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Local artist explores unique take on world through art and music


Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.

- Pablo Picasso

Growing up in Minitonas, with parents Jerry and Edith Marek, shaped Christine Marek-Matejka tremendously, as she was submersed in the family tradition of the arts. She had no trouble holding on to her artistic nature as she grew up.

“I have been drawn to the creative arts since childhood,” she said.

“I was inspired by my grandfather, whose oil paintings graced our family home, and also by my dad, who was an artist and visual arts teacher.

“I remember my dad and brother painting at easels in the dining room which sparked my own curiosity,” Marek-Matejka continued.

“My dad would hang large sheets of paper on the walls for me so that I could make murals. None of my friends were doing things like that, so I suppose I began to look up to my artistic family members.”

Marek-Matejka also remembers being praised as the ‘little artist in the family’, and took it as a sign that she was destined to be just that.

“As I tried to figure out my place in the world, amid the circumstances of my growing up years, art and music became a silent and powerful vehicle for me to express my feelings and experiences,” she said. “As time passed, my art evolved to reflect the way I looked at life in more darker and conceptual ways to a more lighthearted and nostalgic feeling.”

While art has been a staple with Marek-Matejka since her younger days, she really felt as though her craft took off when she received recognition through a competition.

“When I was in Grade 11, I entered a piece depicting the 1984 Ethiopian Famine into Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition,” she said. “It was a huge country-wide competition and my chances at winning seemed impossible.

“That award gave me a lot of confidence and hope, because art is a tough and competitive career path, and I wasn’t good at every aspect of it. Like most people, you have to work at it, understand it and perfect it.”

Marek-Matejka noted that her university training, as well as life experience really helped her continue to grow as an artist.

“When I was studying at the University of Manitoba, my piece of the Ethiopian Famine was selected for a traveling exhibition of Canadian community art,” she said. “I then graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts and Music.”

After university, Marek-Matejka began raising her family, participated in group exhibitions and continued work on a series of post-modern paintings titled Absence of Birth.

“In 1993, my family and I settled in the Swan Valley where I participated in my first major solo exhibition,” Marek-Matejka said. “I continued painting, exhibiting and sharing my love and knowledge of visual art with the community.”

When a large opportunity arose in 2007, Marek-Matejka took a leap and applied, surprised when she was again selected to participate.

“My art career took off after a friend from Toronto encouraged me to apply to the ‘One-of-a-Kind Art Show and Sale’,” she said. “Again, the odds of being accepted seemed slim, but to my surprise, I was invited to participate, so before I knew it, I was headed down to Toronto in a small Jetta with my dad, and a trunk full of large, heavy paintings.

“It was a memorable experience to say the least, terrifying in many respects, but exhilarating.”

After this show launched Marek-Matejka into the art world, she began exhibiting her work in Winnipeg at the Manitoba Art Expo. She also got involved in group exhibitions as a member of the Manitoba Society of Arts.

“Throughout my career, I’ve also had several solo exhibitions, most notably at the Manitoba Legislature, the Dauphin Allied Arts Centre and more recently, the Winnipeg Centennial Auditorium,” she said, adding that she now lives and works in Winnipeg.

While Marek-Matejka has worked with a variety of mediums, her style developed out of an exploration of these media in various combinations on unconventional surfaces.

“I mostly work in mixed media, usually involving watercolor, charcoal, conte crayon pastel and acrylic,” she said.

Marek-Matejka creates art for her own purposes as well as does commissioned pieces. She has also taught art lessons.

“I began teaching, mostly one-on-one, in high school, but after 2007, I started teaching group lessons in Swan River for both children and adults,” she added.

In addition to her art, Marek-Matejka is also heavily involved in the music world, with an equal love for singing and songwriting.

“If I’m honest, I’d say perhaps I’m more passionate about (music) in many ways, although it’s an even tougher gig,” she said. “Music has also been a huge part of my life since childhood, beginning with classical singing lessons at age 15 and training throughout university.”

Having performed with her family and various local musicians with her band, black-eyed SUZIE, for almost 20 years has been an avenue to express herself and has taken her around the province.

“Performing has taken us to wild and wonderful places and we’ve met so many interesting musicians,” Marek-Matejka said.

“Currently, my daughter, Jara, and I are exploring new sounds with a Winnipeg musician who specializes in piano, flute and drums, which adds another layer to our indie folk sound.”

Whether Marek-Matejka is capturing a moment in visual or musical form, she pursues it with a love and passion.

“While I love to create something new, perhaps something that has never been expressed in this way, I am also intrigued by the response it illicits, which makes me realize my work has value beyond merely an aesthetic appeal,” she said. “It’s not just a pretty picture to hang on the wall.

“Some people have asked me to create some extremely personal pieces for them and they trust me with my interpretation of what would otherwise be ‘their’ view. I feel into other’s souls when they bring me a story to recreate, and in turn, they see into mine.

“In terms of music, the process of creating, sharing and collaborating is cathartic in a sense,” concluded Marek-Matejka. “There’s a powerful feeling of vulnerability to share somethng you’ve created and others are ‘getting it’. It’s exhilarating and terrifying at the same time because you’re focused on performing, but the best things can let you go and be in an autopilot moment.

“Whether I’m creating something for myself, something for someone else, or writing a song, I’m putting a bit of myself out there, for others to take what they can from it. I hope it somehow inspires them on a deeper level.”

To see Marek-Matejka’s artwork, visit www.christinemarekmatejka.com, or to hear her music, visit www.black-eyedsuzie.com.

Jessica Bergen