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Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

It was hard. It was hard because I started to know their stories

Posted: 04/6/2014 4:31 PM | Comments: 0

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Getting a chance to chat with another artist about what motivates them always makes my day. Talking to Julia Penny an artist who lives in Winnipeg Beach, MB, gave me a chance to ruminate about how each of us deals differently with tragedy.

Julia had just finished drawing individual portraits of the victims of the Lac-Mégantic, Quebec train disaster which happened in July, 2013. Forty-seven people from the Lac-Mégantic with a population of about 6,100 died when a train carrying oil derailed and exploded in the middle of the town.

Reporter Alexandra Paul was gracious and allowed me a chance to ask a few questions after she was finished for her story.

Have you taken on a project which involved this many portraits before?

No. This was unusual for me.

What do you think about the process? When you got half way through... was it really hard?

It was hard. It was hard because I started to know their stories. You get to know these people and you realize they're not alive anymore. Awful.

What do you hope the art will accomplish? What do you hope will come out of it, not just for you, but for others?

Well I hope its like a wakeup call to us as Manitoban's and Winnipeggers, because these trains are all over the place. [...] I wanted to give something back to Lac-Mégantic. I'm going to package them all up and send them to Lac-Mégantic when I'm done and hope they like them. I hope that the families who get the pictures will like what they've got and hopefully it will be a memory for them.

So, you've never had an experience in other train accidents in the past?

Well, there was a train accident when I got married, that very day, I guess it was November 10th, 1979. I got married in Toronto and there was a train accident just West of Toronto. Nobody got killed, but that happened the very day we got married. Also, I can remember when I was a little girl in England there was a little town in Whales, a slag heap let loose or ran down the mountain and enveloped a school and killed all the school children and school teachers. I remember that, that stuck in my head.

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