Gravenhurst artist Kevan Murray’s new show explores family, memory & identity

by Matt Sitler

A set of vintage black and white photos has inspired a Gravenhurst artist to delve deeper into the now threatened memories of her close knit family’s aging matriarch.

Kevan Anne Murray, 29, opens her latest show of acrylic paintings and ink and water colour illustrations at the Lee Contemporary Art  gallery located on the Upper Level at 5 Peter Street in Orillia.

Entitled ‘245 Lakeview Ave.’, the show, which started August 4th and runs until September 10th,  documents memories from her 87 year old grandmother Yvonne Jones’  life, which are ever the more poignant now due to Jones’ ongoing battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Murray named the show after the address where her grandparents lived for many years in Gravenhurst, which also served as the family’s main home base and hub of activity.

“It’s kind of ingrained in our family identity, that whole landscape and the memories connected to it,” reflects Murray. “Generally in the past I’ve done paintings that are more landscape and architecturally based, subject wise. (For this show) a conversation I had with my mother and a friend helped shift the subject  to this more personal territory, which was very difficult for me.”

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“Tiger 2: Winter Driveway”

A few years ago Murray’s grandfather passed away and her grandmother  had to be moved out of 245 Lakeview into a smaller residence. She now resides at the Pines long term care facility in Bracebridge.

“It’s just been a really difficult thing for my family,” says Murray. “And it’s been very interesting for me to observe, both up close and at a distance – because I’m living in BC right now – just hearing the way my family now talk about her. And even when I talk with her, even though she’s not ‘her’ anymore, she still is ‘her’. I’m kind of obsessed with the whole identity thing. She’s still the woman from 245 Lakeview Avenue and we still have those memories and we don’t have to hold on to who we think she is, who she should be or who she was – she’s different now and the roles are evolving and its always on my mind.”

When her grandmother was being moved out of her home, Murray’s sister took the opportunity to scan and email all her old photos to members of the family.

“(The photos) are from when my grandmother was a little girl growing up in Gravenhurst,” says Murray. “They include some family members who I don’t know, but you can tell they are very meaningful to her, her memories, history and identity. She’s still here but I’m not going to get to hear these stories from her now, so it’s interesting to see a different side of someone (through the old photos).”

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“Snowday”

Tying the show’s paintings and illustrations together will be written material, including a poem that explains more to the viewer about Jones’ life and story.   Murray used this material and the feelings the photos evoked while choosing the colours  and moods in her interpretations. Altogether, she says there are about 30 pieces that will be on display.

Murray, a graduate of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University has been travelling during the last couple of years, with trips across Canada and Europe. Previously she has shown her work at the Silver Bridge Gallery and the Art in the Heart summer program in Bracebridge.

She says she is now more focused than ever on developing her skills.

“I’ve been in Nanaimo BC for a year now,” she says. “I have a studio there and I’ve really been able to focus more in the last year on my art and what I want to do with it.”

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“Young Paddler”

‘245 Lakeview Ave.’ opened August 4th between 7 pm and 9pm.

Throughout the show Murray will be collecting donations from the gallery’s patrons  in honour of her grandmother for the Alzheimer’s Society.

To learn more about Murray’s art visit her website at www.kevanmurray.com

Lee Contemporary Art’s website is located at www.leecontemporaryart.ca

(Main photo is of Murray with her painting “The Lake”)