Art: Zuzana Riha explores our place in the mountains

Sarah j Spurr looks at Revelstoke artist Zuzana Riha's growing body of works which range across illustrations, landscape works, canvas and wooden sculpture.

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Artist Zuzana Riha. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

Zuzana Riha to walks me through the Art in The Park exhibit at the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre. She introduces me to each of her paintings in the November show. She shares narrative about her four-day retreat spent sketching in situ in the Glacier National Park landscape.

In August, a dozen artists came together to celebrate the natural and cultural heritage of the mountain park by producing artworks. The program is designed to inspire an emotional connection and deeper understanding of Canada’s national parks.

Riha has helped with this program before; she works for Parks Canada as a product development officer in their visitor experience office. But this year she contributed as one of the visual artists.

Zuzana Riha with a work from her November Art in the Park exhibit at the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer
Zuzana Riha with a work from her November Art in the Park exhibit at the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

Her vibrant painting of Mount Sir Donald beside the Illecillewaet Glacier is the first we meet. A cool wave dips down from a pocket of night sky over an illuminated valley of rocky figures. She’s brought life to her studies using acrylic on canvas.

Her series borrows inspiration from famous Canadian artist Lawren Harris. Riha’s kind-eyed portraits of watchful bears carry the same moving brush strokes through their shaggy coats as she’s applied to create glacier etched landscapes.

Riha’s gallery works are just one part of her expanding portfolio. Her current darling has been the children’s bike park at the Nels Nelsen recreation area at Mt. Revelstoke national park.

A carving at the new youth mountain bike skills park in Mount Revelstoke national park. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer
A carving at the new youth mountain bike skills park in Mount Revelstoke national park. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer
Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer
Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

The bike park — which has been a team effort involving others — is designed to build foundational skills in youth. She has consulted with professionals to help meet design standards and is the creative force behind the interactive ‘creature features’ there.

Her life-like sculptures, including an educational animal scat gallery, are created using concrete and epoxy. The project will be completed in time to celebrate with Parks Canada, for the 150th anniversary of Canadian federation in 2017.

At the end of the day, Zuzana brings her passion for outdoor spaces inside. Artistic expression is at the core of her home. It’s in her use of locally milled wood and with her careful application of carvings and inlays of trees, bears, and leaves.

She’s a trained sculptor and illustrated the children’s book Radar the Rescue Dog, a story about an avalanche rescue dog. (Riha has volunteered as an avalanche rescue dog handler.)

Riha's careful application of carvings and inlays of trees, bears, and leaves. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer
Riha’s careful application of carvings and inlays of trees, bears, and leaves. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer
Riha's beautiful artistic depictions of wildlife. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer
Riha’s beautiful artistic depictions of wildlife. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer
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Riha’s beautiful artistic depictions of wildlife. Photo: Emily Kemp/Revelstoke Mountaineer

Zuzana exemplifies a culture of wild creativity that is found in resourceful Revelstoke. Creativity finds its place out in our community with strong messages about our treasured environment and passion for recreation.

Contact Zuzana to inquire about her work: zuzi@hotmail.com
Visit parkscanada.ca to learn about Art in the Park program and the upcoming local Parks Canada celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Canadian federation.

This article first appeared in the December issue of the free Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.

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Sarah Spurr
Sarah j Spurr moved west five-anda-half years ago from Kawartha Lakes, Ontario. My own world expands when I tread further, exploring new physical challenges alongside creative outlets. Here, I’m interested in connecting with others to showcase how they allow their own special blend of originality to flow. Living in the thick of this mountain environment what are you creating? Where does it stem from? Your story is soul food for the rest of us.