Shelter in Paint: a portrait of an empty house

Lacey Jane Wilburn

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West wall in the Libby Leshgold Gallery.

Shelter in Paint: a portrait of an empty house is an investigation into private space and private thought through the visual language of representational painting. These works oscillate between gesture and reality to speak about thresholds, about the doors we close between public and private life. Traditionally a portrait artist, my MFA work shifted greatly with the pandemic, and I began to explore the private sphere through domestic space, personal objects, and exterior facades as related to the psychological concept of interiority. The resulting work excavates these empty spaces for their ability to retain the presence of the human figure, atmospheres that flicker and shift between imobile spaces to present the perceptive intricacies of human habitation.

The act of painting and the materiality of the medium are as integral to my work as the spaces I am rendering. I create saturated worlds of paint that respond to the psychological intensity of the domestic world, creating parallels between space and thought through disruption, fragmentation and merging forms. Each work drives from a photograph that is first circumvented by colour, underlayers that seep up and submerge between the layers, moving into constructions that disturb and transcend the traditional confines of space to render sensations beyond the camera: atmospheres made visible, or the colour of silence. A slippage of paint between beauty and discomfort, virtuosity and impulse. Working with impasto paint, vibrating colour schematics and chiaroscuro techniques, I strive to generate moments of “stilled life;” gestures of the in-between moments that are less frequently trespassed upon in art. An immersive landscape of private space that appears organic, undulating and alive to make visible the emotional power of domestic space, the rift between public and private life, and the power of interiors to render portraits of the inhabitant.


66 x 72 inches, oil on canvas, 2022

Lukewarm, details

Pretending to Sleep

72 x 66 inches, oil on canvas, 2021

Pretending to Sleep, details


48 x 66 inches, oil on canvas, 2022

Detail of Watchdogs. Photo credit Micheal Love.


54 x 42 inches, oil on canvas, 2021

Detail of Sleepwalking. Poto credit Micheal Love.

In this town, we pull chipped teeth

54 x 42 inches, oil on canvas, 2022

Detail of In this town, we pull chipped teeth. Photo credit Micheal Love.

Daylight: Divided

30 x 24 inches, oil on canvas, 2021

Grief Blossoms and Granola

24 x 24 inches, oil on canvas, 2021

Medicine cabinet

30 x 24 inches, oil on canvas, 2021

A room with a view

36 x 30 inches, oil on canvas, 2020

Installation view, Micheal O’Brians Exhibition Commons, 2022.

Lacey Jane Wilburn

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Lacey Jane Wilburn (b. 1988, Edmonton, Alberta/ Treaty 6 territory) studied Fine Art at the University of Grant MacEwan in Edmonton from 2007-2009, and graduated Concordia University in 2016 with Great Distinction after completing studies abroad at L’Ecole d’Enseignement Supérieur d’art de Bordeaux in France in 2015. In 2010 she formed the urban art duo L.A.L.A. (Lacey And Layla Art) who have created over 100 murals across Canada, as well as in Honduras, France, Uganda and Iceland. She has participated in over 40 exhibitions since 2009, and was the recipient of the Yves Gaucher Prize in Studio Arts in 2016, the D. L. Stevenson Colour Scholarship for Academic Excellence in 2014, and the Francis Henderson Klingle Scholarship for Fine Art, The Barbara and John Poole Family Endowed Fund for the Arts, and the Jason Lang Scholarship for Excellence in 2009. She currently works and resides in Vancouver on the ancestral and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations. Her upcoming solo show, Shelter in Paint: A Portrait of an Empty House will be on display at the Michael Wright Art Gallery in Port Coquitlam, BC/Kwikwetlem First Nation from June 27 to September 29, 2022.

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