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New exhibition explores unsettling imagery of childhood

Published on

Cathy Dobson

Local artist Liana Russwurm doesn’t candy-coat childhood in her latest series of paintings.

They are snippets of time and events that evoke the fears and imagination of her own early years, she says.

“It’s about memories of making friends as children, having to learn that contemporary culture requires us to present a façade in public that we carry into adulthood,” said Russwurm.

“I struggle with that because putting on that mask takes a lot out of you.”

For the past six years, she has lived in Alvinston in a converted church that serves as both home and studio. She has  lived in Vancouver and Montreal, spent a year painting in Italy, and moved here from Toronto after attending the Ontario College of Art.

After graduation, she had a job painting murals but had a terrible fall from a scaffold, and still suffers from the spinal injuries.

She moved to Alvinston in 2011 to find a more affordable lifestyle and a friendly, little community.

“The town is very supportive and I’m very involved here,” she said.  “We have an arts group and the town loves that. I feel like I’m making a difference.”

Russwurm, originally from Elmira, Ont, also worked for a couple of years as a reporter for the Forest Standard but stopped two months ago to resume painting full-time.

Her oil paintings are large – often up to 6 foot by 6 foot – and take a long time.

The results are often controversial.

“I know some people walk away and say they are a little disturbing,” she said. “I like that my paintings make an impact.

“There are other people who just love them and will put the money out for them,” she added.

Russwurm’s latest exhibition, “Out of the Tickle Trunk,” opens on First Friday Oct. 6 at The Lawrence House and features a series of large oils, one of which she completed just last week.

Russwurm will attend the opening from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. along with musical trio Deciduous playing original folk, bluegrass and country music on string instruments. The show runs through October.

Also on display starting First Friday in the Lawrence House turret room are several quilts designed and made by members of the Sarnia Quilters’ Guild.

The quilt exhibit is called “Postcards from Lambton County” and depicts landmarks from the local area including the Bluewater Bridge and the Lawrence House.  Guild members have demonstrated several quilting techniques in putting the fabrics together.


WHERE:  The Lawrence House, 127 Christina St. South.

WHAT:  Exhibit opening of Liana Russwurm’s ‘Out of the Tickle Trunk ‘with music by Deciduous. Also a new display by the Sarnia Quilters’ Guild.

WHEN:  First Friday Oct. 6. 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.

For a full list of October’s First Friday events in downtown Sarnia, visit online at

The Arts Journal celebrates what is culturally significant in our community.  Contact Cathy Dobson with your ideas at [email protected] or 226-932-0985.

The Puppeteer, by Liana Russworm, is included in a new exhibition of her work opening Friday in Sarnia.
Submitted Photo










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