Art, History and Your Memories in a unique exhibit at Bruce County Museum

In a collection of unique oil paintings, Artist Mary Burke, has brought to life the ‘Main Streets’ of small town life in what are snapshots in time.

(L)Artist Mary Burke welcomed to Bruce County Museum by Director Cathy McGirr

While most oil paintings are on canvas, Burke’s collection is on beautiful slabs of wood.  Each main street is highly detailed and recognizable.  “I wanted to create works that make you step back and reminisce,” says Burke.  “It offers visitors a chance to look at small town life through a different lens.  Many look at the paintings and they bring back memories.”

Tiverton, Ontario

Burke has always had a love of history and art but, as she says, “… life got in the way – that and having five children.”  When she had an accident however, she found herself at home convalescing and decided to take up her painting again.  “My son, who is a framer, brought home all these scraps of wood and I thought, why not use them like I would a canvas and the idea was born.”

Her streetscapes on wood depict the cores of small towns and city centres in the way they  used to be.  “Many of the small towns grew around the railways that aren’t there anymore.  Also, because most of the early buildings were of wood, fires often destroyed them and they were re-built of stone and brick.  I also wanted to capture the unique main streets before the history of them is gone.”

Tara, Ontario

From Tobermory to Goderich, Paris (ON) to Hamilton, Southampton to Niagara on the Lake, Burke has captured the essence of the uniqueness of main street.  “It’s all about having pride in the past and the people who built the towns and gave them their own personal touch.  Often we drive through these little towns without stopping and without really seeing them.”

Huntsville, Ontario

Burke has personally visited each of the communities and photographed them.  “I also receive photographs from people who want me to recreate them.  People buy pieces that remind them of an earlier time.  For instance, I was surprised when I came back to Southampton recently and walked the main street.  Some of the businesses that I had painted earlier are no longer there — Harrigan’s Red & White, Pro Hardware – they are in my painting of Southampton but no longer exist.”

Southampton, Ontario

The exhibit of her work opened on Saturday, September 17th at the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre in Southampton where the gallery walls are lined with the exquisitely detailed paintings.  “I first met Mary in 2019,” said Museum Director Cathy McGirr, “and knew that I wanted this very unique exhibit at our Museum.”  There are 73 pieces in the Streets Scape exhibit, each minutely detailed, and the exhibition remains until December 31st.