Celebrating the arts in Brome Missisquoi
Featuring Bernice Sorge
By Rhiannon Day
Special to Brome County News
Bernice Sorge did not become an artist with that specific goal in mind. While studying science in university, she would occasionally paint with a friend in the woods surrounding campus. During her studies Sorge realized that something about pursuing science felt incomplete and that art, whether it be painting, drawing, or even writing was a way to fill that void. While never really considering herself an artist, she continued to create throughout her early years. After settling in the countryside of Dunham, her soon-to-be career was jumpstarted through the encouragement of a friend from Arts Sutton who had the opportunity to see her paintings. She recalls her second push to pursue art was the need to fund renovations for the church studio she had bought. On a whim, Sorge contacted the Minister of Cultural Affairs to apply for a grant for the work.
With this support, she was able to create the first printmaking studio in the Eastern Townships, and began her long journey of creating art.
This local artist has a plethora of talents, writing, painting, drawing, and sketching being among them. However, above all Sorge is best known for her printmaking. Her prints, often centered around the topic of nature, have been showcased around the globe, notably in Canada, France, Japan, Syria, and the United States. Sorge explained that her prominent subject of leaves is symbolic. “This is where we come from, this is what feeds us… the leaf brings us together, it makes us all the same because we all need to be fed and have shade, and have trees, and plants,” she explained. “The leaf is the family tree of life”.
This message is evident throughout her work; her studio is filled with local leaves that she collects, often all found within her seven-acre backyard. She is always on the lookout for a new leaf. Her botanical prints are hand-made by Sorge herself, using her own technique that she developed in 1993. She now has a numerous collection of plates and prints featuring local wild plants.
Among the highest accolades awarded for her work include the First Prize of Excellence for the Pancanadian Exposition of Printmaking in 1993, the 1999 Prize of Excellence in the Art and Culture category from the Cowansville and Region Chamber of Commerce, and the 2004 Innovation Prize of the Nova Scotia Print Council. Sorge is also prominently featured in the Jean-Claude Bergeron Gallery in Ottawa, Ontario, as well as the Open Studio Gallery in Toronto, Ontario. Her exhibits have been highlighted locally, and around Québec and Canada, as well as around the world in South Carolina, New York City, Tokyo, Damascus, Nice, Strasbourg, and Paris.
Sorge is currently working on a range of projects, including finishing a memoir of her mother. She enjoys writing a haiku a day, as well as drawing with just a pencil and paper to get back to the basics of her art. This local artist finds inspiration within her family by drawing photos of pre-pandemic gatherings. In the future, she plans to publish her memoir of her mother, as well as a book of poetry. As well, she is beginning to plan a show of her visual work combined with her writing, potentially titled “To Turn a New Leaf”. Sorge can also be found enjoying the vegetables from her organic garden along with her three sons, five grandchildren, and her husband. To learn more, readers are encouraged to visit her website, bernicesorge.ca, or make an appointment to visit her studio.
This project has been made possible by the Community Media Strategic Support Fund offered jointly by the Official Language Minority Community Media Consortium and the Government of Canada.