– Words and photography by Lia Crowe
I meet Victoria’s Leah McDiarmid at the Tofino Gallery of Contemporary Art to discuss life and style, but first take time to revel in the gallery’s splendor. Colour, large shapes, dynamic curves; the gallery is so alive with an inspiring selection of pieces that I am distracted from the task at hand as the art takes me.
“I bought my first painting – a Herbert Siebner – when I was 23, paying for it in installments.” Leah tells me. “Thirty-two years later, between raising a family…running a business and going to school, I landed at the Tofino Gallery of Contemporary Art [which opened in June 2021].”
Leah has spent her entire life on Vancouver Island and expresses her love for this island paradise.
“My Tofino chapter began in 1996 when my husband Bruce and I moved here from Victoria with our infant sons, Conor and Tyler. Our family opened the Wickaninnish Inn that year, paving the way for many wonderful experiences and opportunities. Living, working and raising a family in Tofino was a gift in so many ways.
After returning to Victoria in 2008, Leah completed a program in interior design and architecture, while continuing to remotely operate Tofino Vacation Rentals, a business she started in 1998. In 2015, she started studies at UVic, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree. [with honours] in Art History and Visual Studies in 2020.
“Going to college as a mature student was initially daunting, but incredibly rewarding and rewarding.”
Integrity is an innate quality in Leah and woven into everything she does. When asked what excites her about her work, she replied, “Connecting people with meaningful and resonant art. For me, the Tofino Gallery of Contemporary Art enables connectivity and creativity in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I am fortunate to be supported by a very talented and diverse roster of BC artists, whose works in painting, sculpture and photography are exceptional.
Life and Style Go-Tos:
Favorite morning coffee: Triple dose oat milk latte from Rhino Coffee.
Icon Style: Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.
Favorite (past) artists: Caravaggio, Bruegel, Matisse, Rubens, Rothko, Riopelle, Bill Reid.
Favorite Performance Artist: Marina Abramovic.
Most impactful site-specific painting: Picasso’s Guernica.
favorite interior designers: Axel Vervoordt, Kelly Wearstler and Pierre Yovanovitch.
Favorite museums: Guggenheim Bilbao, Reina Sofia Museum, Rijksmuseum.
Favorite Cocktail: Tanqueray 10 Martini (shaken, not stirred).
Rotating album: The State of Jazz.
Favorite cities to visit: Belfast, Leiden, London, Madrid, Mexico City, Oaxaca.
Favorite flower: Pink.
Favorite app: Artsy.
Favorite place in the world: Chesterman Beach.
What lifts my spirits in these difficult times: Bird’s song.
Favorite print magazines: Architectural Digest and Strive.
Favorite online magazines: Magazine Gallery and Mutual Art.
Favorite Coffee Table Book: What Great Paintings Say, by Rainer Hagen and Rose-Marie Hagen.
Last good read: Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Reading: Own Meares Island, A Historian’s Journey into Clayoquot Sound’s Past by Barry M. Gough.
Favorite Books of All Time: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Marquez, and Trinity by Leon Uris.
Uniform: Upcycled Rag & Bone jeans, Styly leather belt, ankle boots, upcycled Hermès sweater.
Favorite piece of all time: Recycled DKNY protective jacket (A La Mode Consignation).
Favorite shoe brand: Wanda Panda.
Favorite work tool: My Stanley level.
Favorite jewel: Rolex Vintage (Francis Joailliers).
Fashion Obsession: Scarves.
Necessary indulgences: Facial care (Serenity Aesthetics).
To smell: La Paloma body butter.
Story reprinted courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a publication of Black Press Media
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