From greenspace to gallery
Living in a rainforest is a constant source of inspiration for local landscape artist Marisa Mary Myrah. Day to day she walks the streets of Lynn Valley bombarded by visual opportunities. For years the idea of documenting the disappearing suburban wildlands has been percolating. The results will be on display in an upcoming show at VisualSpace Gallery in Vancouver from March 2 – 18th.
“It has been on my mind since before the pandemic,” said Myrah. “I would go away to be inspired but there is a rainforest right behind me. My work is more microscopic – looking into something. Paying attention to something that is overlooked. There is always something interesting to see no matter where you look.”
Myrah is particularly captivated by the lands between the streets of Laura Lynn and Wellington Drive – the land at one time earmarked for Donovan Park. In the early days of Lynn Valley, it was part of a larger piece estate housing stables and tourist cabins.
“When they dismantled the cabins there were foundations and things left,” she said. “So, it’s still frozen in time and it’s been left to grow. There is something interesting about letting nature take over.”
The land was bequeathed to the District of North Vancouver for a park but the estate fought that decision returning it to the family. The 1.14-hectare lot was then proposed to build 13 homes which council rejected and a reduction to nine homes was discussed followed by the land being sold to a developer. It is currently zoned for one single-family home and has been left for nature to rewild the area.
“[The original owners] domesticated the area – there are old remnants of domesticated plants amongst the native plants. There are signs that something was there like a giant forsythia next to some old stairs. When they build they are pretty much going to clearcut it.”
The looming spectre of development lent a feeling of urgency to create the series “On the Edge of Where I Live.” Despite the pandemic’s increased demands on working parents, Myrah felt what little time she had should be used to explore her ideas.
“It was like this idea was fermenting, then ‘Of course!’ No one can go anywhere and this is beside me. It’s interesting how things play out. I am appreciating it in a different way. There is so much subject matter here. It’s fascinating when you stop and is all overgrown – like my painting Grand Embankment. There is a mass of berries covering a ridge and the bears come through and feast.”
On her doorstep
Myrah’s relationship with Lynn Valley is deep. It’s her chosen place to live, work and play. Her days are spent traversing the hills – up to 15 km a day – as a postal worker – time she uses to explore all the changes facing Lynn Valley from shifting seasons and weather to development. In her downtime, she is riding both her road and mountain bikes up and down local mountains.
“There is a rainforest right behind me that I am lucky to have. There is great subject matter that I can draw from right at my backdoor,” she said. “I am a representational artist. I make a quick sketch [at the original location] and as I start blocking in, the painting takes over as I work from memory and intuition.
“I love riding alone in the forest – I stop and take so many photographs,” said Myrah. “Maybe that will be another series to paint based on where I like to ride. I love riding through other forests. I love Squamish and the Sunshine Coast.”
With the upcoming series debut, Myrah says it feels like her painting is coming full circle while still evolving and growing like the forests currently capturing her interest.
“When I was younger I loved still life. There is so much symbolism, there is always a narrative and they can be quite moody,” she said. “This show is also so moody. While I have always done landscapes, this is a new branch of work.”