"The Grand Dames of the Cariboo"
Julie Fowler, "The Grand Dames of the Cariboo."
The Grande Dames of the Cariboo
Julie Fowler, Caitlin Press
Julie Fowler knows about frontiers. As director of Island Mountain Arts, an artist-run centre in the former gold town of Wells, B.C., she understands the challenges of nurturing an arts community in a remote region. So when Fowler needed a topic for her master’s degree at UBC, she decided to stick close to home and write about two artists, Sonia Cornwall and her mother, Vivien Cowan, who also knew something about making art and building community in the ranch country of the Cariboo.
Fowler deviates from a standard art historical approach, opting instead for a book of creative non-fiction that blends historical fact, biographical detail and imaginative speculation. Her tale of how she researches the lives of two “grande dames” she has never met serves as the book’s structural underpinning. Fowler’s matter-of-fact descriptions of her own experiences and how she came to understand another era are strengths of a project that, despite the odd awkward moment, adds to the cultural portrait of a region on the art world’s geographic fringes.