From the prairie harvest to artist canvas: Prairie grains a medium of choice in a new exhibition

Naomi Gerrard
“Multi-Grains of Energy”, a solo exhibition by Naomi Gerrard is now hanging in the main gallery at Prairie Fusion Arts & Entertainment. Mickey Dumont/Citizen photo

Most people don’t use the terms excitement and energy when talking about grains, but Manitoba artist Naomi Gerrard is one of the few that do.
While we are raised to understand the health benefits of grains grown on the Canadian prairies, somehow Gerrard learned grains would become her favourite medium, their colour and texture her go-to when covering a canvas.
“Multi-Grains of Energy”, a solo exhibition by Gerrard is now hanging in the main gallery at Prairie Fusion Arts & Entertainment. A huge collection, “Multi-Grains of Energy” represents the harvested product of what has made the Canadian prairies a world breadbasket, worthy of being celebrated in a starring role on canvas.
“For me, the prairies have a lot of vitality a lot of integrity,” Margaret Bernhardt-Lowdon, Prairie Fusion Arts & Entertainment executive director offered in the lead up to Gerrad artist talk when opening the exhibition. “We know in the spring we’re going to plant and we know it’s going to rain. We know the next process is that the crops will grow — sometimes not as much as we’d like them to — but they grow and then the next season is our harvest and then we go on to winter and then we wait again for spring to come. To me. There’s an artistry in farming. So when I look at Naomi’s work I see that farming and prairie life is really captured in her work.”
Gerrard grew up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania where all the grain needed to feed the livestock was grown. “We, of course, played with the grains with our trucks and made our own little farms out of the grains and we played in the grains and then, of course, we helped with the duties around the farm. Quite seriously for many years and as a result I really had a respect for the grains,” the artist explained of her early introduction to her now chosen medium.
In 1980 the Gerrards had located to Manitoba along a bend of the Assiniboine River west of Winnipeg and among the grain farmers. “It was really then that I started getting really excited with the big wheat fields; the canola, the flax and the sunflower seeds in the big fields all around us.
“The grains ideas developed slowly as the grains started getting into my work. I was always interested in texture and the grains provided a really nice texture.
“I collected the grains from farmers as well as from the grain elevators. “People who come to the shows will notice that a particular grain they’re interested in is not in the works so they’ll provide me with a bushel of whatever it was.”
Art often attempts to tell a story and in this sense, Gerrard’s exhibition is also about reaping what you sow. Part of the display is hung to show the evolution of grain from planting to harvest. “It attempts to touch your soul, touch your heart and just wake you up and give you a few new ideas,” Gerrard said. “I’m hoping that this show will do that. The grain is planted in the soil; the green pushes through, matures and then the crop is ready to be harvested.
“As we mature through the summer season the grains explode into energy and colour during the harvest season. And I just find that really exciting.”
“Multi-Grains of Energy” is on display until Sept. 21.

Summer Grain Dance

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