Arts & EventsThe Enduring Art of Tricia Sellmer

The Enduring Art of Tricia Sellmer

The Enduring Art of Tricia Sellmer

By Heather Seftel-Kirk

British Columbian Tricia Sellmer is a multi-layered, multi-medium artist. Focusing primarily on painting and drawing, she also uses collaboration to share her work with people in innovative ways.

Her most recent exhibit involves a video. Woven together with pieces crafted by seven other international artists, it will play on a 20’x12’ft LD screen in front of the Hong Kong Science Centre in April.

“I can never remember a time I was not drawing – I was allowed to draw on my bedroom walls growing up and covered them with drawings and ideas. I didn’t consider art as a career though until 1992 when I travelled to France. I got encouragement there and incredible support when I returned and the rest has fallen into place.”

For more than 15 years, Sellmer has ‘concentrated on making the invisible, visible,’ through her focus on the garden, and her passion for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary in the domestic lives of women.


“Before I turned my attention to art, I was a teacher and then a ‘perfect’ wife and mother. I heard many times, and have seen it in many instances in history and in my own family, that expression of ‘just’ a housewife, or ‘just’ a mom and that is so far from the truth.

Tricia3Understanding that women are often the cornerstones in communities and in families, Sellmer creates strong pieces showing the character, the endurance and the resilience of women. Equally tied to her history is the concept of the garden as a place where things happen.

“My grandmother grew up in a staunch Methodist community in England. She wanted to be a teacher but as a woman, she couldn’t. She packed her Singer sewing machine and moved to Canada, looking for better opportunities.”

That brave journey - a woman travelling alone - was one of many inspiring stories her grandmother revealed in her garden. “My grandmother had beautiful gardens all around her home and I remember spending time with her watering and talking. The garden was the place stories came out that weren’t told in the house. Many of the garden images I paint today are based on my memories of those times and my paintings of women are inspired by people like her.”

Raised on an orchard adjoining her grandparents’ property, she says her father shared that love of gardens. “My father had beautiful gardens everywhere and my mother crafted beautiful tapestries using all their colours and imagery.”

Tricia2A local church renovation provided Sellmer another source for her inspiration around the lives of ‘ordinary’ women. “My father discovered some old scribblers when they were renovating my grandmother’s church. Throughout their pages, women had recorded stories of raising money for a church roof, or for relief efforts overseas. None of these things were considered extraordinary - though they were - mainly because they were done by women.”

Sellmer recalls a journal her aunt kept to record her father’s successes. When questioned on why she hadn’t recorded her mother’s efforts she responded, ‘she was just Mom.’

“The domestic voice of women is often lost in the dialogue of history. Women in many cases built and kept communities together. We all have stories to tell and journeys to share but so often women aren’t part of that telling.”

Sellmer’s third interest is in connecting the dots and blurring the boundaries between genres through collaboration with other artists working in different mediums. “My works are all about feelings and memories and often feature thick, bold paints. Working with poets and artists whose imagery is different than mine, we create a dialogue between our styles and visions.”

Just as each artist has a different style, each has a different way of harnessing expression and creativity, and for Sellmer, the path is carved from music. “The flow and emotion of music inspires me. I select music connected to the work I’m doing – Elvis or a jazz sound with a great beat. I’ll listen to the same song or same CD over and over again and let the music inspire my beat and brush strokes.”

TriciaRarely crafting one-offs, Sellmer prefers to create work in series, painting several installations on the same theme. “Each work is different but comes from the same basic idea. I never recreate a piece I’ve done before because each is inspired by different thoughts and emotions, but I have revisited series when people requested more works in a similar vein.”

An international name and success, Sellmer is modest in acknowledging her accomplishments. “I paint because I have to. I just do what I do. The awards I’ve won and all the attention, have been a surprise.”

Along with creating her own art Sellmer writes, lectures and curates projects and exhibitions. Her project space, Chazou Gallery, displays her own works and collaborations with contemporary Canadian and international artists.

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