Catherine Joa is still celebrating her recent first place overall in the Manitoba Rural and Northern Juried Art Show earlier this fall - even if it caught her completely by surprise.
“I was kind of surprised at that. At the very end of the show, when I won first place, I wasn't expecting that, but it was super exciting,” said the Denare Beach-based painter.
Joa was notified ahead of time that she had won top spot, but misunderstood what the notification meant - she thought it meant she finished first in a specific category, not best in show.
When her piece was announced as the best in show, Joa, caught off guard during the awards Zoom call while sitting at home, panicked.
“At the end of the meeting, they announced the first place winner and it was my painting. I just turned my camera off and turned the sound off because my heart was pounding so fast that I couldn't believe it,” she said.
“It was cool. I was excited.”
Joa has worked on paintings of northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan for years and entered the Northern Juried Art Show earlier this year, winning top spot in the Acrylic Painting/Mixed Media category and entering the province-wide rural and northern show in Winnipeg.
Joa entered a piece entitled “Love is Love”, part of a series of pieces called “Highways and Hearts”, consisting of paintings and pieces based on northern rock graffiti, often including hearts. The piece is a depiction of a heart located on a rock cut on the Perimeter, painted in 2019 by members of Flin Flon Pride, showing a heart with a rainbow flag motif on top of a blue, white and pink trans pride flag. Atop that rock is a power pole and line.
“The hearts were always something I’d thought about painting,” said Joa.
“If you’re in love or you feel strongly about someone, people here will go and they're going to write their names, they're going to put it in a heart with somebody else's name, which I think at this time is cool because there’s so much grouchiness in the world right now.”
The Pride heart provided some extra imagery for Joa to show - a show of support for LGBTQ+ people in the Flin Flon area. A teacher at Creighton Community School by day, some of Joa’s former students were among the people who painted the rock that inspired the piece.
“I thought it was super important to include that heart [in the series] if I’m going to do a series of hearts along the rocks, especially in a small northern town where people probably have their views,” she said.
“I painted that heart, and included it because it showed love and love is love. That's the title. Because love is love. It doesn't matter who's in love. You feel the same. You feel that amazing feeling of love.”
Joa has already started another series, tentatively called “The Burn”, showing areas of northern boreal forest affected by forest fires.
“There's just something about the way it looks when it's done. We took out the boat this summer a few times and just the way the burnt trees look, with that haze behind them… it’s not perfect anymore. That whole idea of a landscape painting having to be like a beautiful mountain with the fish jumping and a loon calling and a wolf howling and the beautiful whatever - that's cool, but I like that it's not perfect,” said Joa. She also plans to do more winter paintings as the seasons change, as well as adding onto Highways and Hearts.
Joa is selling prints of some of her paintings for charity - some are being sold to raise money for the Flin Flon/Creighton and Area SPCA, while prints of “Love is Love” are being sold with some proceeds going to Flin Flon Pride.
More information about Joa’s work can be found at catherinejoa.com.