There is no open wall space in Ingra Skuja-Grislis’s Fort Richmond home.
Paintings and photos cover every inch to create a beautiful array of colour. The house is a gallery in its own right as everything on the walls is beautiful and thought provoking.
The painter and photographerbounces through the house and into the converted sun room that is now one of her two studios. The other is in St. Norbert but she prefers to work at home, closer to her husband Egil, and where her fascination with light is nourished.
Skuja-Grislis is busy these days "editing" her collection. She has an exhibition called Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Cre8ery Gallery and Studio, 125 Adelaide St. opening June 6 and running through June 18.
"Right now I’m in midst of process of putting everything together," Skuja-Grislis said. "This exhibition is very different because there will be different styles and I have written poems, which is brave for me, as English is my second language."
It would be fair to say that English is actually Skuja-Grislis’s third language. She grew up in Soviet-ruled Riga, Latvia, speaking both Latvian and Russian. When the U.S.S.R. disintegrated in 1991, Skuja-Grislis began to study theology at age 25.
"But in former Soviet Union religion that was not very popular," she said. "When I was growing, in former Soviet Union, churches were open but they were not politically correct. If you studied church or you went to church there would be some sort of persecution or something would happen to your job."
After she graduated, Skuja-Grislis wanted to become an ordained Lutheran minister but the bishop in Latvia decided women couldn’t be ordained.
So she moved to Hartford, Conn. But, before she could achieve her goal of ordination, she met her husband at a religion class.
The couple moved to Winnipeg together, where Egil taught religion at the University of Manitoba. Another U of M professor recognized Skuja-Grislis’s talent for art and persuaded her to apply to the faculty of fine arts.
She completed her degree in 2008 after five years focusing on drawing, painting, and photography. Averse to digital cameras, she completed most of her photography work with a German-made film camera from the 1980s that captures light like no other, she said.
For her upcoming exhibition Skuja-Grislis is showcasing a variety of different styles.
One section of her upcoming show features acrylic paintings portraying her experiences surviving long Winnipeg winters, another section reflects her view on nature. There’s a section featuring the Red River, and another will feature her photographs of Riga.
"For me this is process: not to figure out and to commit to one style, but to figure out what else you can do with paint," said Skuja-Grislis. "I am not committing, I find that I am always moving forward."