Don't mess with a soprano  

Art worth sitting on

We all have them. Some are soft and fit to our bumps and curves. Some are:

  • Brittle, hard, immovable
  • Old with cherished memories attached.
  • Angular reminders of a minimalist future.

Chairs can be ordinary. Yet, in Carney Oudendag’s mind, they become alive and breathing.

  • Stories waiting to be discovered.
  • A personal adventure is waiting for the curious to explore under zippers and whatnots.

Carney is a mixed media artist who, in 2018 and 2020, was a contributing artist in collective exhibitions at the Peachland Art Gallery titled Mindscapes and Bohemian Muse. She created a series of chairscapes and dilapidated old doors.

That is what is so exciting about artists. They take the common and ordinary and transform it into something surreal and extraordinary.

Her chairscapes had a myriad of hiding places. The stuffing was sometimes pulled out, reminiscent of when life pulls the stuffing out of us.

She wasn’t always an artist. She grew up in Three Hills, Alta., where she spent her first 18 years in the town of 2,000 people. There were more cows than people.

She got her interest in art from her mom, an unrealized artist. Carney enjoyed art in school, and after graduating in 1973, moved to Calgary to study at the Alberta College of Art.

It was a huge culture shock, yet she thoroughly enjoyed it, but after her one business class, reality set in. She was not from a wealthy family and knew that she wouldn't have any financial backup.

She loved art, but would it feed, clothe, and house her?

The following fall, she started in the art education program at the University of Calgary. From 1980 to 2008, she taught for the Calgary Board of Education, met her firefighter husband, and had two daughters.

Although she had a busy life, she always found time for more personal education — taking art classes in the evenings, and dabbling in watercolour.

Gerald Brommer, American painter, collagist, teacher, and author, introduced her to the world of collage during one of his intensive workshops.

From this time on, she was smitten with paper, paints, and collage — assembling various materials onto a canvas to make a new creation.

She had found an art form that allowed her to indulge in her secret hobby — hoarding,

A hoarder?

She laughed as she quoted her favourite saying from Rob Frith, owner of Neptune Records, Vancouver’s oldest independent record store. “If the objects you collect are cool, it’s not hoarding.”

She collects cool, discarded objects and stores them in various bins in her studio.

I sat in front of a painting of a nest. Upon a cursory glance, it appeared to be just that, a nest on a canvas with some straw and bits on it.

Oh, how negligent I was. Nothing is random on a collagist’s canvas. I discovered that the “straw” was finely cut strips of paper, with words on them. I was drawn into the stories that had been snipped and applied to the nest.

Surprise! A small key and lock. A story about a home grew in my mind.

I began to see her passion to connect with her audience. This collage was alive.

In the early 1990s, she had her first exhibition at the Pynelogs Art Gallery and Cultural Centre in Invermere, B.C.

“It was an out-of-body experience to sell to complete strangers,” she said.

Since then, she has been very busy.

  • 2011 — She became a signature member of the Alberta Society of Artists
  • 2012 — She was Artist-in-Residence for the Jubillee Auditoria Society in Calgary
  • 2013 — She moved to Kelowna and has since taught at the Kelowna Art Gallery, Opus Art Supplies, Peachland Arts Council, Peachland Painters Group
  • 2018 — Mindscapes Exhibit, Peachland Art Gallery
  • 2018 — Bohemian Muse Exhibit, Peachland Art Gallery
  • Now — exhibiting in juried group show and fundraiser "10x10," Peachland Community Arts Council
  • She has been part of Lake Country Artwalk and winery/art events throughout the valley and will continue to participate when COVID restrictions allow.

Her art has moved from evenings sandwiched between a busy life to a disciplined 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily practice.

As I sat among those bins of old paper receipts, computer parts, perforated rusty metal, and pictures, I began to hear cries of pick me, Carney, pick me.

I can’t wait to see what life she will give them.

You can find her work at:

Don't be fooled by the overall image. I challenge you to hunt down the trail of bread crumbs Carney has left and discover the message she has hidden just for you.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


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About the Author

Sue Skinner is a singer of opera and musical theatre, a choral conductor and a teacher/coach of voice. 

She has travelled the world, learned many languages, seen every little town in Alberta and supported herself with music all her life.

She has sung at weddings, funerals, musicals, operettas, opera, with symphonies, guitars, jazz groups, rock bands and at play schools. 

Skinner has taken two choirs to Carnegie Hall, sung around the world, and teaches for Wentworth Music on Zoom.

[email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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