Faded Keeper - A Sask Elevator Story
Updated: Sep 2, 2022
My 'Faded Keeper' was the first of two commissioned paintings of the iconic Macoun Elevator (the second being 'Coffee and Crickets', a more historical version).
I drive back through my little hometown almost every week, so it really startled me when I stopped to take my reference photos and I realized the sad condition of the landmark! In my mind, I honestly expected that it wasn't much different than it was when I was on my way to school as a kid all those years ago... it just goes to show how I haven't paid attention. I'm sure you can relate to this in your life. How many things have we taken for granted; thought they'll always be there, so we don't ever pause. We are in such a rush to go places and be productive that we don't appreciate things while they stand, even worse - don't even notice as they begin to fall. I know this is not a new revelation, but it was an unexpected reality for me. That contemplation tugged at my heart the entire time I worked - and it made me that much more thankful for the project - because now I look long when we pass by. I'm hoping I can lock as much of that history into my memory as possible.
The bright and cheery white paint that once was is just a hint, there is such a feeling of abandonment - I have heard rumor that it won't be long before it's all gone. I can't help but feel the significance of these fading storehouses.
Here is a description that I found interesting, taken from Art Grives, yourrailwaypictures.com:
"The grain elevators in Western Canada have for years been referred to as prairie icons, prairie cathedrals or prairie sentinels and have become a visual symbol of what farming in this part of the country is all about. There were as many as 5758 in 1933. These grain elevators dominated the prairie landscape for more than a century with every community having at least one. They were the first step in a grain trading process that moves the grain from producer to worldwide markets. The first grain elevator was a strictly utilitarian building considered by anyone that viewed them to be anything but that. They were designed for one purpose, getting the
grain into railway boxcars. The farmers, who at first shoveled their grain into 2-bushel sacks which they then transported to a loading platform along the rail line. There, they emptied the sacks into a waiting boxcar, a back-breaking and inefficient job. They needed something much better if the west was to grow. A means of storing and shipping grain quickly, This brought about the small, one-storey wood frame warehouses erected by farmers. The railways demanded larger, vertical warehouses that could take advantage of gravity to empty the grain and a mechanism known as the "leg" was devised, an endless belt with cups or scoops attached, was devised to load the grain in the elevators. This leg is what gave the name to and determined the shape of the grain elevator. Today many of these grain elevators are being dismantled and removed from the landscape. Railway lines
are being abandoned and the railways want them removed for safety reasons. Many of the grain elevators are no longer in existence. It's just another sign of progress."
On a lighter/happy note, this piece will be featured in Weyburn Art Council's curated group exhibition called "Saskatchewan Summer"! I am glad to announce that it will be on display for July and August of 2018 at the Signal Hill Arts Centre. There will also be a reception for the show on Thursday July 12, at 7pm.
The summary of the piece that I entered was as follows:
"This piece celebrates the beauty of the wild prairie flora as it joins with a rustic heritage site: the small-town grain elevator. The disappearing giants hold a wealth of history instead of their original bounty of grain. I find it particularly emotional to see them in such poor repair, but the aged wood and metal also have an allure of their own. Meanwhile the longer days of intense heat brings out a variety of tall grasses and other hearty invaders. While summer is commonly thought of as green and lush – growing up near ‘the sunshine capital’ has turned my interpretation of the season to a harsher, dry time of grasshoppers and crystal clear skies. The loose and spontaneous style of the painting is intended to showcase the striking colour and untamed nature of the landscape that graces our sunny season."
This is the first time I've entered a work into a curated group exhibition, so of course I am thrilled to have had my painting selected! I will be offering it for sale either as prints from my web store - or you can contact me for this entered piece that was finished on canvas at 27 x 34". I am so proud of how it turned out - I hope you'll have the chance to take in the show that is sure to be a beautiful homage to our Saskatchewan home!