Marianne Enhorning: architecture to art

Marianne Enhorning: architecture to art

Marianne Enhorning: architecture to art


Marianne Enhorning mixes her love of nature and the human figure with subtle architectural elements to create dreamlike paintings that establish her place in her family’s artistic heritage


Marianne Enhorning dances around her new Comox Avenue studio/gallery, adding brush strokes to multiple paintings she’s working on simultaneously, sometimes measuring herself up against a life-sized canvas as if she’s trying to connect with the figure of a woman in motion, sensing the image’s next movements.

Enhorning is preparing for an important exhibition in San Diego, one that might result in an American tour of her recent work, a series exploring the beauty and strength of women.

She’s got a dozen new paintings on the go and divides her attention among them, moving gracefully around jars of brushes, paint cans, easels and paint-stained buckets.

The stereotypically messy studio area strikes a sharp contrast to her gallery, where a clean, simple design reveals Enhorning’s Swedish heritage. The gallery would not look out of place in an IKEA showroom.

But it’s no accident that Enhorning’s gallery is well organized and attractive. She has a degree in architecture and worked in that field for 25 years designing houses and small commercial buildings. She spent 10 years in private practice in Vancouver before moving to the Comox Valley, where she continued to do architectural design. She also worked  off and on for a few years with Comox architect John Chislett.

There’s a subtle architectural influence in much of Enhorning’s work that wouldn’t be obvious without knowing her background. Whether she’s painting women, dancers, landscapes or communities of people, they are often framed in vertical linear shapes — trunks of trees, lines of people, stems of flowers or herds of unicorns — and the human figures provide a sense of scale to the grandeur of nature.

“In architecture, I loved the design, and was always looking at the art aspect. The technical side is so unlike me. There are so many rules and bylaws and restrictions. And in the end, it’s not really your own work. You’ve been compromised by all the limitations,” She says.

By contrast, Enhorning says that painting is “completely free.”

“When I’m painting there’s no client, no budget, no rules. I can do anything. Nothing is right or wrong, and nobody can say it’s wrong,” she says.

Art has always been a part of Enhorning’s life, but she didn’t always believe she was an artist.

She counts her grandmother, Louise Peyron, as her greatest influence. Peyron was a famous Swedish artist, who studied in Paris during the Lost Generation of Left Bank artists, writers and ex-pats around the 1920s, a community that included Gertrude Stein, Picasso and Hemingway.

But it was Enhorning’s older brother, Ulf, who their grandmother took under her wing. He became “the artist” in the family.


“So even though my parents had tons of art in the house, every room was like a gallery, and art was all I ever knew, my brother was ‘the artist.’ I didn’t think I could do it,” she says.

Still, Enhorning studied her grandmother’s work so intensely that those who know Peyron’s work can now see Peyron’s influence in Enhorning’s paintings. “She was my teacher, I feel it so strongly,” she says.

Enhorning only began painting seriously about five years ago. She was working exclusively with her own architectural clients, and doing some painting while juggling her role as a mother to two young children.

Then she was offered a chance to rent some studio space at Courtenay’s Art Alchemy by her friends Lucy Schappy and Helen Utsal. Enhorning thought she would try it out for a month.

“I painted for a month and I couldn’t stop,” she says. “It was so obvious that I had to paint.”

Yet, she still didn’t consider herself a full-time artist. Even when her work sold well at a small show at Art Alchemy with two other painters, who were also renting space there, she didn’t believe it.

“I thought that’s not real. That’s just my friends being nice to me, buying my painting because they felt sorry for me or something,” she says. So Enhorning kept doing architectural projects, even though she was selling more and more art work.

“Eventually, the counselor I was seeing told me to ‘just keep painting’ and not to come see her anymore,” she says. “Painting had become my therapy.”

So, she did. And now says that “even if a dream job in architecture came along today, I would say no.”

An emotional exercise

Enhorning describes her painting process as lying down in a grassy field looking up at the passing clouds on a summer day, seeing them change shapes and transition from one thing into something else. She turns her panels upside down and sideways, and looks at them from different angles, trying to discover where they are going to go next.

“I used to think that when authors said they don’t know where their characters are going until they write it, that was hokey. But it’s not. Now I understand it,” she says.

