Revolution, poverty, government oppression, military fear, fascism, abusive classism - Donna Morrison has seen all this and painted from it.
Now she is seeing new forms of social upheaval - climate crisis, mis/information torrent, online over-attention, food and trade insecurity - and she is painting that as well. She takes no advocacy position other than posing questions and opening conversation, all through her artwork.
Her latest show is called Choices: The New Temptation on now at the Studio 2880 Feature Gallery. It's her exhibition flowing from being the Community Arts Council's artist-in-residence at the Studio 2880 arts complex.
"It has been an amazing six months. This exhibition marks the halfway point of my residency," she said. "It's been really busy. I teach - I have about 30 students - and with a busy painting schedule it gets to be long days."
It's going to get even more intense. She is using the opportunity of a year's free, unfettered studio space to build towards her next international exhibition. It opens this January in Mexico.
"Mexico is my birthplace of colour," she said. "It is a land of colour, their art is so vibrant, and the Mexican people's character has colour as well. I had not achieved that state until I spent a year on sojourn there in 1988-89 (following art school). I just rented a condo and painted there for a year and travelled locally from the east coast to the west coast (based in Merida). And from there I moved to Guatemala for three and a half years and saw a place even more impactful with colour but I was more open to it already because of Mexico."
From there, it was off to other locales like a prolonged stay in South Korea, a couple of visits to Cuba, Berlin, and more. Always, she was in creative mode. She would seek out artists to work with, art projects to be involved with, and opportunities to exhibit her work.
Capturing the human condition led her to see current trade disputes like the America-China impasse, and the onslaught of screens as other forms of culture that people were becoming tribalized into.
"There are all kinds of new thought processes, things to explore, and for me its trying to get to know, or get a new feel, for what it all actually means," she said. Those are the points on which her current exhibition hinge.
"I haven't framed them, the works are hung just as they are, the oil paint on oil-paper, so they look like dreams or clouds hanging on the walls," she explained. "Once you frame them they can look complete, like facts, but these are not facts, they are just some impressions and ideas about what I'm hearing. We all have different needs in life so we need to have different opinions, too. These paintings are not expressing a set opinion, but I hope they open up new ideas for the viewers and new conversations that will explore these new conditions past generations never had to think about."
Can we, in our Prince George community and our Canadian culture, sustain ourselves if times get tough? Can we feed ourselves, employ ourselves, manufacture what we ourselves need? It's easy to live when times are abundant but Morrison has seen how fragile life can be when a society shifts or a major unexpected event happens. Are we ready for those possibilities?
The answers to those questions are not presented in Choices: The New Temptation but the discussion is opened by the paintings on the Studio 2880 walls. They will hang there like thought bubbles until the show closes on June 6. It is free to drop in and view, whenever the Studio 2880 Gift Shoppe is open for business.