In this Follow Up feature, we take an art tour of one of Guelph’s most colorful and famous neighborhoods with one of Guelph’s most popular and well-known artists.
They are simple structures that were built many years ago for modest practical reasons but have become something more for Gulf artist Sharyn Seibert.
For her, they are structures worthy of reverence. They are incoming icons.
“These buildings have more meaning now to me,” Seibert said. “It is as if they have seen us through a very difficult time and they need to be honored. That is what the icon means. It is a representational symbol worthy of reverence.”
Its distinct condition is interpreted in different ways depending on the viewer’s relationship to the buildings.
“Anyone who has traveled through The Ward, lived here or grown up here, has a different feeling about each one of them,” Seibert said. “Some are very mysterious, almost ghostly. Others are cheerful and it kind of appears in my paintings.”
Seibert has experimented with a variety of styles during her long career as an artist and teacher. She drew inspiration from the classic art and architecture of European masters as well as the natural beauty of places like the reformed reform lands on the western edge of Guelph that reclaimed control in her collection, the Yorklands Green Hub.
This new series is inspired in part by a group of Canadian art masters.
“We went to the art fair (AGO) two weeks ago,” she said. “I was looking at some G-7 paintings by (Arthur) Lesser and (Franklin) Carmichael and the light on the buildings is very impressive. It kind of inspired me to go back and do some architecture.”
It is a departure from the style most associated with Seibert.
“I do landscapes and summaries, and I have several shows coming up, and it’s a complete reflection of what I was meant to do,” she said. “I just felt compelled to draw it and it’s not particularly easy to draw. I use my left brain a lot, angles, scale and light. It’s not like drawing other paintings so it’s really hard work.”
Seibert’s home and studio is on Richardson Street in The Ward, a short walk from the buildings she was painting and has received feedback from people across the country who have also lived in The Ward. Many send their stories and old photos to their families in front of their former homes.
“I can’t believe the response I’m getting toward these buildings,” Seibert said. “We live in a complicated time fraught with anxiety and I think what these buildings do is they take people back to their childhood. People tell me, ‘I grew up in The Ward. I loved it. And the time was simpler.'”
A comment from Lisa Graziotto, a former resident of Ward, resonated deeply with Seibert.
‘She said, ‘There has never been a day when I have not fondly remembered my childhood. The school, the river, the buildings somehow. “It was an adventure,” Seibert repeated. “I think that sums up how people feel about it and that’s a totally unexpected outcome for me.”
Numerous messages urge her to pick up these tokens on the canvas before the progression mechanism consumes them forever.
“People send me suggestions for other buildings,” Seibert said. “They say things like, ‘You better get this building with all the murals and all the vines, because they’re leaving soon. You better get those pictures now before you don’t see them anymore.’”
Seibert has several buildings planned for the series and every time you walk into your neighborhood you find another iconic building worthy of reverence.
“I love these buildings,” she said. “They are around the corner from my house. Some of them are very funny and like I said, they each have their own personality. I will do this until I run out of energy, even though I am very stubborn with my subjects. They are like fireworks.”
Paintings from the Ward Icons series as well as other examples of Seibert’s work will be available for viewing and purchase during the Ward Night Market between 6 pm and 9 pm, Thursday, April 28 at Laza Food and Beverages, 74 Ontario Street.
To see and learn more about Seibert and her art, visit sharynseibert.com.