“The act of creating comes from the soul,” she says. “I get very emotional, I feel the experience of creating so deeply.”

For her series on women, Enhorning stands up close to the panels made by her husband at her exact height. She puts herself in the painting’s shape, trying to experience how the woman might feel, how her body might be moving. That often moves her to tears.

It’s so personal, and I feel fortunate to be able to do it,” she says.

Enhorning grew up with three older brothers, and she wanted to be a boy. She was a tomboy and thought girls were boring. They couldn’t match the thrill-seeking action of boys.

“But now, in my 50s, I realize the strength and beauty and power that women have. It’s taken me until now,” she says.

For Enhorning, the emotional process doesn’t end when a painting is finished.

“It’s hard to understand that people will spend money to have one of my paintings in their life. Obne client told me that my painting makes her feel so happy, so alive. It’s mind boggling,” she says.

Where to see Enhorning’s work

Vancouver Island collectors have purchased the bulk of Enhorning’s work, though she has buyers in Vancouver and Toronto, and is represented by a gallery in Waterloo, Ont. She sells through galleries as diverse as the Salish Sea Market in Bowser, Embellish, an interior design store in Duncan. She will be the featured artist at the Stock Home gallery in the Kitsilano neighborhood of Vancouver. Her work can be seen locally at her gallery and the Blackfin Restaurant in Comox.

Unlike some artists, Enhorning enjoys doing commissions, partly because it appeals to her architecture background and love of design. She uses 3D software from her former house design career to mirror a client’s room and create graphics of different size painting on the wall. Then she creates at least three different paintings for the customer to choose.

You can view Enhorning’s work on her website,, on Instagram @enhorning design or at her public gallery in Comox, 1671 Comox Ave, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Next exhibition: Miami, Florida

Since Decafnation visited with Enhorning in October, she had a successful show in San Diego, selling seven large paintings and acquiring two commissions. It was so successful that her series on women was shipped from San Diego to Miami, Florida, for an exhibition in early December. She’s also adding new work for the Miami show.

How a special painting brought her parents together

Just how deep is Marianne’s Enhorning’s connection to art? Well, without art, she might never have existed.

It was a painting by her grandmother, Louise Peyron, that brought Enhorning’s parents together.

Here’s how Marianne Enhorning’s mother tells the story

“My mother was an artist. Her best friend was a journalist for one of the Swedish daily newspapers. She had a younger brother who was a doctor. He wanted to purchase some art, and asked his sister if she could arrange for him to see some of her friend’s work.

“So, he was invited to visit my mother in her studio. Looking over her various paintings, he selected one, and that was a portrait of a young girl.

“Oh, my mother said, that is my daughter, and I normally don’t sell portraits of my children. But, since you are my best friend’s brother, I might be willing to make an exception.

“So, he bought the painting of me, took it home, put it on his wall, and began to think that he would like to meet this girl ….

“Soon after, my mother gave a Christmas party, and among the guests were, of course, her best friend with her brother.

“I had helped with preparations for this party, baking various cakes and cookies, and this young man showed an enormous interest in these cookies, asking me to describe in detail how they were made.

“So, I told him! The rest is history!”






Marianne Enhorning: architecture to art

Marianne Enhorning mixes her love of nature and the human figure with subtle architectural elements to create dreamlike paintings that establish her place in her family’s artistic heritage

Book reports from the DecafNation — 2016

On Jan. 1 every year, the DecafNation presents its annual collective Book Report. I know what you're thinking, "Hey, this is the first time I've seen this Book Report." You're right, because the DecafNation didn't exist on Jan. 1, 2016. But we plan to make this an...

The Decafnation lists its favorite books read during 2017

The Decafnation lists its favorite books read during 2017

On January 1 every year, the Decafnation presents its annual collective Book Report. Thanks to everyone who took the time to share short reviews of books they enjoyed during the past year. You can read last year’s Book Report here.

Mary LeeWhat on Earth am I here For? by Rick Warren. Why? To find the answer to the ultimate question.

Arzeena HamirStation 11 by Emily St. John Mandel. It’s a glimpse at a post-apocalyptic Canada

Ken AdneyHow We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson. And I’m currently re-reading Robert Heilbroner’s The Worldly Philosophers, which holds up as a simple introduction to economic thought (and the economists).

