40 Years with Deborah Lougheed Sinclair
I have moved and travelled from coast to coast across Canada and the United States. I am a descendant of many generations of Canadian pioneers and early Hudson Bay employees. Two family lines are part of the Southern Alberta Old Timers Association. The historic family cottage in Banff (owned by my great grandmother, Isabella Hardisty Lougheed) was a very important influence, as my family vacationed there regardless of where we were living. It is there where I first learned to see the changing light and patterns on lakes and towering mountain peaks.
The Canadian landscape is vital to my art, and my artistic home is the Canadian rockies. Returning with fresh eyes to the same places to experience different light and seasons is important, and continues now in my camper van. There is nothing better than a campsite to sit and watch the changing light. Even for those unable to hike extensively, the Columbia Icefields Centre allows you to park your camper overnight and watch the sun both rise and set across the face of glaciers.
Globally, climate is transitioning due in part to human activity. This measured increase in average temperatures over the last 100 years has resulted in tremendous volatility in weather systems and evidenced recently by increased extremes in temperature, rainfall, lightning, wildfires, hail and windstorms, and droughts.
This has had a serious impact on fragile wilderness ecosystems and along with human overuse, neglect, erosion, disruption of important biological events, spread of non-native invasive species, and loss of biodiversity, led to rapid and readily observable changes. Receding glaciers and shrinking alpine meadows are replaced by encroaching tree lines with obstructed views. For many landscape artists who revisit favourite areas after 5 or 10 years, the change has made some almost unrecognizable.
In this exhibition I hope to raise awareness of the changes and serious consequences to our wilderness areas and also celebrate the beauty of our wonderful diverse sub-alpine and alpine meadow wildflowers.
ABATHASCA GLACIER WITH WILDFLOWERS
ABATHASCA GLACIER WITH WILDFLOWERS, 36 x 48 in., acrylic on panel, 2023
Wilcox Pass view of the Columbia Glacier is an amazing vista. The colourful wildflowers present a stunning foreground for the massive, receding Athabasca glacier. The lower face of Athabasca and Andromeda mountains were carved by the advancing glacier centuries ago. The resulting lateral moraine is used as access to the glacier by Icefields Centre tourist snowcats.
Long ago the glacier covered the entire adjacent valley and early explorers needed to climb Wilcox Pass to traverse the valley. The photographs above record dramatic changes that have occurred from 1918-2011. The glacial retreat is recorded at the current flood plain by numerous dated signposts.
MOUNT EDITH CAVELL
I wish I could portray a record of the dramatic changes in glaciation in this work, but I chose to paint Mount Edith Cavell as I remember it while hiking with our children and friends in 1989.
Collapse of the hanging, Ghost Glacier into the pond at the base of the mountain in August of 2012 caused a massive tidal wave which flooded down the valley floor and obliterated trails, trees, and the original visitor parking lot.
Calgary gets the majority of its water from the Bow River. The source of this water is not the Columbia Icefields, but Bow Lake. This lake is fed by the Bow Glacier of the Wapta Icefield, which is melting and causing significant increase in the hidden Iceberg Lake below it. Dramatic shrinkage of this glacier is obvious by comparing photographs taken 100 years apart at the same location. If you look closely you will also notice growth and expansion of coniferous forest. Whether the current glacier cornice and basin below remain stable is uncertain, but the future water supply to Calgary from Bow Lake is certainly not assured. The Haig Glacier in Peter Lougheed Park also contributes to Calgary’s water via the Kananaskis River, but it is losing 1m depth per year and is predicted to vanish in 80 years.
LAKE O’HARA – ALPINE TRAIL – HIKERS, 36 x 48 in., acrylic on panel, 2023
Lake O’Hara is a wonderful example of an accessible, very closed ecosystem that spans pristine lakes, lofty peaks, and mountain plateaus. Fortunately, unlike Parker Ridge, access has been sufficiently restricted to preserve these delicate environs, while at the same time allowing lucky hikers an opportunity to experience their beauty. Climate change, however, has not been so forgiving.
In June 2022, Parks Canada was forced to dismantle the historic Abbot Pass Hut just before its 100th anniversary due to instability caused by rock fall and climate change mediated erosion at its base. At 2925m, it was the 2nd highest refuge hut in the Canadian Rockies and over-looked Lake Oesa in BC on one side and the Victoria Glacier in Alberta on the other side. Melt originating from ice and snow from this continental divide pass travels to two different oceans. Although a man-made structure, its demolition highlights one example of the consequences of the significant changes that are now occurring in alpine environments all over the world.
PARKER RIDGE – THEN AND NOW
I did not include any works from my hikes up Parker Ridge but chose to include my photographs here to illustrate the dramatic changes to this spectacular viewpoint in just 17 years. Not only has the Saskatchewan Glacier receded significantly, but the fragile alpine flora has been trampled to death by careless visitors. In some areas, alpine flowers that take decades to grow just a few centimetres across have been destroyed by human traffic. Trail crosscuts have caused major erosion from rain and snow melt, which further degrades and destabilizes the slopes.
PAINTBRUSH, CLOVER, AND OXEYE DAISIES
Together, these flowers present a colourful visual field. Unfortunately, this increasingly more common sight in the mountain parks represents the advance of invasive, non-native species that will eventually choke out the more fragile, endemic species such as the Indian Paintbrush.
Roadways through Banff Park towards Castle Junction used to be lined with a variety of native wildflowers. Now the borders and entire median is covered with dandelions followed by invasive Oxeye Daisies. These daisies are considered noxious weeds that unfortunately, are difficult or almost impossible to eradicate once established.
Deborah is a graduate of Queen’s University (BFA 1976) and a Banff Centre alumna. She has been a member of the Alberta Society of Artists since 1985 (over the years serving as: a board executive, branch chair, exhibition co-ordinator and juror), and Society of Canadian Artists member since 2018. Deborah’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions, both nationally and internationally for over 40 years. Her paintings can be found in over 50 corporate and public collections, internationally. Paintings have been reproduced in several books, newspaper articles, and numerous art catalogues. She is currently represented by the Roberts Gallery in Toronto.
First Prize, “Water: Source of Life”, The 20th Annual Art of Nature Show, Kerry Wood Centre, Red Deer, AB, 2007
Exhibition of Sunshine Art – Special purchase award 1984
Andre Bieler Award, Queens University, 1979
AMOCO Canada Petroleum Company Ltd.
Canadian Airlines International
“Vistas of the West: Poems and Visuals of Nature” Editors/Curators: L. Kapustka, S. Kristoferson, L. Shyba, Uproute Durvile Publications, Calgary, AB, 2019
“Art Inspired by the Canadian Rockies, Purcell Mountains and Selkirk Mountains 1809-2012”,
N. Townshend, Bayeax Arts, Inc., Calgary, 2012, p 103.
“The Mountaineer and the Artist”, the Alpine Club of Canada Centennial, The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, McAra Printing, 2006
My paintings reflect my personal interactions with the natural world. They portray a sense of realism, and a “sense of place” in the real world. Yet, each work is a collection of elements put together to relate a particular visual experience at a particular moment in time, rather than being a photographic record of a particular location. I am keenly interested in the more abstract compositional elements including: the shape, shadow, changing light, varied seasons, fluid motion and in particular, how they are juxtaposed against the permanence of the land.
My paintings attempt to capture those fleeting moments in the constantly changing patterns of our unique Western Canadian landscape and on a more personal level, relate the range of emotions elicited by each visual experience.