Story and photo by Mary Beth Hartill
R.W. Haviland’s rustic home and art studio sit tucked away behind a row of trees on Ferguson Avenue in Burk’s Falls. It’s the charm of the buildings that often draws in visitors, she says.
“The buildings have kind of a Swiss feel to them and it’s a lovely piece of land,” says the artist. “People come to see the buildings.”
Once inside, though, Haviland’s collection of paintings often surprises them.
The talented artist uses opaque acrylic paint on canvas, moving away from her earlier work in watercolour. She says while she may be leaving some admirers of her old work behind, the change has been liberating.
This isn’t the first time Haviland has broken out of the mould. For an exhibition at the Chapel Gallery in Bracebridge with fellow artist Mendelson Joe, she expressed a political bent, creating a number of black and white pieces illustrating the impact of the Highway 11 construction.
During another exhibition at the WKP Kennedy Gallery in North Bay with artist Linda Finn, of Elliot Lake, Haviland displayed a series of smoke drawings that she created without any intention of selling. She worked with matte board and a candle, letting the smoke dance images onto the board.
“They weren’t commercial,” she said. “I couldn’t guarantee their permanency and I couldn’t frame them regularly because they were so fragile.”
Haviland created about 200 cards and collaged them together to come up with a show of about 24 pieces.
“It was an installation and it was really, really fun but strictly experimental,” she says. “There were people who were really keen on them. They wanted to buy them, which was a little frustrating, but you can’t even make a reproduction of them because they don’t photograph.”
Despite being featured in many solo, two person and group exhibits, Haviland says one of the highlights of her long career was a 2005 exhibit she did with her son Pete Nickel, at the White Water Gallery in North Bay.
“I had done the black and white smoke and he did black and white experimental photography and we called it Relative Motion,” she said. “It was a hoot. It was really, really fun.”
Her most recent show was at the Algonquin Theatre in Huntsville.
“That’s very recent work. Last winter’s work for the most part and they are all big canvasses. It’s a good venue for big canvases. About a dozen 36×38’s.”
Haviland’s recent shift to acrylic paint may be different for her, but she says there is a market for her new style, particularly in European visitors.
“They will go into a far looser interpretation of a landscape, which is where I’ve gone with the big canvases,” she said. “Initially I’m doing pastel drawings that are fairly representational and then the canvases sort of take themselves off in different directions. And I don’t stop it if it looks like it’s going down a particular way.”
Haviland’s art has shown all over the province, including the Chapel Gallery in Bracebridge, WKP Kennedy Gallery in North Bay, the Women’s Art Association of Canada, Gable Gallery and The Royal York Hotel in Toronto. Some of her paintings have found their way into private collections in Canada, the United States and in Europe.
She has been the recipient of two Exhibition Assistance Grants by the Ontario Arts Council and received a Purchase Award for having three works purchased by the Ontario Government’s Permanent Collection.