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Powell River artist holds first exhibition

An emerging painter on the local art scene is hard at work preparing for her first exhibition later this month.

Brooks Secondary School graduate Julie Carlson’s exhibition The Butterfly Within takes place from 5 to 8 pm on Friday, April 13, where she currently resides at Evergreen Extended Care Unit.

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Carlson’s passion for art really developed in the last few years, according to art therapy intern Sarah Fitzgibbon, who has worked with Carlson during that time.

“I started off doing a group at Evergreen with anybody who wanted to participate and Julie was always there, wanting to make art,” said Fitzgibbon.

Fitzgibbon then asked Carlson if she would like to focus on making more individual pieces, to which she received a positive response.

Carlson has a severe form of cerebral palsy and communicates by shaking her head and tapping her foot.

“Very quickly it became apparent she was an artist and creating an artist’s identity,” said Fitzgibbon.“I approached her with the idea of having an art exhibition and she was really enthusiastic.”

Carlson has been busy creating a body of work for her exhibition since that time, working with Fitzgibbon three hours per week. As support staff have recognized her artistic ability, they assist her as well.

“She’s creating all the time,” said Fitzgibbon.

Whenever possible, Carlson will create the work herself, with paintbrushes and other tools Fitzgibbon has modified for her use.

“Julie physically will do as much of the artwork and painting as she can,” said Fitzgibbon. “What we do is what we call in the art therapy world ‘the third hand,’ where my hand literally becomes one of her art tools.”

The process of making the art begins with a series of questions, according to Fitzgibbon.

“A lot of her art is done in a layering process,” she said. “We use a lot of stencils and Julie also does a lot of work with adding material and texture onto her paintings.”

Fitzgibbon and members of her support staff assist when needed, according to support worker Dawn-Marie Howes.

“She has a great sense of colour,” said Howes.

In addition to painting, Carlson has begun making poetry through a process of collaging. This has provided more insight into her mindset, said Fitzgibbon.

“Through [the poetry] we’re really able to hear her hopeful and positive ways of thinking,” she added.

In an interview with the Peak, Carlson indicated she is inspired by nature, in particular butterflies, and by her family. Her aspirations include continuing with painting and making poetry, and possibly having more exhibitions in the future.

Carlson recently created an Instagram page that will include videos showing the process of how the art is created. According to Fitzgibbon, it is about educating people and showing them the different ways people can be an artist.

Evergreen Extended Care Unit is located at 4970 Joyce Avenue.

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