You may recognize the art of Vancouver painter Gina Sarro.
Perhaps you’ve seen her art hanging on the wall at Vancouver General Hospital – a donation she made to the Art Program to give back to the hospital where she herself was able to escape into works of art.
A relative of Gina’s was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, which meant Gina was spending a lot of time at VGH. She would wander the halls to get her mind off such a dire situation and found herself taken by the numerous works of art throughout the hospital.
“The shared appreciation of a piece of art can bring people together,” says Gina. “It can help a grieving family member by giving them hope, lifting their spirits and changing their outlook on the situation.”
She was compelled to contact Jim O’Hara, who manages the Art Program at VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation, and donate a piece of her own art to the cause.
Gina’s Vancouver studio on the main floor of her home is beautifully decorated with an ever-changing canvas of her work.
Large-scale wood panels and canvases with dreamy West Coast depictions in acrylic and oil are stacked against walls and hanging strategically in well-lit spaces around the room.
Her creative room is peppered with colour swatches, stacked canvases, jars of brushes and the odd Lego creation by her son.
“My children are so used to my art they think it’s totally normal to have this sort of environment,” she laughs. “They are both creative in their own way but neither of them paint.”
She says the painting she donated to VGH inspired random hospital patients, their families and hospital staff to reach out and tell her how her painting lifted their spirits.
“I was very honoured to be a part of the Art Program. I feel it’s an amazing way for artists to give back.
“Art can change your emotional state and take your mind away from your present circumstance, even if only for a moment. A person might see a specific aspect of a painting and ask themselves questions about what the artist was thinking, while others might like the feeling the whole piece evokes. Art is so individual that way. Each viewer takes something away to keep.”
Gina has been painting since she was 10 years old living on the Prairies. She and her family were travelling through Banff and decided to go on a hike. They soon came upon an artist with an easel working on a painting and Gina was transfixed.
“I didn’t know at that time what he was doing or what anything was called, but I was fascinated and didn’t want to move. I just wanted to watch him put the paint on the canvas.”
In university, she didn’t pursue art, rather economics and political science, knowing art was always going to be with her. However, after working in project management, having two children, a marriage that fell apart and losing her sister, art helped Gina heal.
As for current and future projects, Gina is searching for a new body of work. She is toying with brighter abstracts, still remaining with landscapes but going in a different direction.
“I would like to create 10 cohesive pieces in a new group of work. They all have to belong and unify, but also stand apart.”
She said the beauty of painting is that one element of a piece can lead in a direction and set you on a journey and you can always come back to that same place and go in a completely different direction.
“In the end, I hope I’ve tried as many different approaches to painting as possible to fully explore that potential,” she says with a reflective smile. “I just want to keep pushing, learning and searching.”
Gina welcomes interested people to contact her through her website to book a viewing of her work.
“You really have to see it in person to get the full effect. Seeing it in my studio next to my other work gives it context and shows you depth.”
You can visit Gina’s website at ginasarro.com.
For more information about the Art Program, visit vghfoundation.ca/donate/artprogram.