Dawn McCracken (1935-2013)

It's Pay-back Time

For years now I have been painting the countryside of southern New Brunswick, fields, trees, bushes and clouds in as detailed and realistic a manner as possible. Sometimes I have wondered, while working with a magnifying glass on a 3 x 4 foot piece of masonite, with a size 000 sable brush, how did I end up doing this? Why has every leaf, every blade of grass, every pebble, every drifting cloud become so important that I keep thinking, "I've got to get it right." Eventually I asked myself, "Why do I have to get it right?"

Memory brought the answer. When I was a child growing up here I enjoyed nature in an unquestioning manner, being in it and part of it. Every day brought new images and impressions that could be recalled years later. I can still remember, for example, walking in the stubble of a newly-mown field in late afternoon, watching the clouds change from white to gold to pink to red as evening approached, then at dusk the shadowy grey swifts and nighthawks swooping against the dark woods on the horizon. Every changing season brought its unique visual epiphanies to the countryside and I absorbed them all.

I came to realize that this was a great gift generously given and after a lifetime I at last began to feel I must say thank you to whatever it is that the word "nature" encompasses. Painting these trees and bushes with care and respect is my attempt to pay the debt, and also to say good-bye.

Dawn McCracken, 2010


Born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Dawn McCracken studied at the University of New Brunswick on a Beaverbrook Scholarship. She studied painting at the Art School of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts under the tutelage of Arthur Lismer, Gentile Tondino, Jacques de Tonnancour and Moe Reinblatt. Further art studies included summer school sessions at the University of New Brunswick with Fritz Brandtner and Alfred Pinsky and at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario with André Bieler and George Swinton.

The artist moved to the United States in 1964 where she worked as Production Manager of Publications for the American Kennel Club in New York City. During that time she completed courses in Graphic Design at the Printing Institute of Metropolitan New York. She returned to New Brunswick and since retiring as a graphic artist for the NB Teachers' Association, Dawn devoted her time to working in her studio at Young's Cove Road at Grand Lake where she painted the landscape of Southern New Brunswick with remarkable detail and passion.

McCracken's work was shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Montréal including at Galerie West End Gallery, the Walter Klinkhoff Gallery and the Montréal Museum spring exhibitions and in Fredericton at Gallery 78 since the mid-1980's. Her paintings are part of many corporate, private and public collections. Dawn McCracken passed away on January 4, 2013. We will miss her tremendous generosity, friendship, intellect and talent.

To read Michael Landry's article in the Telegraph Journal's Salon, please click for the pdf below:

A Luminous Legacy