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Upcoming Saanich art exhibit takes personal look at Second World War

Fran Benton hopes exhibit encourages others to explore their own perspective on war

A Victoria artist is launching an exhibition in Saanich this month which aims to encourage people to put their own interpretation on the experience of war, all while supporting the Royal Canadian Legion.

Fran Benton, a retired Vancouver Island University visual arts professor, was inspired to put together the exhibition after she started paying closer attention to her late father’s war photographs and memorabilia he collected during his time serving in the Second World War.

“There has always been war paraphernalia in my family … I never thought much of it until my dad and mom passed away and I inherited it all,” said Benton. “I figured I would put my own spin on the items … I blew up the images fairly large, and I drew them onto these old architectural drawings I made as a student many years ago but never really used, then I just kept playing with the images. The more I worked on it the more I got interested in it.”

A multi-media artist, Benton chose to interpret her father’s images and items through a mixture of sculpture, drawings, writing, embroidery, and even interactive pieces based on letters her mother sent and received during the war.

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“I took little pieces of phrases from the letters and embroidered them onto old handkerchiefs. I put them on the floor and played around with the idea of things that kept coming up in the letters like ‘everything is blown up.’”

Other artists were invited to put phrases they have found in war letters onto handkerchiefs as part of this latest exhibit, and Benton said the idea is the displayed handkerchiefs will be constantly changing throughout the exhibit.

Making the show interactive was important for Benton as one of her main hopes for the show is it will encourage those who see it to find their own family connections to war and take the time to interpret the experience of war as someone who has not experienced it themselves.

The show, which has been exhibited once before, will run from Oct. 25 to Nov. 13 at the Arts Centre at Cedar Hill. This will be the last time Benton will be showcasing this collection of her work, and she has decided to take advantage of it being displayed over Remembrance Day by putting each piece up for sale, with profits going to the Royal Canadian Legion.

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Justin Samanski-Langille

About the Author: Justin Samanski-Langille

I moved coast-to-coast to discover and share the stories of the West Shore, joining Black Press in 2021 after four years as a reporter in New Brunswick.
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