Rural Prairie Communities
Western Showcase Calgary Stampede 2010 Exhibition

The images/visuals on this page are a sample from both the Rural Prairie Communities series and the Alberta Icon series; which will be on exhibit at the Western Showcase, Calgary Stampede

July 9th - 18th, 2010

Artist Statement

Karen is honoured to be invited and to accept being one of two Featured Artists for the Western Showcase, Calgary Stampede 2010.

Karen’s  Feature Artist Western Showcase exhibit will include published  watercolours from the “Rural Prairie Communities (RPC) series, as well as
her  unpublished Alberta Icon series.   The RPC series includes a grain elevator in every painting, and in some paintings the community and surrounds.  This work ranges in size from full size watercolour sheets to quarter size watercolour sheets.  The Alberta Icon series presents the iconic grain elevator in the Alberta landscape in miniature format.  


 The Rural Prairie Communities watercolour  paintings reflect and contemplate  upon the sense of time, space and place of rural Alberta,  in
which I have inhabited.  As a third generation European pioneer descendant, I am well versed in the myths of “the West”.   These myths and perceptions  have shaped the direction of my arts practice and my life experiences.   My voice tells the story of my personal experience with  these myths, and of  the hopes and the dreams of many Albertans, Canadians, and others who share a similar heritage.

The watercolour  paintings delve into the visual relics and the social myths of  the West.   One of the prominent early eastern Canadian  myths used to promote development of  the West, including Alberta, was that of the West as the promised land.  The physical manifestation of this  conception and of that subsequent pioneering spirit  resulted in the growth of  hamlets, villages, and towns in Alberta.  These small clusters of European presence rapidly  led  to the development of larger urban centres in the province.  

The paintings refer to remembering the cultural heritage of Alberta’s beginnings in small rural places.    For many Albertans and Canadians, this
collection  reflects on the heritage of many generations whose family ties go back directly to the land and to these small rural places that provided
services for them.  My maternal grandfather was one of the first European pioneers who began cultivating the land.   My husband’s maternal and
paternal grandfathers were also among these first settlers.  My life has been steeped in reflections of the land,  the subsequent urbanization of the
prairies, and prairie culture.    Both my mother and my mother-in-law are and were the family historians, and I was the recipient of their oral
storytelling skills.  Countless other Albertans and Canadians share this same heritage.

 The paintings reflect upon the contemporary dialogue of the cultural milieu of the  social and physical fabric of Alberta’s  rural communities.  The collection provides a forum for exploration, critical dialogue and critiquing of the myths, development and perceptions of the history and development of the province within a national framework.    For those who have never experienced rural Alberta life, the paintings give them a true flavour of the place and time of these communities, and an opportunity for contemplation.  This experience, with but scant exceptions, has passed from Alberta’s landscape as there are few remaining grain elevators in the province."


For more information contact Karen Brownlee at

All images and copyrights reserved by the Artist