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Saints Inspire Caledon Painter

by Sonya Procenko


In her recent work, Caledon artist Lyn Westfall celebrates saints and Old Testament women on canvas.


And she exhibits these pieces in Full Well She Is, her solo show at the Art Gallery of Peel which runs until November 5.


Her 40 abstract watercolours and oils depict women such as St. Joan of Arc; St. Cecilia, patron of music; St. Anne, patron of mothers; and Miriam and the dancing maidens of the Old Testament.


"The title of the show means although they were women in history, I feel their message and lives are very meaningful to women today," says Westfall, 53.


"I painted them in free form - it's interpretative not illustrative. I'd think about their lives when I was painting."


Over three years, Lyn Westfall researched her subjects by reading books, visiting synagogues and Catholic churches and using old prayer books and Latin script.


The subject of spirituality and religion aren't new to Westfall. From 1960 to 1972 Westfall lived as a nun, Sister Lyn Marie, at St. Joseph's in London, Ontario.


With this show, she says she wants to create historical and feminist interest.


Although this will be her first solo show at the gallery, she has exhibited since the early '80s in Toronto, Caledon and Woodstock.


On Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, Westfall opens her studio in her century-old schoolhouse home to visitors during Studio 95, a tour of Caledon East artisans.


Her piece of St. Joan of Arc, which shows the figure amid the smoke of her execution pyre, won her the jurors' award for best painting at this year's Art Gallery of Peel juried show.


Established in 1969, the Art Gallery of Peel attracts over 25,000 visitors and exhibits several local artists every year.


"I'm pleased the way (Westfall's show) has turned out," says David Somers, gallery curator.


"It's a departure for us in the sense that it deals with religious subject matter. In the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, that's certainly all you saw. As time went on, modern themes developed and religion became less important to people in their lives."


Westfall has studied fine art at the universities of Windsor, Guelph and York, Banff School of Fine Arts and Toronto School of Art.


Each summer she studies with abstract painter Harold Klunder in Flesherton, Ont.


"(My art's) something I have to do. It's a compulsion, it gives a feeling of self worth, piece of mind. It's absolutely fascinating - both absorbing and exhausting," Westfall says.


By day, she teaches visual arts at Robert F. Hall Secondary School and creates by night and during her summer vacation.


"One thing about being a painter, you get better as you age. I look forward to good strong years ahead and strong painting."


(This article appeared in The Toronto Star on September 21, 1995)

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