Special to the Westerly
Widely referred to as ‘Ukee’s Artist,’ Marla Thirsk’s work can be seen in murals around Ucluelet and hanging on walls around the world.
On June 10, she celebrated her 70th birthday, and her first solo art show, surrounded by friends, family and the local arts community she helped build.
“I’ve done lots and lots of shows, but they’ve always been with somebody or in a group setting.. So, this is the first time I’ve actually seen all my paintings around me like this instead of stacked up,” Thirsk said gesturing to dozens of pieces on display at the Orange Door Gallery in Ucluelet.
“I think that’s really cool because we can see the progression of time. We’re going back probably 35… maybe 40 years starting with the watercolours, which is what I did originally.”
The collection also includes some of the paintings Thirsk calls “the women,” a series of paintings originally inspired by photographs of her mother that were the catalyst for her gaining critical recognition outside the region.
“The first image [of the women] that I did was The Disconnect. That’s the one that put me on the map and won me the Dianne Farris Juror’s Award, which was awesome.”
While accolades elsewhere have helped her career, Thirsk is confident that Ucluelet was the right place to celebrate and have her first solo art show.
“This means way more to me because this is my home. These are the people I love. These are the strongest supporters for me throughout all this time.”
Over 100 well-wishers came throughout the day including her grandchildren and friends who made the trip from Oregon. A testament to her impact on the community and the legacy she has created.
“ Marla is a storyteller,” said local artist and gallery owner Signy Cohen. “Her classic to whimsical eclectic artwork captures moments in time that stir a captivating response. She is a legionary creative spirit in the communities of Ucluelet and Tofino, spearheading, advocating, volunteering, bringing her creative spirit to and generously donating artwork to many community events and in support of local causes.”
The Rotary club served lunch at the event, there was cake, live music and a pinata full of art supplies for the kids.
“My Dad used to say to me, ‘You must have been born with a paintbrush in your hand.’”
70 birthdays later she still has a paintbrush in her hand every day and, if she has it her way, she’ll do it all again.
“If there is reincarnation I wanna come back as an artist…”
Marla’s solo art show, entitled ‘The Artist’s’ Eye continues until June 24, daily from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. in The Orange Door Gallery at 250 Main Street, Ucluelet.
She will be at the gallery most of that time.
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