CORNER BROOK In Tina Dolter’s own artist statement, she wrote “to capture the spirit and light of another human being is nothing short of magical.”
For her, that was the epiphany which gave her the inspiration to forge an artistic career in portraiture when she thought her creative passions had to go in a different direction to be successful.
For anyone who knew the Steady Brook woman, who died Tuesday after a short illness, it was her spirit and light that left a magical impression on them.
Born in Montreal in 1959, Dolter moved to western Newfoundland with her family in 1976.
As an artist, Ms. Dolter will be best known for her series of portraits entitled “The Sensuality of the Maturing Woman.”
Her homage to aging gracefully via paintings of women over the age of 40 was first unveiled in Corner Brook in 2005, but was later expanded with exhibits in St. John’s and Toronto.
While most of the women were from the local area, she did include celebrities such as radio host Shelagh Rogers and fashion critic Jeanne Beker.
The portrait exhibition also spawned panel discussions titled “Redefining the Fine Art of Aging Well” that were held both in Toronto and in Corner Brook in 2011.
Some of her other work adorns several public places in Corner Brook, including stained glass in the palliative care unit at Western Memorial Regional Hospital. She also designed and produced, with the help of other artists she supervised, portraits of inductees in the Newfoundland and Labrador Hockey Hall of Fame and the four large sports murals in the Kinsmen Arena II.
Ms. Dolter was much more than a successful artist.
She was also an advocate for the artistic community and an organizer of events that promoted other artists. She was a co-founder of the League of Artists of Western Newfoundland (LAWN) in 2004 and was involved with the boards of several provincial arts organizations.
David Smallwood knew Ms. Dolter for years and, for the past several, worked with her closely on the Corner Brook Rotary Arts Centre Committee that is still trying to establish a space for the arts community in Corner Brook.
“She was a detailed person and was really loyal to this whole process,” Smallwood said Tuesday. “We’re sorely going to miss her skills and her input.”
Smallwood also marvelled at Ms. Dolter’s contribution to Corner Brook hosting the East Coast Music Awards in 2009, during which she headed up an arts and cultural linkages committee and delivered 10 workshops that made the ECMA experience more than just about music.
For that effort, Ms. Dolter was given an ECMA as Volunteer of the Year in 2009.
Through the years, she has also been nominated for a number of annual awards by the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council and by Visual Artists Newfoundland and Labrador.
“This is such a terrible loss that someone in the prime of life and just beginning to break through into the major leagues of art should be taken away from us so young, so unfortunately,” said Smallwood, adding Ms. Dolter had recently told him of her plans to soon take her work to New York.
Donna Thistle, whose sister Kim is married to Ms. Dolter’s brother Sean, was one of the women Ms. Dolter first asked to pose for the aging gracefully portraits.
According to Thistle, Ms. Dolter had started working on another series of portraits that would have featured some prominent older men.
“She wanted to give equal time to the contributions both men and women make as they age gracefully,” said Thistle. “A lot of people didn’t know she was doing that because it wasn’t ready. It’s sad it will never be finished.”
Thistle echoed Smallwood’s sentiments that Ms. Dolter’s legacy goes beyond the images she created.
“Losing Tina is a huge loss for the arts community in Corner Brook and in Newfoundland,” said Thistle. “Besides being an excellent artist herself, she did yeoman’s work for organizing other artists and fundraisers.”
Thistle has fond memories of Dolter’s involvement in decorating for the Western Regional Hospital Foundation’s annual gala, as a strong supporter of making visual art a big part of the annual Writers at Woody Point festival and as an active member of a tightly knit group of a dozen women who met regularly for a Corner Brook book club.
Besides her two sons, Devon Burry and Tyler Burry, Dolter is mourned by her partner Jerry George, her family and friends.