Alexandrya Eaton

Telegraph Journal: Q&A with Alexandrya Eaton 2020

Published in the Telegraph Journal SALON, July 11, 2020.

Visual artist Alexandrya Eaton has had over forty solo exhibitions of her work and her paintings hang in numerous private and public collections. Her new show Wonder opens at Fog Forest Gallery in Sackville on July 16 and runs until August 21.

How have you had to adjust during the pandemic?

Fortunately I didn't experience a big change as I work alone in my studio.

What are you working on right now?

Putting the final touches on my solo exhibition, Wonder, which opens at Fog Forest Gallery in Sackville, NB on July 16th! This exhibition had originally been planned for April but was postponed as things shut down. I’m very happy to see it going ahead now, and with lots of new work from the last few months of isolation. 

I am also working on a publication of my work this year with the curatorial team 3E Collective, a project which has been funded by Artsnb.

Who were your heroes growing up? 

My grandmother, Dr. Elizabeth Cordelia Eaton, was and still is my greatest heroine. She was the perfect example of a strong, intelligent, outspoken woman. She passed away in 2015 at the age of 104 and I still miss her and think of her every day.

Which living New Brunswicker do you admire most and why?

Yvon Gallant. Yvon has influenced so many artists including myself. He has had a long and creative career in the arts, has been a leader in our arts community for many years, and has worked hard to tell the stories of New Brunswick people through his art. He is a kind and generous person and I am lucky to call him a friend.

Which deceased New Brunswicker do you admire most and why?

Mary Pratt. As a young girl growing up in New Brunswick knowing I wanted to be an artist, there were not a lot of female role models. Mary Pratt was a successful artist who dared paint colourful paintings of domestic scenes and her home life as a wife and mother. She was a huge inspiration.

What is the toughest job you’ve done?

Well, being an artist is actually pretty tough! But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you could go back in time, when would you go?

I read a lot of artist’s biographies and right now am reading “Ninth Street Women" about Helen Frankenthaler, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Lee Krasner and Joan Mitchell, five women artists in New York in the 1950’s and 60’s who changed history; I would like to be in a room with them and talk about painting.

Is there one particular place on Earth you enjoy the most?

My studio. About a year ago I moved into my current studio which is in an old barn that was originally built as horse stables in the mid 1800’s. It took a year to renovate the main floor space into a working studio. Over the span of my career I moved studios eighteen times, always in temporary spaces that were never quite right. Now I know I am in the right place. I know how hard I worked to get here. I’ve been a professional artist for thirty years and I plan on painting here for at least another fifty!

What’s the thing you made that you’re proudest of?

I have two amazing children! As far as work goes, without a doubt my solo exhibition, Becoming, which was shown at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in 2018 and at Sunbury Shores Arts and Nature Centre in 2019. It will also be on view at the Saint John Arts Centre next March.

I am also very proud of all my paintings that can be found in private collections; I love that people choose to live with my work in their homes, and that in a way they become part of the family and part of many celebrations and special occasions. That really means a great deal to me and I appreciate it so much.

How do you relax?

I started rug hooking several years ago and I find that very relaxing, as opposed to painting which for me is very energetic.

What is your biggest disappointment?

I’ve been invited to mentor two workshops in Caledon, Ontario next February so if those are cancelled due to the pandemic I will be very disappointed, at least until we figure out to reschedule!

What trait do you admire most about yourself?

I always try to be kind. I also work very hard.

What trait do you despise most in others?

We could all act with more empathy.

What do you treasure most about New Brunswick?

I am very proud that we have two official languages, a rich and diverse history, and an amazingly creative arts community that works together to create and celebrate the cultural fabric of our province.

What bothers you most about New Brunswick?

I think Indigenous culture and language should be taught in our education curriculum.  

What is your favourite food?

I find cooking very creative and I love to read cookbooks. The other day I made salad spring rolls with peanut dipping sauce that were delicious. I also make a sweet potato and black bean veggie burger that is a staple in our house. 

What is your favourite New Brunswick community?

Sackville, of course!

What is the greatest misconception that people have about you? 

I think because my work is so bright and colourful that people think I must be happy all the time, but everyone experiences times of difficulty and sadness. I am very grateful that I have a creative outlet that allows me to express all my feelings, as I pour all my emotions into my work every day. My painting process is very physical; I paint on the floor and move around the canvas, it is very high energy! I always feel happier and more like myself when I’m painting. I am very fortunate that translates into work that people relate to in a very positive way.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

I was interviewed on the street once for the evening news and asked to comment on something about wrestling which I was not familiar with; the tagline under the interview, said “Dazed and Confused” in place of my name.

What was your happiest moment?

Any moment when my children are laughing.

When is it OK to tell a lie?

It’s always better to tell the truth.

How would you like to be remembered?

Back when I was a student, Dan Steeves gave me some advice which I have thought of often. He said he would rather be remembered as a ‘great father, good artist’ as opposed to the other way around. I have always put a lot of pressure on myself to work hard, but when I am gone, all I really care about is that my children know I did my very best at being their mom.

Please share a secret with us.

If I’m not painting, I’m baking!