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Artist inspired by farming and small town Saskatchewan life

Val Morhart of Yorkton has been showing-casing his work since 2007, but his artistic journey started long before that.

YORKTON – The Godfrey Dean Art Gallery held a reception May 4 for their In the Weeds | On the Farm exhibition.

The show featured the artistic works of Regina artist Bruce Anderson and local artist Val Morhart.

"By showing these artworks alongside one another, in effect, there are two exhibitions, two perspectives, two voices speaking," read a media release from the GDAG.

For Morhart, the inspiration for his art comes from living the small town Saskatchewan life and farming on the prairies.

"I started painting and drawing when I was five-years-old," said Morhart in an interview with, adding, "my mom got tired of doing my horses for me and she said, 'you draw your own' ... that got me going."

"I kept it up right up until the age of 20 when I went and I decided farming was the way to make the big bucks," said Morhart.

Morhart, who now resides in Yorkton, spent many years of his life living in small towns in Saskatchewan, including Canora, Bienfait, Roche Percee and Silton among others. The moves to different small towns were his way of pursuing a life of the past.

"Trying to find that elusive dream ... trying to get back to the 50s style of life. Small towns didn't have it anymore. Everything changed," said Morhart.

"We grew up in a small town in Saskatchewan in the 50s. You were still able to have milk cows chickens and pigs right within the town. That's where a lot of my farming experience came from," said Morhart.

"That was the foundation of my art work — those experiences," said Morhart.

Morhart's acrylic paintings depict familiar Saskatchewan scenes that anyone who has spent time on the rural prairies will recognize; a rusted truck in an abandoned farm yard, a dilapidated barn ready for collapse amidst a thunderstorm, rural churches and other commonplace sights.

Morhart said that it was listening to the stories of new Canadians as a young man that helped him build his art.

"The ones who came to Saskatchewan before Saskatchewan was even a province. Got their quarter of land. Built their homes. Raised their families. Farmed their life. Watched the small farms die away. The small towns go the same way. It's these people with their stories that helped me build my art," said Morhart.

"When you listen to their stories of the life they had — the buildings they put up — sod houses out on the prairies. Log houses smeared out with mud and straw. The struggles of trying to make a living on the farms and then eventually watching it all die ... it's worth putting down on paintings. It's memories that will never happen again. There's a lot of people that can relate to that."

And though Morhart does paint many of these scenes on canvas, he opts to paint some on the blades of old wood saws.

"The first couple I did basically sold before the clear-coating was dry on them. I figured that was a pretty good indication to maybe keep right on doing it. Over the years I've done a lot of saws and a lot of them sold."

But the process isn't as straightforward as one would think.  Morhart said that prepping the old saws is the hard part, not the painting.

"Normally I get a saw that's been laying out in the shed for years. Rusted. Pitted. As poor as you can get them," said Morhart, "it's a matter of getting them all cleaned up — the rust removed — getting them primed and clear coated."

"The clear coating enhances the colour on the painting plus it also protects them. Any of those saws hanging there you could probably put them outside for 2-4 years ... and never worry about them being out in the weather because they're protected," said Morhart.

Sinced 2007 Morhart has been exhibiting his art, but said this show will be his last "big show" for art.

"I started showing in 2007. That's when I finally got brave enough," said Morhart, adding, "another artist in Canora looked at my work and she said, 'you're crazy hiding this away — get out there and show it.'"

"That's when I started. People seemed to accept it. They were happy with what they were seeing. They were willing to spend money buy it and that's all the encouragement I needed. Since then I've done shows every year," said Morhart.

And what keeps Morhart coming back?

"It's the people. The ones that look at that painting there and say, 'Hey — that's me — I've been there. I've lived that.' The ones that can really relate to what I'm trying to say in my paintings. Those are the ones that made it worthwhile coming back here year-after-year to do the shows."

In the Weeds | On the Farm runs until May 18 at the Godfrey Dean Art Gallery.