'Come walk with me': Regina artist launches 70th birthday show

Regina artist Martha Cole is celebrating her 70th birthday by holding back-to-back art shows at the Mata Gallery that showcase her life's work.

Martha Cole has been making fabric art pieces in Saskatchewan for 39 years

Martha Cole creates large art pieces to reflect the big sky and the big cold reality of Saskatchewan. (Shauna Powers/CBC)

Like her massive and elaborate fabric tapestries, artist Martha Cole is celebrating her 70th birthday in a big way.

Cole is hosting two back-to-back art shows at Regina's Mata Gallery to celebrate her lengthy career as an artist.

"If you're somebody like me whose spent their life doing one thing, maybe you'd like to see that all together in some way," Cole said on CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend.  

Martha Cole spoke with CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend host Shauna Powers about her new show at the Mata Gallery in Regina. (Shauna Powers/CBC)

The shows will be unique as they feature work from her early career as a sculptor, and pieces that show her transition into creating fabric tapestries. 

Cole uses a quilting technique to create pieces of art that look like paintings, but are made from fabric. 

I want people to look and say, "Yes, that's just like my hometown!" - Martha Cole, artist

But before that she did sculptures, which required a massive studio, cranes and equipment. Fabric art just required a sewing machine and creativity — perfect for her tiny studio in Toronto years ago. 

"Once I started working with this wonderful, malleable fabric, after all of those years of working with the large welded steel and the cranes, I thought 'Okay, I just changed.' It just happened that way," she said. 

Now, back in Saskatchewan for the past 39 years, her art pieces take inspiration from the prairie landscape around her.

This landscape tapestry was created by artist Martha Cole in 1978, and features a scene near Disley, Sask. (Shauna Powers/CBC)

One of her pieces features a grain elevator. Another highlights the prairie sky. It's massive in size at four-feet by eight-feet, and features only the tiniest slivers of ground before the sky takes over.  

"It's in Saskatchewan. How can you not have a big scale with these big skies, and these big winds, and the big cold?" 

Cole doesn't care if art appeals to galleries back in Toronto. She wants it to be accessible to the people of Saskatchewan. 

"I want people to look and say, 'Yes, that's just like my hometown!' "

Artist Martha Cole created this piece in 2005 from cotton, fabric paint, assorted threads and batting. (Shauna Powers/CBC)

She's hoping her love for the prairies comes across in the show.

"I've invited people to come walk the paths with me for a little while. That's my whole artist statement. Come walk with me for a while."

Cole's shows, called 70/70 Vision, continue at the Mata Gallery in Regina throughout the summer. The first of her two shows runs to July 17 and the second show runs July 20 to August 20. 

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend