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Art for the thoughtful person

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Who: Barry Morash

What: Art For the Thoughtful Person Opening Party

Where: Newport Gallery, Squamish

When: Friday, Aug. 1, from 7 to 9 p.m.

Imagine going to work every day 18,000 feet underground. The heat, the dirt, the dark and the danger at every turn would be more than most of us could bear. But according to Squamish artist and former Kirkland mining engineer, Barry Morash, there’s no time to think about the extremes when you’re down there.

"You’re so busy and work so hard on the job that you forgot about the conditions you’re working in. I don't think you can do the work otherwise," he said. "I do remember the fear though. When I’d get in the cage and start heading half a mile underground I did think about the danger of what I was doing. But it disappears once you arrive at the site because there’s such camaraderie between the workers. It’s probably that fear and danger that unite everyone."

It might seem strange to picture a man of the land picking up a paintbrush on the side, but Morash’s work evokes a sensitivity and intelligent reaction that belies his brash and brave background. He was a teenage rebel who dropped out of school to get married at age 18 and become a miner like his father and grandfather before him. But his creative side was always there.

"My grandfather was the one who got me started in art. He got me to draw a picture of my father from a photo when I was age 9 and it was then that I saw I had a natural ability for it. I was painting and selling my artwork until about age 16," said Morash. "I was going to go to art college but when my father died we couldn’t afford it. So I went to the mines instead. When I saved enough money for college, I went to mining school because I’d pretty much given up painting at that point. My mother died when I was 21 and left me enough money to go study to become a mining engineer. It became my career for many years after."

When Morash left the mining industry in 1991, he picked up the paintbrush again but found he was painting what he knew – the underground mining life.

"I wanted to recreate what it was like down there as most people never get to see it. With modern technology now it’s not as dangerous either and I wanted people to imagine what it was like back in my day."

Many of those portraits will be on display at the Newport Gallery and so will be a different side of Morash – the romantic side.

He attended art college and began to paint people in other situations. He found he enjoyed painting the expressions on people’s faces in all types of human situations. From being bored, to being amused, to being in love.

One of his most popular pictures is of his dream rock ’n’ roll band titled Unplugged .

"In the ’90s there were a lot of older rock stars doing these Unplugged concerts and I thought, what about the ones who have died? What would they be like today? So I put Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and John Lennon in the picture. Backed up by Bryan Jones from the Stones and Keith Moon from the Who. That completed my Unplugged band."

Despite the diverse range of subjects in Morash’s art, one theme runs throughout: an obvious love for humanity.

"My art is a summation of all my different life experiences and the people I’ve met and the feelings that come with that. I like to express those human feelings in my art," he explained.

"The people that will like my paintings are the types who want their art to stir conversation. It’s work you will look at, think about and discuss what is going on."

Barry Morash’s Art for the Thoughtful Person is August’s feature exhibit at the Newport Gallery in Squamish. Meet the artist in person at the opening reception tonight, Friday, Aug. 1 from 7 to 9 p.m. Phone 604-892-1080 or visit www.newportgallery.net.

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