A dialogue between worlds


Dear Artist,

I once took a turn as a sometimes player in a New York rock band. The leader, a long-haired, Gibson SG-wielding screamer who also studied Buddhist meditation, told me that in Rock ‘n Roll, making it clear about what you’re against rather than what you love is most effective. With this formula, rockers have successfully defined themselves. By kicking off a point of view, they have united, disrupted and inspired their audiences.


“You were Here”
acrylic on 24 x 24 inch canvases
by Sara Genn

Since acquiring this nugget of wisdom, I’ve often wondered how it might apply to visual art. As painters, we approach our altars with reverent kneeling to work mostly at the beautiful: nature, storytelling, fantasy, love. Even when in protest, a painting lionizes its subject — makes icons of things. You need only think of a can of Campbell’s soup to know what I’m talking about.



“Girl and Sun”
acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24 inches
by Sara Genn


In art, saying what your work is against may be as simple as not trying too hard to say what your work is against. Even without a spit-sprayed shower of profanities hurled over a mosh pit of mohawks, there’s still a way to exalt the object of your obsession while also suggesting what’s in the negative space. In painting, this dialogue between worlds emerges in a less performative package, instead sharing space in your room and life and speaking in a human-scaled timbre, in a language of patient and quietly unfolding details that develops over time. Your painting speaks. It may listen, too. It may comfort as a harbour of unity or even spark revolution. Your painting, in its own way, can still astonish, stir and stun as decisively as a smashed Gibson on a stack of Marshalls.


“Kwakiuth in Johnstone Strait”
acrylic on canvas, 20 x 40 inches
by Robert Genn (1936-2014)



PS: “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.” (Pema Chödrön)



“Sara in the Algonquin Wood”
acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 inches
by Robert Genn

Esoterica: Next Saturday, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of our joint show, Like Father, Like Daughter, my dad and I will show together again. In 1997, at 24, I had shaken off enough of the pedagogy of my BFA to steal a decadent, private period of 10,000 hours. My dad, at 60, was warmed up and humming in the care of the subjects he loved so much. When I think back to that time, a smile spreads for the early-flush moments of colour-work, an ever-sweetening friendship with my dad, and the intimacy of our joint participation in the never-finished quest. More recently, old and new friends remark about the “dialogue” that has appeared over time between our paintings. Perhaps for all of us, a unique, multiplexed world exists in which we form the favourite themes of our conversations with comrades, our points and counterpoints richer for the back and forth. What we each long to communicate or avoid, anticipate or listen to in the presence of someone is revealed without being forced. For all of us, conversations are yet to unfurl. They do so naturally, in their own way, refreshed with time, never finished or completed.


Robert Genn and Sara Genn: Like Father, Like Daughter — 20 Years Later opens April 22nd, 2017 at Canada House Gallery in Banff, Alberta and is on view until April 30th.

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.” (Pema Chödrön)



  1. Your Girl and Sun painting really struck a chord with me. My theme this year is SIMPLIFY. You couldn’t simplify anything more than this painting. The scale, the colors – so simple yet says so much in many different ways.

  2. Mary Manning on

    You are finding your own voice, Sara! So important. Many artists I have known never leave the BFA mentality and do not leap into their own voices. Love your work.

  3. Sara, apart from the challenge to my thinking about art, the very poetry of your words is beautiful. Like father, like daughter, indeed….but as you have done with your art, you have made your voice stand on its own. I look forward to each of your letters, and continue to be thankful for the Genns.

  4. Sara Wishing you a very successful Father and Daughter Show at Banff.

    I love your paintings Girl and Sun and the entire series. Very unique and beautiful

    Helen Tilston

  5. Try as I might, I don’t get abstract art. Sara, your letter today also didn’t make much sense to me until got to the esoterica comment……that I loved.
    Thank you ❤

  6. Dear Sarah,
    I saw two of Robert’s paintings at a home while visiting Hong Kong this month, I was excited to see them, two landscapes of sizes approx. 9″ x 12″ images. The folks I visited were from Canada.
    I wish I can be at your father and daughter show, if you have a book published on this show, let me know. This email is confidential.

  7. Diana Childs on

    Sara: my very best wishes for your show in Banff…I am thrilled for you and thrilled you taught me about mixing grays on Cortez at Hollyhock. Your Dad was an icon for all of us. Thank you for continuing all of the accumulated wisdom!
    With fondness,

  8. Mary Gayle Selfridge on

    Wishing you all the best Sara and I know you will feel your Dads presence .I appreciate his letters and yours as well.Blessings

  9. The most beautiful and valuable gift that your Father gave you Sara, was one of individuality.
    Obviously both of you have an innate talent but the beauty of this connection is the difference.
    He gave you the gift of self! You are not a carbon copy and have found a unique path of your own.
    Mutual respect abounds.

    How I wish I were near enough to see this exhibit!

  10. I rarely comment but tonight feel so strongly to say Thank You and Chapeau!
    The thank you is for your weekly inspiration, food for thought and celebration of our creative community. You must know how many are positively touched by your art and writings. This is no small thing Sara and I honour you for it.
    The ‘Chapeau’ is for the Banff show and for the spirit waltz of father and daughter to the music of their art and love.

  11. Sara – I am very struck with your recent work. Do you have any upcoming exhibitions in California? Would love to view your paintings.

  12. Valaida D'Alessio on

    Sara. Thank you so much! I love these letters. My son is a potter and works in porcelain. I work in mixed media. It is so great to enjoy each other’s work. I am 79 and he is 56. We live on Maui and we both are proud for each other when we get into a juried show. I am sure your dad was proud of you!

  13. Talk about synchronicity! I was in Banff just this morning and passed by Canada House. As I did so, I thought, I should go in and see if any of Robert’s paintings are on display. But I didn’t do it, despite the thought entering my head twice. But now I will be sure to head to Banff (from Canmore) on the 22nd. I wonder if you will be there……..


    Verna Korkie

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