A Guided Artist - Jacynthe de Margerie
By Chelsea Koressel
There are many crossroads in an artist’s life where important choices must be made. Circumstances and surprising opportunities present themselves while traveling on life’s path. Acrylic abstract painter Jacynthe de Margerie, was guided along a path of artistry and continues to invite guidance in her current work. De Margerie’s love for color and exploration in her abstract renderings suggest a passionate and emotional view of the world that also invites the viewer in for an opulent, rich undertaking. Her creations offer up a tangible celebration of beauty like none other.
De Margerie was born and raised in Saskatchewan, Canada where her French-Canadian family introduced a plethora of creativity in the form of music, singing, literature, and even theatre. Coming from a busy, artistic household, de Margerie being the youngest of nine children, had plenty of flourishing adventures. “Although very young at the time, my first and fondest memories,” recalls de Margerie, “are of the family gathered for evenings of music around the piano and acting out some Molière as I nested securely in my father’s arms. Later on, as a teenager, I would join mom, dad, brothers and sisters, singing a cappella renditions of Operettes and other musical arrangements for four voices.”
Her happy childhood, filled with these loving memories of creativity, amplified her artistic desires. In her young age, de Margerie’s mother, who loved to draw, instilled in her a love of the visual arts as well as an interest in drawing. De Margerie elaborates, “As a young woman, my mother was an artist in her own right, but as a mother, raising nine children she didn’t have the time for art. I owe her my artistic aptitudes which she always ecouraged, as much as I believe that all talents are God given!”
Eventually, a crossroad did present itself to de Margerie. She explains, “In my childhood I knew that my ‘forte’ was art, but specifically wanting to be an ‘artist’ seemed too grand for me.” Instead of pursuing her love of art, de Margerie entered a Benedictine cloister in Québec after graduating from high school. In the cloister, de Margerie was given the opportunity to explore and develop her artistic aptitudes. Even as a novice, her superiors realized her potential, and now “Sister Jacynthe” was asked to put her artistic skills to task in the arts department of the monastery.
Without neglecting her religious duties, de Margerie, curious and interested, was also trying her hand in various forms of art: sculpting wood, modeling clay into various statues and ornamental objects, turning pots on the potter’s wheel while also producing commissioned art works that came regularly to the monastery from the exterior.
Commissions could be of every possible nature ranging from calligraphy to “enluminure” (Illumination) of precious documents. She worked with hand-script music (this painstaking work was not done on a computer at the time) and also tried her hand at graphic designs of all sorts; menus, wedding invitations, and greeting cards. Her superior used to say: “Ask Sister Jacynthe. She’s fast and it is always well done.” De Margerie now admits that the pressure eventually got on her nerves. “Nothing like becoming a Nun to learn it all, do it all, and often with little sleep and many cups of coffee!” She recalls of her time at the monastery. “Very demanding years, but mostly happy years!”
Although it wasn’t her intention to pursue art as a nun, she received an intensive training during her time in the sisterhood. Days were long and nights short, and while intensively working in the art department, other responsibilities befell her from an aging communiy, the sum of which began to take a toll. While painting in oils, de Margerie was poisoned by the turpentine fumes and was kept away from the art department for six months.
Upon her return to artistic work, de Margerie began working with acrylic paints. She soon discovered a love for the medium and more so, her love for color. She began working diligently with her new favorite medium and also began exploring abstract painting. Abstraction quickly became her preferred method of artistic expression. Her passion and her need for deeper meaning soon set the stage for her many successes with her artwork.
As years went by, de Margeries health was gradually deteriorating. In 1981, after 20 years of service at the monastery, she had to leave the cloister. De Margerie returned to Saskatchewan, land of open space, vast, and infinite horizons that promised to inspire the future of de Margerie’s work. Painting the surrounding landscapes of her beloved homeland became a need for her as she readjusted to her new life.
Gradually, as her family nursed her back to health, de Margerie resumed work as a graphic artist. From 1984-85, de Margerie became artist in residence for the Commission Culturelle Fransaskoise of Saskatchewan. During this period, she also taught art to the local French-speaking communities. De Margerie met her future husband when he took one of her classes. She recalls, “He would go around saying, ‘She is an artist in residence. Now I will make her an artist in permanence!’”
Once married, and now with her husband’s two young children to raise, family life and other domestic endeavors only amplified her creativity. Living on an acreage, at a fair distance from the city, de Margerie didn’t have much contact with an artistic milieu, so with the encouragement of her husband, she opened a wayside boutique where she sold handmade chocolate candies along with her paintings and crafts. Tourists would stop by to purchase some of her art work along with her famous chocolate covered marshmallow bars.
After all her artistic experiences, one would think that de Margerie’s journey was nearing a clarifying conclusion. She was given yet another diversion in her path when, in 2002, a bout with cancer left her once again wondering about the outcome of her beautiful, colorful dream. “When God closes a door, His mercy always leaves a window open,” explains de Margerie. “Have we not all had a similar experience at one time or the other?” Her faith in a divine guidance and the love of a wonderful husband kept her alive.
Through all her hardships, de Margerie’s many mentors, inspirations, and influences have kept pushing her towards the artistic direction she always dreamed of. Her mother and father were her biggest supporters while also receiving encouragement from a long time friend and graduate of the École des Beaux-Arts de Montréal. “She’s the one that told me to ‘watch carefully what was happening on my canvas and when there was something that I liked,” explains de Margerie, “to work with it to enhance it, to make it sing! Some forty years later I haven’t forgotten her advice.” She also finds inspiration in all beautiful things but mostly nature and the lavish surroundings of her Province.
While continually honing her skills, de Margerie has also been recognized for the beauty she has returned to the world. She’s received first place in many of her local shows such as first prize for acrylic work at the Saskatoon Showcase of Arts in 2013 and has won numerous awards for many years running. In addition, she had her first solo show with reception last fall in a French venue in Saskatoon and has interviewed with French CBC TV.
De Margerie spends her days creating a “feast for the eyes of her viewers” in her at home studio. Her abstract depictions are the history of her journey; filled with emotion, pain, and most importantly, beauty. “While painting abstractly, everything seems to come from deep inside,” explains de Margerie. “I become inspired with the exterior, tangible beauty, but the results will also have to be of excellence and a celebration.” What’s most important to de Margerie and the truth behind her work is to let it speak for itself; to allow the work to guide others as she was guided through her artistic journey.