Brent ReidBarbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan. In this Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, Finnegan portrays his lifelong obsession with surfing the most challenging beaches in the world–some of them previously undiscovered. His descriptions of his fellow surfers, the code they follow, the magnificent beaches and breaks they find, and the death-defying rides they take are fascinating.

Maingon Loys — Defending Giants by Darren Frederick Speece was a pretty illuminating read. It is a history of the Redwood Wars, very useful insights. It makes a very good case exposing how conservation strategy is only transitory — somewhere human beings have to re-evaluate their priorities

Joe ScuderiMan’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankel. It’s short but profound. Hillbilly Elegy was also excellent.

Kim SlenoA Column of Fire by Ken Follett. Read the first of this trilogy Christmas Day 1989. As a lover of history it gave me a glimpse of the past.

Jessie KerrI Was Told To Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad by Souad Mekhennet. The story of a German Muslim reporter who traveled to interview several ISIS leaders. She reported for a major German daily, The Washington Post and the NY Times. Because she produced balanced stories, those leaders agreed to talk to her. Oddly, I found her stories heartening because she explores her own and other Muslim citizens’ interest in understanding the motivation behind the often violent solutions pursued by these extreme Jihadist groups. I heard her interviewed on CBC’s The Current; I knew then that I must read her book.

Jodi Le MasurierInto the Magic Shop by James Doty

Gordon MasonThe Shadow of Kilimanjaro, on foot across east Africa by Rick Ridgeway. A wonderful journey through a fascinating area in Kenya, Tsavo National Park. An incredible journey on foot from the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro to the Indian Ocean, offering a rare view of East Africa as it is today and how it once was before the inclusion of European civilization.

Dennis Crockford — All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr … wonderful description of the growing characters. And a very different writing style … flipping between the two characters every few pages … off-putting to some but I really enjoyed it.

Wayne Bradley — Ravensong by Lee MaracleMaybe its best because I read it last, who knows? I realize that I am very late for the Lee Maracle party, but I loved Ravensong! Great writing style with good character development, and chalk full of First Nations perspectives. Written i early 1990s, I think, but with perspectives on First Nations / settler relations that are startlingly relevant today.

Bill Morrison — The Boys in the Boat by James Brown. An epic rowing story about the struggle for gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics by an unknown Washington team.

Brad Morgan — Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. A mix of American history, spirituality and allegorical surrealism out of a story about Abraham Lincoln’s grief over the death of his 11-year-old son.

Richard Schmidt — Sing, Unburied, Sing By Jesmyn Ward. A story about the love-hate tensions between races as a black woman and her children take a road trip through Mississippi to pick up her white husband from prison.

Allison Grey — Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. A wonderful love story about how place can affect the heart.

Bobbi Ellison — Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. A WWII-era tale about connecting disparate stories about a father’s disappearance and the rise of a mobster and the host of larger issues this journey reveals.

John Vernon — The Future is History by Masha Gessen. Why post-Soviet Russia rejected democracy for Putin and the threat he poses.

Marcia Sorenson — Hunger by Roxane Gay. How an early-life sexual assault shaped this woman’s body image for life.

George Le MasurierThe Force by Don Winslow. Fictional but insightful peek into the shady world of “dirty” cops in the NYPD. It makes “Serpico,” “The Departed” and “Donnie Brasco” seem tame and shallow by comparison.


Book reports from the DecafNation — 2016

Book reports from the DecafNation — 2016

On Jan. 1 every year, the DecafNation presents its annual collective Book Report. I know what you’re thinking, “Hey, this is the first time I’ve seen this Book Report.” You’re right, because the DecafNation didn’t exist on Jan. 1, 2016. But we plan to make this an annual tradition.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to share short reports of books they enjoyed reading during the past year. First off, submissions from some Facebook Friends.

Jackie Barrett Sharar
Capital Dames by Cokie Roberts — It’s a history of women (both sides) in DC before during and at the end of the Civil War. Illuminating.

Tony Hazarian
Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen — My teenage working-class hero explores his darkest moments and provides a ray of hope in what’s sure to be a very challenging period of American history. Master storyteller.

Sue Finnernon
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara — One of the best books I have ever read. The characterization is incredible.

