporate it into future ceramic works, and to share the knowledge gained during this residency with my peers.”
She said that the discussion, learning, guidance, critique and collaboration that comes with being completely immersed in a community of fellow artists and masters will also be an experience in itself.
“The visual arts program at RDP allowed me to broaden my creative interest to incorporate three-dimensional work such as sculpture, ceramics, and installation art. I have just completed my final courses; however, I continue to work on self-proposed projects in ceramic through the college,” she said. “As a lifelong learner, I continue to look for new opportunities where I can study and enhance my art.”
In 2020, she joined the Art Collection Committee for a three-year term. The committee was created to manage and maintain the public art collection on behalf of the citizens of Lacombe and is responsible for creating a welcoming, diverse, educational and cultural experience through the placement of art within the community. They help to provide an opportunity for local, regional, national and international artists and artisans to have their work displayed in a public.
“Working on this committee gives me a chance to be a part of a group dedicated to the promotion of art and culture within our community. There are opportunities for local, regional national and even international artists of all ages to show their works.”
Her art will be on display at the Lacombe Performing Arts Centre, Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., until March 25.