Air Ronge artist creates powerful piece to shed light on addiction in her community

"It's never been like [this] before and it's getting worse and worse," artist Donna Langhorne said of addiction in her community.

The piece is part of an ongoing series

The photo above is the first in a series of paintings by artist Donna Langhorne. (Donna Langhorne/Facebook)

Donna Langhorne said her community of Air Ronge, Sask. has transformed in the last few years, and not necessarily for the better. 

"[Addiction] has really taken ahold of our town," she said. 

Langhorne, who goes by the artist name "Donna the Strange," has made art about addiction before. Her previous series, Seven Visions, had a piece about alcohol addiction. 

Langhorne said she only started painting in this style two years ago. (Submitted by Donna Langhorne)

"You can't walk downtown without seeing someone intoxicated or high or anything like that," she said. 

"It's really hard, especially when you have children. You don't want them to see that."

Langhorne was recently awarded a $30,000 grant from Canada Council of the Arts and a $6,000 grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board. She's using these to fund her current series of 20 paintings, Common Truths, which draws inspiration from symbolic animal clans or totems. 

For Common Truths, Langhorne says she has the themes and totems picked out, but not the exact paintings. 

"I just look at the canvas and the ideas just flow," she said. 

"I just right away start outlining. It all comes together at that second."

She said she started doing this style of painting only two years ago.

Langhorne said her Seven Visions series will be featured on a national billboard campaign. (Submitted by Donna Langhorne)

Of the many ways one may raise awareness about an issue in their community, why did Langhorne choose art?

"It's my way of doing it and the way I can do it... That's how I speak to others, through my art," she said. 

"I'm a really quiet person in my life but my art speaks for me and it really reaches and speaks out to other people."

Air Ronge is about 340 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon. 

Another piece from Langhorne's series based on the seven sacred teachings. (Submitted by Donna Langhorne)
A piece from Langhorne's Seven Visions series. (Submitted by Donna Langhorne)