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Artist shows her affinity with animals in new exhibit

It will be the first time local artist Karen Holden has exhibited at the Hand Wave Gallery in Meacham.
Artist Karen Holden stands beside her recent sculpture of a muskox in the garden of her home near Humboldt. The Hand Wave Gallery in Meacham is showing Holden's new exhibit, "For the Love of Critters," August 12-29.

It will be the first time local artist Karen Holden has exhibited at the Hand Wave Gallery in Meacham.
Located in the small village west of Humboldt, the gallery features solo and group exhibitions of Saskatchewan artists and artisans from May through December.
"For the Love of Critters," the title of Holden's current exhibit, is a collection of pastel drawings and sculptures that represent her unique affinity with animals.
It is rare to find someone who befriends a porcupine, plays hide and seek with muskoxen, or enjoys the company of a fox when working in the garden of the farm she shares with husband and artist, Mel Bolen.
That's why all the "critters" in her show have names - because she has a story for all of them. The personality of each animal comes through in her renditions: their eyes and their facial expressions have almost a human quality to them.
"I cannot imagine living without animals in my life," reads the beginning of the artist's mission statement, "There is a great deal to be learned from nature's creatures."
Holden chose to work with pastels for the small, almost pocket-sized renditions. The advantage of using this medium is the delicate blending of colours that can be achieved, set off by the darker shades of paper the artist used to draw on.
Holden also does sculpture and has included some pieces in this exhibit.
At the entrance to their property is an example of one she completed recently, a muskox made entirely of lengths of rope tied onto a wire frame. Its horns, nose and hooves are made of clay. The inspiration came from the herd of ten muskoxen they brought to their farm, animals the University of Saskatchewan were looking to find a home for.
But there is room on their farm, a vast acreage west of Humboldt near Carmel. Thirty years ago, they bought an abandoned church and the land around it; now it is the fruit of their labour, love and vision in making it an artist's paradise.
"It exemplifies how we live as artists, and what we do," Holden said of her home, which they open to the public on Mother's Day every year for a gathering of any and all who are interested in coming.
The main floor of the renovated church is Bolen's atelier, and with a two-storey high ceiling that allows plenty of light in, it's the perfect place for an artist to work.
The quiet and solitude of the winter months is when the couple get most of their work done, Holden said, because they tend to get a lot of company in the summer. And they travel as well, recently back from one of their regular pilgrimages to Europe where their main occupation is visiting as many exhibits as they can possibly squeeze into each day.
Holden has her own studio in a converted barn on their property. Built under the eaves of the building, the large, open floor plan painted white lets in the maximum amount of light. Here she is beginning the foundation work for her next project of landscape paintings. The large, six by ten foot canvases will be based on sketches and drawings she will be doing in Orange, France, a trip she is about to embark on with six other artist friends.
"Working on these large canvases is a little intimidating," admitted Holden, "but it brings with it a sense of freedom as well."
The same sense of freedom she wishes for all her little critters.