Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Calgary artist carves out a niche

Lisa Brawn's woodcuts generate buzz

Calgary artist Lisa Brawn has been knee-deep in woodchips and sawdust for about 20 years. Recently however, she has been carving up the local art scene with her latest series of woodcuts.

The pieces are routered images of 20th century pop icons, effeminate cowboys, past girlfriends and any other face that catches her fancy. 2008’s oeuvre has given Brawn the financial success to make the transition to full-time artist.

“This year has been astounding,” Brawn says. “I am working in my studio six days a week and then I just pass out on the seventh.”

People have been swooning over her art as well. The Alberta Government, through its art collecting foundation, bought three pieces last month. The well-respected Axis Contemporary Art Gallery in Calgary is now exhibiting her work, and the JEM Gallery in Vancouver is opening a Lisa Brawn show Aug 8, running to Sep 2.

Axis Gallery director Rob Mabee describes Brawn’s work as beautifully executed.

“The thing I love about Lisa’s pieces are their absolute sincerity,” he says. “She brings a lot of heart and enthusiasm to her work that really shows. The woodcuts have a lovely realness.”

Her latest and perhaps most inspired pieces are the new “Femme à Moustache” woodcut series. The images are women’s faces, some in profile, with delicate yet eerily natural looking moustaches.

Contributing to the earthiness and raw warmth of the pieces is the wood — a story in itself.

“I got a call earlier this year asking me if I could use some old wood from the Alberta Block [a downtown Calgary historical building undergoing restoration],” Brawn says. “It turns out that it was century-old Douglas fir — it has so much intrinsic gravitas that the tone of my work has completely changed. The new woodcuts are less garish, more rustic, and have more physical presence.”

The pieces are literally repurposed Calgary history with the odd rusty nail or artifact embedded from the city’s early days. Paying homage to the past, Brawn has been spending time in the local history archives of the Glenbow Museum for further inspiration.

Brawn is a modern-day sculptor, creating art through the destruction of her medium.

“Yes, it is destructive, destroying the face of the wood,” she exclaims. “My work is loud, obnoxious, dusty and mysterious — and I just love that. I am using a 2.5 horsepower Bosch router, an aggressive tool, but I have been doing it so long now that the tool is an extension of myself.”

For the Brawn-inator, the future holds much promise.

“I am making an incredible volume of work that the world finds places for — it’s a phenomenon I am grateful for, and I am keeping open to that,” she says. “And when I run out of the three remaining truckloads of fir, I think I have got a line on some wood from an old prairie grain elevator.”

Lisa Brawn’s Website.

Monday to Friday: 10:30 am to 5:30 pm.
Saturday: 11 am to 5 pm.
107, 100 – 7 Ave. SW, Calgary, AB.

JEM Gallery.
August 8 – September 2.
Mon to Sat 11 am – 6 pm, Sun 1-5 pm.
225 Broadway St East Vancouver, BC.