Every Canadian should have the opportunity to travel to Europe and walk in the footsteps of those who served in the First and Second World Wars. There, part of our history is somehow more tangible; it is found in the cemeteries and on the faces of the people who tend them and remember. For one lucky artist, that opportunity came her way as part of National Defence’s Canadian Forces Artists Program (CFAP). Karole Marois was chosen to paint the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands for CFAP. The impact of that trip was so deep that five years later she is doing it again—creating an even bigger and bolder series to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the liberation.
Marois was born in Ottawa in 1958, and almost 20 years later graduated from Toronto’s Ontario College of Art and Design. She continued her studies for two years at the Academia di Belle Arti, Florence, Italy, and has worked as a figurative painter and exhibited in private and public collections across the country.
In 2005, Marois spent three weeks in barracks with 250 serving members of the Canadian Forces in Harskamp, Gelderland. As a result of that trip, the artist created 13 acrylic canvas panels, each 122.1 cm high by 30.3 cm wide (approximately four feet by one foot) titled The Parade. These panels capture many contrasts: grey rain and multi-coloured flags, lively crowds alongside gravestones, today’s soldier and yesterday’s veterans, and liberation contrasted with war. Marois later said, “I purposely chose this shape of canvas so that, when installed side by side, the complete artwork would look like a row of soldiers or a row of gravestones.” This collection will be part of the Canadian War Museum’s travelling exhibition titled A Brush with War: Military Art from Korea to Afghanistan, which will be exhibited across the country until 2012.
This year Marois has taken on a far more ambitious project—a 65-panel installation of digital photography and acrylic painting on wood and Dibond (aluminum faced board). This tribute to the 65th anniversary of Victory in Europe is titled Together Side By Side. The first eight panels of the series cut to the heart of the matter. They depict the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery and Memorial with white headstones slicing through the spring green landscape in sharp diagonal rows. This is followed by eight panels filled with a mass of young soldiers at attention, punctuated by one pale grey gravestone. Once again, Marois explores the contrasts of life and death and of beauty and war. In the tulip section (panels 24-36), black and white archival photos of women preparing tulip stew during Holland’s Hunger Winter are separated from each other by images of graphic red tulips. “That is how they survived—on the tulip bulbs,” the artist explains. “Apparently it is not too bad, in that it tastes like onions…. I played it up to put the tulips in vertical so that they stand like soldiers in my head.”
Marois has found 65 different ways to say thank you to our veterans in 2010.
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