Martha Cole

About the Artist

During her high school days in Regina, Saskatchewan, Martha Cole enrolled in art classes and quickly recognized her passion for art and art-making. Her high-school art teacher, Helmut Becker (now Professor Emeritus at the University of Western Ontario and world famous printmaker,  installationAn art work specially designed to fit in or to make use of a specific type of space. It usually consists of more than one element and relates to the space in which it is displayed.  artist and handmade paper artist), encouraged her to develop her talents. He also provided extra art time after school and guidance in applying for universities and scholarships. Cole chose to attend the University of Washington in Seattle. She graduated in 1970 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in sculpture. She soon realized she needed more practical, employable skills and later earned a Bachelor of Education at the University of Toronto (Toronto, Ontario).

Living in Toronto, Cole had to work full-time to cover her basic living expenses. By moving back to Saskatchewan she was able to work part-time as a librarian and pursue her career as an artist. Later, as her career developed, she was able to focus on her art practice - supplemented by occasional teaching and workshops.

Meadowlark

Cole bought an old church in the town of Disley, northwest of Regina, renovating it to be her home and studio. She established herself in the community and built her own utopia in the middle of the Canadian prairies. “I like to say that I came back for the meadow lark,” Cole says. (Linklater, 2005) For more information on the Western Meadowlark, go to Western Meadowlark.

When the grain elevators in her town of Disley were demolished, Cole was greatly upset by the loss of these prairie icons. She decided to pay homage to their demise in a  body of workA collection of artwork by a particular artist, either over a lifetime, or as related to one subject, etc.  known as Survivors. Each realistic fabric wall hanging represented a ‘surviving’ elevator and became a memorial to a rural way of life that is quickly disappearing. Go to the McIntrye Gallery website to see some of these hangings (click on “artists”, then on “Martha Cole”.)

Grain Elevator

In 2005, Cole toured the province with her quilted images to celebrate Saskatchewan’s Centennial as a province. She lectured, taught classes, and enjoyed meeting prairie people who share strong ties to agriculture and the land.

“I often define myself as a landscape-based artist whose roots are deeply buried in Saskatchewan soil,” Cole wrote in Power of Place, her handmade, limited edition book containing these images. “I have returned to this theme many times, always exploring and deepening my connection to the land I call home. Sometimes I’ve focused on the prairie panorama, other times on the complexity and subtlety of the grasses and other flora. Whatever the focus, this land has continued to challenge and inspire me.” (Cole, 2007)

Cole has worked with fabric for more than 30 years. By incorporating traditional women’s crafts of sewing,  embroideryTo embroider is to ornament with needlework — making and arranging stitches of variously coloured threads — or to make by means of needlework. Embroidery is the act or art of embroidering. Or, it is ornamention of fabric with needlework, a piece of embroidered fabric, or embellishment with fanciful details. Fabric to be embroidered can be more easily worked if it is stretched within an embroidery hoop. Most embroidery needles are curved. (Artlex.com)  and quilting into her artistic practice, she has effected change and a newfound appreciation for these techniques. Her work goes beyond the processes involved, however, as she states in the publication, Herstory 2000: “I see my work now as all having a spiritual focus, a focus that is life-affirming, woman-centered and woman celebrating.” (Cole, 2000)


An Art Maker and a Culture Maker
Cygnus Spiral Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy
Elemental Series
Her Process of Quilting
How She Went from Sculpture to Fabric
Religious Symbolism in Her Work
Strong Grounded Woman's Presence
Why She Works in Fabric
Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning