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North Saanich artist brightens pandemic with whimsical signs

North Saanich artist Anna Trelford offers two reasons, one practical, the other more profound, behind her decision to decorate the fence of her West Saanich Road home with hand-painted signs whose subjects range from the risque to the revealing.

“Our fence is ugly and I wanted to cover it,” she said. “I guess just want to make people who walk down the path have a chuckle.”

The hand-painted wooden signs offer for the most part funny, whimsical takes on the COVID-19 pandemic and its social effects in commenting on changing social norms and offering personal reflections. A firefighter at Victoria International Airport, Trelford’s work has been appearing around the Saanich Peninsula since 2008, when she started to paint.

Unable to focus on her normal art, she has instead focused her energies into capturing the current zeitgeist, starting in March.

“A lot of the comments I hear from friends is that they are drinking more, they are eating more,” she said. “So a lot of that reflects the times.”

Consider the following example. “You think it’s bad now?” asks one sign rhetorically. “In 20 years, our country will be run by people home schooled by day drinkers.”

RELATED: North Saanich artist carves out legacy

Others offer a Canadian spin. “Canadian PSA on social distancing,” reads one sign. “6 feet = 1 moose or 4.5 beavers…You are welcome, Eh!”

Others are more risque. “Wearing a mask over a beard looks a ladies underwear ad from 1972,” reads one.

Trelford has interspersed these humorous insights with more inspirational messages that strike a hopeful, even comforting tone.

“Good energy is contagious” reads one sign. Another urges the audience to start each day with a grateful heart.

She has also found ways to pay tribute to three figures who have helped to shape the public’s view of the pandemic in British Columbia: provincial health minister Adrian Dix, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, and their American Sign Language interpreter Nigel Howard.

“They have inspired me a lot,” she said. “I’m not a political person, but the three of them are just dynamite together.”

Specifically, she has painted three signs featuring colourful gnomes holding up signs of thanks for the trio.

Trelford said she received most of inspiration for the signs from a friend on Salt Spring Island, who shares funny posts on her Facebook page. “I just recreated them,” she said.

Trelford started to paint them in March, but does not know how many she has done since then. Depending on the size and subject, it takes her anywhere between a couple of days and half an hour to complete one.

And it instead of having to wait for a show to gauge the response to her work, Trelford can just listen to the laughter that echoes into her garden as people pass her fence, confident in the knowledge their respective days just became a little brighter.

Wolf Depner

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