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Bella Coola artist evokes feelings of mystery and solitude with abstract west coast landscapes

Ida Eriksen, has spent her life near the ocean

Bella Coola artist Ida Eriksen’s abstract impressionist landscapes will be on display in the Station House Gallery in Williams Lake starting Feb. 10 for her solo show titled West Coast Light.

Trying to evoke a feeling of what it’s like on the west coast, Eriksen’s abstract impressionist landscapes express her sense of the beauty, mystery, solitude and deep history of remote coastal B.C.

“It’s overwhelmed me at times, I just have to stand there and look at it and breathe,” said Eriksen of the impact coastal landscapes can have on her.

Eriksen, has spent her life near the ocean. She grew up in the tiny remote community of Namu, which is located about 95 km southwest of Bella Coola along the coast. Her family moved to Canada from Denmark in 1952, directly to Namu, then left the community after her father died in 1960. She then spent most of her adult life in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island, with over 30 years based in Victoria.

The self-described 75-years-young artist followed in her father’s footsteps by pursuing art.

“I always did art, right from the word go,” she explained.

“At some point in my life, you know I had a bit of an epiphany,” she explained about her choice to focus on art.

She went to school and got a degree in visual art and decided she was just going to do things that made her happy.

“Because life’s too short not to be happy,” said Eriksen, recalling the many art shows she was a part of in Vancouver and Victoria.

She was a single mom and worked full time, but there was little left over at the end of the month, so she would sell clothes and items she sewed at local markets, putting the money aside. She and her daughter both saved enough to pool together and purchase a house and continued to build on this equity to build towards her retirement, something she thought about where she wanted to end up.

After retiring, Eriksen searched for a way to return “home” to a small west coast community, despite not being able to return to her childhood home in Namu, now a ghost town. She began researching communities along the coast, and found a listing for a house in Bella Coola.

She contacted the real estate agent and said she wanted to fly up and look at the house, it was November. Erickson said the agent was taken aback and said it was the worst time of the year to check out Bella Coola for the first time.

Her response: “If I like it at its worst, I’ll love it at its best.”

Eriksen has lived in Bella Coola since 2013, finding a solid house which needed work, “a canvas to work on” which was just how she likes it.

The show will be on display until March 25.

The Station House Gallery is free to visit, open Tuesday to Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

In May, Eriksen is bringing a show to Bella Coola featuring photographs and slides of Namu by both her father and brother.

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Ruth Lloyd

About the Author: Ruth Lloyd

After moving back to Williams Lake, where I was born and graduated from school, I joined the amazing team at the Williams Lake Tribune in 2021.
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