Jan Crawford, "Big Jellies," 2014
Jan Crawford, "Big Jellies," 2014, acrylic, 30" x 40"
Vancouver artist Jan Crawford’s paintings of cherries and apricots glow like the Okanagan sunshine. Little wonder. Crawford spent much of her childhood on her family’s orchard in Penticton, picking fruit and helping her mother make jam. She began the fruit series six years ago after her mother’s death at 95, and still returns to the farm every summer.
“My painting day involves picking the sour cherries from our Montmorency tree, working in my studio, making jelly, then, in the evening, taking pictures of still life compositions with the golden light shining through the jar,” she says. “My art work and life have been so interwoven, congruent and authentic.”
These paintings honour her mother’s memory, but they also talk about a way of life and the need to preserve Okanagan farmland, which is being taken over by wineries, retirement communities and golf courses. Some of Crawford’s works pointedly feature vintage canning jars bearing the words “Made in Canada.”
The theme of rural identity has woven its way through Crawford’s work since her student days. “When you grow up in a place and become connected to it in a real and soulful way, you can’t help but have a relationship with the land,” says Crawford, who’s nearing retirement as a high school art teacher. “And then it has a relationship with you.”
She works from photographs, trying to show things the way they actually are, while reflecting the links between place and memory. “My choice to paint in a realistic style echoes the essence of preserving: to keep forever and maintain that original state of perfection.”