Meet the Artists Behind Guelph Arts Council Fall/Winter Exhibition Series

What is Art Oil on Canvas 30x42 inches

By Garreth Arenburg-Duchesne

Guelph Arts Council has a wonderful lineup of Fall/Winter exhibitions by members Judith Elsasser, Brian Johnston, and Jay Lefler from November through to December at 10C Shared Space. The series of exhibitions highlights themes of people, portraits, and peers. We wanted to learn more about their art practice and share what inspires them as artists and facilitators.  Through e-mail correspondence and sit-down conversations, here’s what all three artists had to say.

Painting by Judith Elsasser. Courtesy of the artist.

Judith Elsasser has been a visual artist for most of her life, even getting second place in an art competition when she was younger. Judith describes herself as a people’s person, and through our conversation this was apparent.  When I asked her about her influences and what inspires her as an artist, she replied “people“. Judith said that even when she’s walking down the street and observes people, she thinks to herself that she would like to paint them. Judith also believes that in some way her passion for art is also a curse just because she cannot stop painting! Which most artists (I think), can relate to and understand. I proceeded to ask Judith what are her 2020 goals. She said she wants to have several more art shows, to find some inspiration for her art, and (like most of us) wants receive recognition for her art work. As an artist, Judith is happy to be living and working in Guelph because the art environment is “vibrant.”

Judith exhibition Figuratively Speaking, opens on Saturday November 16, 2pm-5pm at 10C Shared Space. Exhibition runs until November 30th.

Brian Johnston is an image maker who has been active in the visual arts profession for 45 years showing regionally, nationally, and internationally with over 100 exhibitions. He is a graduate of OCAD and the University of Guelph fine arts programs. He presently teaches part-time digital photography. Johnston is a multi-disciplinary artist including printmaking, painting, photography, drawing, and occasionally sculpture.

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Photo of the artist Brian Johnston. Photo credit,Trevor Randall

When asked what art means to him, Johnston responded with “a serious investigation into what makes life worth living”. He went on to say “people sacrifice their inner aesthetic for the green couch patron.” Embracing an articulate world view helps frames his spirituality, creating a forum for continued inspiration through an investigation and exploration of the human condition. Johnston finds inspiration that supports his worldview, searching for spiritual relevance and meaning about the human condition. He stressed his relentless search for form, making form out of the formless. His image-making seeks to form the essence behind his subject matter hoping to reveal the invisible behind the visible by mixed media approaches. Near the end of our conversation I asked him how he found his style, his response I found very interesting he said, “I didn’t find my style, it found me!” He went on to say that it takes time to find your style, you have to be determined, and you have to be consistent. Finally, I asked what he would say to young emerging artists, he said “what sacrifices are you willing to make to satisfy your inner aesthetic?”

Brian Johnston’s new exhibition, The Halo Project is a series of “tra-digital’ photo portraits of local people. Exhibition runs from December 1-13. Opening night and artist talk on December 5, 7-9pm at 10C Shared Space.

Jay Lefler is the founder of COMING FULL CIRCLE, a peer support/facilitation and art mentoring organization where people can interact in creative ways and share stories.

Workshops and programs are hosted and facilitated by a peer with the lived experience who has achieved great accomplishments in ‘coming full circle’ and has been an example of overcoming personal challenges in life while sharing their journey over many years.

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Photo of Jay Lefler. Artist and founder of COMING FULL CIRCLE. Photo credit, Howard Partnoy

Through a multitude of creative and interactive workshops, Jay engages those who want to benefit from healing and growth in a creative, empowering, and safe environment. These programs he says are meant to “empower and enrich your life,” in a way that suites your needs as participants have the option to either engage in a group setting or through a 1:1 mentorship program.  I asked Jay what inspires him, he replied “I am inspired everyday by the people who heroically put one foot out of bed and move forward through the day, dealing with their issues and challenges, taking care of themselves, getting involved and engaged in community, being strong and resilient, and making each day a blessing.” You can see Jay and his mentee’s exhibition, “COMING FULL CIRCLE’s Inaugural Art Exhibition”at 10C Share Space from Dec 14-24. More details to come.

You can get in touch with CFC online, and also support them through their Go-Fund Me campaign. For more information e-mail Jay Lefler at [email protected]. 

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Author Garreth Arenburg-Duchesne. Photo credit, Alexis Mimacho (Instagram)

About the author: My name is Garreth Arenburg-Duchesne, I am the new grade 12 Co-op student at Guelph Arts Council. I am currently attending Guelph C.V.I and have a deep passion for the arts. The arts have allowed me to express myself in ways other mediums couldn’t. I’m excited to be working with the lovely people at Guelph Arts Council and the folks working at 10C Shared Space.

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