MOVING PICTURES: Painter Liz Sullivan with a selection of her work, inspired by her ride.
The summer sun warmed the asphalt in front of Liz Sullivan and her husband, Richard Smith, as they pedalled out of Spruce Meadows, south of Calgary towards the foothills last June. Water at the ready, the pair could feel their muscles working overtime. Enthusiastic recreational cyclists, they had never before opted to ride a distance such as this. By the time they finished, they had logged 200-plus kilometres in support of the 2010 Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, benefiting the Alberta Cancer Foundation.
“The energy of the event was so moving,” says Sullivan, a Calgary artist who has worked out of her Inglewood studio for 10 years. Cyclists rode all day, then stopped to camp at Chain Lakes Provincial Park to enjoy some evening entertainment and food before a night’s rest. “I couldn’t believe it,” Sullivan recalls. “We were actually keen to get back on the bikes on the second morning.” Her team of five, the Old Spokes, raised more than $20,000 over the weekend.
“The ride was amazing and inspirational,” she says. “So much so that I’m sharing the experience of the colour and feeling through paint on canvas.” She has started a series of her iconic paintings based on her experience with the Ride. Known for her landscapes, Sullivan’s new series is shot through with motion. Images depict a single cyclist making it through an arduous stretch, a tough climb and vista with dozens of cyclists. “I wanted to explore ideas like perseverance, an uphill climb and strength in numbers,” she says. She was especially moved by how many cyclists on the race sported yellow flags, indicating their status as people who had faced cancer.
Sullivan anticipates as many as 25 paintings in the group by the time she’s done. She’s looking for opportunities to show the series. “Of the paintings that sell in a non-gallery space,” she says, “I’ll donate 50 per cent of the profits to the Alberta Cancer Foundation.”
Proceeds from the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer support the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary, the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton, and 15 other community cancer centres across the province. The money is used to support top-level cancer research and scholarship as well as front-line patient care.