Crossing ArtWalk off her bucket list

Margaret Hughes’ photography will be showcased at Finley’s

She’s always wanted to be in ArtWalk.

Nelson artist Margaret Hughes lives in Mountain Lakes Seniors Community and has some health struggles that mean she’s not as productive as she would be otherwise, but this year she decided to make it a priority to showcase her photography.

“There are so many things that for one reason or another you never get done, but are always at the back of your mind. ArtWalk was that for me,” Hughes told the Star.

“I have probably 150, 200 photos I’ve taken over the years and at some point I realized I wanted people to see my work. That’s why I’m doing this, to share.”

Starting Monday residents will be able to see Hughes’ work hung in Finley’s for the summer, alongside the work of fellow artist Laura Lagarde, and she plans to travel into town for the opening night on Friday. She’s one of 30 artists being shown in 14 venues downtown, and she’s intensely proud to be in their midst.

Hughes makes birthday collages, personalized placemats, digitally altered photo illustrations and birthday cards, as well as writing poetry, but for this year’s showcase she decided to focus on the compelling local images she’s compiled over the years — including a striking orange-hued forest fire picture that was published in the Nelson Daily News in 2003.

“I used to be a forestry consultant, so I was out in the wilderness a lot and enjoyed that, but when I couldn’t do that anymore it was basically a natural progression for me to become a photographer,” she said.

“For me it’s always been more about the enjoyment of doing it than putting them up for sale.”

And she’s willing to wait around for the right shot.

“My courthouse picture, I spent about two hours standing on the corner taking pictures as the sun went around, because I was waiting for the sun to hit in a perfect spot so the leaves would be as bright red as they could be,” she said.

And once she has good images, Vogue Photographic helps her with the printing and framing — a task that isn’t cheap.

“They’ve been extremely kind in helping me find frames and print my pictures, because I don’t make much money. I live on a disability pension, and they don’t give a lot in the month, so I have to watch my dollars,” she said.

Having this encouragement and community feedback has her feeling buoyed emotionally.

“I don’t think I ever would have done my artwork if I had stayed in forestry, because I would’ve been up a ladder until I retired. But because I got sick, I need something to give me purpose. You can’t get through life without purpose, so I figured this was my purpose.”

She thanked her close friends for helping her fill out the forms and prepare her application, because sometimes she only gets two to four productive hours a day.

“I think it’s wonderful I’m in Finley’s. It’s the perfect place for me. I’m going to go down for a beer and a burger, and if any of my friends visit I’ll buy them a beer. This feels like going back in time 20 years.”

Though her health struggles sometimes get her down, Hughes is always looking for a silver lining.

“When I get up in the morning and put my feet on the floor I don’t know what the day is going to give me, so I try to make the day as positive as I can. That’s all you can do.”