Friesen shows “Mennonites and More”

Bev Friesen poses with some of her works including, Jovanka & Milanka at left. (GREG VANDERMEULEN/Winkler Times)

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“Mennonites and More”, a solo exhibition by Bev Friesen is on display at Winkler Arts & Culture for the rest of the year.

The exhibition opened Nov. 1, featuring paintings of Mennonites through history, as well as some others that are among Friesen’s favourites.

Friesen said the exhibition covers more than a decade of her work. Some has been displayed before. Friesen coexhibited with another artist twice, once on Mennonite women and another time on Mennonite men. Those collections are coupled with other works she’s done, often based on photographs of family, or from the Mennonite Archives in Winnipeg.

“I’m interested in the history of our culture,” she said. “I mean, there’s so much, the good and the bad, the hardships and the differences between Mennonites. They’re all over the world living different kinds of lives.”

Friesen works mainly in oil, calling it a more forgiving medium. And while she appreciated drawing from a very young age, she didn’t take on art until she began with a mentor in 2000.

“I always was interested in art, but growing up it wasn’t very encouraged and there weren’t very many arts supplies available,” she said. “Life got away on me and I started later.”

Friesen recalls being given scribblers in school that featured blank pages, which were meant to allow students to fill with drawings. That’s something she took advantage of, to an extent the teacher wasn’t expecting.

“Eventually the teacher rationed me, because I filled it up too fast, so I only got one a month,” she said.

She also found paper at home whenever she could. “When I was growing up there wasn’t much for art, so I drew on the back of agricultural newsletters,” she said. “That was the blank paper I got to use.”

While the exhibit mainly features Mennonites, Friesen said there’s still something for everyone.

“I hope they sense a connection, whether they’re Mennonite or not, because there’s many cultures or people that have similar histories and traditions,” she said.

The paintings include images of hard work and having fun. Friesen said she loves to base her work on photographs that aren’t perfect, that feature flaws such as poor composition or awkward angles. “I don’t mind if it’s not perfect,” she said.

Friesen said the length of time to complete a piece varies immensely, from just two sittings for some of the smallest pieces to much longer for others. And some never make it to a stage she would recognize as completion.

“Some paintings never make it,” she said.

Having her first solo show isn’t exactly in her comfort zone. “It makes me anxious and nervous,” she admitted.

Future exhibits may be calling however. Friesen said she likes to paint while her husband drives. “I really like that, because I have to now fight the bumps, which makes it more interesting,” she said. “I will someday have an exhibit of those paintings.”

Her favourite quote was spoken as he lay dying by Jean-Baptiste Camille Carot who lived 1796-1875. “I hope with all my heart that there will be painting in heaven.”

ÒMennonites and MoreÓ, a solo exhibition by Bev Friesen is on display at Winkler Arts & Culture for the rest of the year. (GREG VANDERMEULEN/Winkler Times)

ÒMennonites and MoreÓ, a solo exhibition by Bev Friesen is on display at Winkler Arts & Culture for the rest of the year. (GREG VANDERMEULEN/Winkler Times)

ÒMennonites and MoreÓ, a solo exhibition by Bev Friesen is on display at Winkler Arts & Culture for the rest of the year. (GREG VANDERMEULEN/Winkler Times)

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