Fun fact: Ninety percent of Canadians live within 100 miles of the U.S. border.

This week Diehl Gallery is celebrating our close neighbors to the north with the opening of a new show entirely composed of Canadian artists: Sarah Hillock, Peter Hoffer, Anastasia Kimmett, David Pirrie and Les Thomas.

Diehl will host an opening reception for “The Northerners: An Exhibition of Canadian Artists” from 5 to 8 p.m. during Thursday’s Jackson Hole Gallery Association Art Walk.

There are a few things you can always expect from Diehl Gallery during an art opening, two being a damn good cheese plate and a wide array of contemporary artwork.

While the artists in “The Northerners” are linked by their passports and nature-inspired works, their work couldn’t be more varied. From collages to paintings, from colorful, bold contemporary wildlife paintings to subdued, luminescent landscapes, “The Northerners” puts the diverse artwork of Great White North on full display.

“The range and breadth of their work is quite magnificent,” gallery owner Mariam Diehl said. “Both Sarah Hillock and Les Thomas paint contemporary animal art, and Peter Hoffer, Anastasia Kimmett and David Pirrie all have very different interpretations of landscape. I love to see the different mediums utilized by each of them to create works of similar subject matter.”

Another fun fact about Canada: Half of the country is covered in forests. This healthy chunk of the country is home to 10% of the world’s population of trees.

Perhaps that’s why Montreal artist Peter Hoffer felt it was his fate to become a landscape painter. In college he studied High Renaissance paintings and was drawn to landscapes found in the background of the portraits and religious paintings the era is so well-known for.

“I just made a segue into landscape paintings from there,” Hoffer said. “And of course when you travel, just based on the fact that you’re Canadian, it means that you automatically must be a landscape or wildlife artist.”

Hoffer is born and bred Canadian, but he’s the first to admit he’s not an outdoorsman. He doesn’t paint en plein air and he prefers hotels rated four stars and up. Landscapes are only a small percentage of his body of work, though his paintings of trees are what he’s best known for commercially.

“I guess I just took the tradition and ran with it,” he said. “And as a result I do spend a lot more of my time looking at trees.”

Hoffer doesn’t paint the grandiose giants you’d expect to find in the country’s old-growth forests. In fact, as he began to study trees he found out that few of those “perfect” trees exist, except inside golf courses and botanical gardens.

“When I started setting off to do trees, I thought it would be very easy — I could grab my camera and go out and photograph a beautiful oak tree and I’d paint this majestic thing, but they just don’t exist,” he said. “But for the most part all of these trees, it occurred to me, are awkward, distorted and sickly-looking.”

The painter concluded that while individual trees lack the idealized symmetry you’d find in a Hudson River School painting, as a collective they are beautiful. He has built his career on creating dreamlike landscapes of trees you’d find in a quiet park or on the side of a freeway.

Hoffer gives his landscapes a magical, luminescent touch by adding a layer of glossy resin. The practice grew out of his sculpture days and is a nod to the painters in Paris salons in the 18th century who would touch up their painting with resin as they traveled from show to show.

“Hoffer is taken with the idea of this historical component as part of his work today,” Diehl said. “His resin finishes, however, are not intended to perfect the piece, but rather include inconsistencies, discoloration and surface cracking. You’ll find abrasions and scratches in the resin, and sometimes he’ll leave the works outside in the harsh Quebec winter so the resin cracks. The result is unique and beautiful.”

Hoffer’s work will be on display with that of his compatriots through March 28. In addition to Thursday’s Gallery Walk, visitors can sip wine and enjoy artwork from 5 to 8 p.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday during Diehl’s winter “Apres Ski and Art” gatherings. Ski attire is welcome.

“I’m excited about how beautifully this exhibition has come together,” Diehl said. “Each of the artists were so enthusiastic about the idea behind the show and were thrilled to participate.” 

Contact Julie Kukral via 732-7062 or entertainment@jhnewsandguide.com.

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