Joe Ingoglia
I second this (A Little Life). Best book I’ve read in years. Very emotional. really appreciated how, over many years, it portrays love between four young men — sometimes platonic, sometime brotherly, sometimes romantic. It was difficult to read at times because of the raw emotionality of it, but ultimately rang very true for me. The relationships feel like actual relationships — with highs, lows, anger, sadness, joy and love.

Colleen Madden
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah — The less explored perspective of women during wartime (WWII occupied France). How easy it is to misunderstand motivation-your own, your family, your country. Sacrifice, enduring, love. Finding meaning and fully committing to that, in ways small and large, regardless of the possible cost.

Mike Leonard
A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron — As a dog lover with a new Lab puppy teaching me how to be her servant, I was drawn to this book. I am intrigued by the thought of a dog’s reincarnation.

Dave Kent
The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner — A thoughtful study of happiness defined by happy places around the world. Eric travels to all parts of the globe trying to understand what makes people happy. Educational, very fun writing and your left with your thoughts about … what creates an environment for bliss.

Linda Liestman
Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman —  I am not usually drawn to books of this type. It was loaned to me for a post-Christmas vacation read last year, and I couldn’t put it down. I found every aspect of Huguette’s eccentricity and the amazing life of her wealthy wild-west father endlessly fascinating. I could say more, but do not want to spoil it for anyone.

SK Pepper
Dispatches from Pluto by Richard Grant — Grant is originally from U.K. and a travel writer. He buys a large farm home in the Mississippi Delta, sharing real stories about the folk there that seem unreal, and they are true. He captures the culture of this place so vividly.

Michael Colello
Danube by Claudio Magris –During the Cold War’s final years Magris followed the legendary river from its source in the Black Forest to its terminus at the Black Sea. Fusing reportage and personal recollections with musings on history, philosophy, and the arts, Magris’s account is an erudite and stunningly written portrait of Mitteleuropa. I found it wildly informative, professionally inspiring and packed with gorgeous prose. A gem.

Bill Burns
The Remnants by Robert Hill — For the last year of unending politics spiraling downward, it was comforting to find an enjoyable, easy-read novel about the lives of aging citizens of a dying town near Somewhere, USA.
Robert Hill’s prose rambles from hilarious to sly to clever, and then doubles back so it can dive right off into beautiful, heartsick, and poignant. A standout story with unbelievably effective prose. An enjoyable read.

Robert Martin
Being Mortal, Medicine and what matters in life by Atul Gawande — This book is written for both physician and patient. I wish I had read it when I was a 30-year-old physician. Gives some practical advice about how all of us should approach the end of our life.

And here’s a few more from other friends.

Ben Maynard
Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life by Edward O. Wilson — The author believes the human race is on a path toward catastrophe, and probable extinction. But he’s an optimist, and proposes a solution to save our planet. There’s enough of the Earth’s natural ecosystem and biodiversity left to sustain  the planet and the modern lifestyle of humans. He suggests breaking the planet down into spheres, leaving areas such as the Amazon, the Pacific Northwest forests, Antarctica, the oceans etc. undisturbed in their natural state, while humans live in the remaining sphere and take a custodian role. Of course, (my comment) this will require some serious population controls.

Alison Brown
Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein — The struggle for women’s rights is not over, and may intensify during the Drumpf presidency. But this book goes deeper, suggesting that (American) people generally have no understanding of women’s sexuality. Technology, images and marketing present young women with new, perhaps greater challenges.

James Washington
A Rap on Race by James Baldwin and Margaret Mead — This is not a new book, but I reread most of it this year to recall all of its insights on race, immigration, gender and other questions that people think we’ve resolved, but remain just as troubling today.

And, finally, my contribution to this list.

A Voice in the Night by Andrea Camilleri — This is the 20th installment of the 91-year-old Italian author’s Inspector Montalbano series, but not the best. I chose this book, however, to alert others to this series of humorous and poignant mysteries by a little-known writer. Start at the beginning of the series with “The Shape of Water” to follow the threads that weave through the life of a mustachioed, short-tempered and food-obsessed police detective. I particularly enjoy the translator’s notes at the back of each book explaining the Italian nuances and references. There are four more Montalbano novels yet to be translated.