by Shelley Werner
(AJNews) – As nature begins to reveal its hidden gems, emerging from the long winter comes an art exhibit that celebrates the depth of nature. Marilyn Samuels celebrates the magic of the forest, the mountains and the seas in her fibre art creations. The various textures and rich colour palette of felt and silk convey the layers of leaves and bark experienced in the woods or the silky salmon found in the ocean. Each piece invites the viewer to experience Marilyn’s journeys to various outdoor adventures and glorious vistas she has visited.
TBT Gallery is celebrating its 6th art exhibition, “In the Shelter of Trees” which represents a year of shows since opening in 2022. Curator Jennifer Eiserman states, “Marilyn Samuels’ work immerses the viewer in the rich textures and colours of the natural world. When one steps into the gallery, one steps into the forests that the works explore. One can almost smell the soil and green growth, one can almost hear the rustle of wind through the trees and the calls of the animals that live there. Samuels’ works pulse with life.”
Marilyn chose the name of the show because she realized how important trees have been not only to her artistic life but to her life in general. Trees are prominent in her art, and she feels a sense of safety under their shelter. “I feel most like myself when I am in nature and when I’m going on a trail.” In the rainforest in BC’s north west coast she had a chance encounter with a unique bear.
“BC is home to the ‘spirit bears’ which are black bears that have a double recessive gene for white. These are very important bears to indigenous people; they are white, and they are very rare. We were very lucky to actually have a white bear walk out of the forest and walk along the river directly in front of us. It is probably one of the most special experiences of my life.”
She says that when going through a trail, through nature, she feels at peace with a sense that this is where she is meant to be. She is often trying to capture special moments, and the feeling that she had when she visited a place.
In recent years she primarily works with homemade felt. She starts with raw wool that has already been dyed. She lays that out along with plant fibers, silk fibers of various kinds, and then she adds water and agitation and gets all those materials to shrink down together and make felt.
“Some of my work is quilted and that would have a top that I have either appliquéd or worked on or painted and then a batting layer and another layer below. I use my sewing machine to draw lines and stitch in a very traditional way. Felt is thick enough that they just create that wonderful texture with the lines.”
One of her pieces is entitled “Oceans Alive” which was made after a 10- day trip up to the great bear rainforest. What became so apparent to her is the importance of salmon, and how they were underlying all of the wildlife. She wanted to show how critical the circle of life is: bears eat the salmon; they then fertilize the forest and the bear is the king pin. If one looks carefully at the bottom of the piece, one can see that it’s all salmon shapes that are forming the bottom layer.
She loves drawing houses, and it came very naturally to create an imaginary village street during her grandmother’s time in the shtetel. There’s a little rooster at the bottom because she always imagined there’d be some wandering around the village. It’s a good example of how the felt appears quilted when in reality it has a thickness that gives the appearance of quilting.
“I hope when people view my work they get a sense of a place, they get a feeling, they can relate to what I’m trying to portray. I think one of the nicest compliments I ever had was when two women were in my studio looking at a piece and one said to the other, ‘I feel like I can smell the forest.’ That was probably the nicest compliment anyone could give me.”
When viewing the exhibit, one is struck by the depth of passion that Samuels brings to her work. The textures and patterns are intricate, and the colours are intense. It seems as though the gallery is alive with fresh flowers, with blossoming branches and the colors of nature; a refreshing bouquet to welcome Spring.
“In the Shelter of Trees” can be seen until June 21, 2023 at TBT Gallery, Temple B’nai Tikvah, 900 47 Ave SW, Calgary. Monday to Thursday 9:00 am to 4:00 pm/ Friday 9:00 am to 2:00 pm or by appointment with the artist: email@example.com
Shelley Werner is the host of Art and Scroll Studio zoom series that celebrates the makers and creators of Judaica Art. Watch for the premier of Season 4 in the fall of 2023.
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