For Canadian artist Marilyn Batte, opportunity is like an oasis in the desert---it can materialize at the most unexpected moment. Like the recent afternoon in October when Batte, BA/91, was driving to Ottawa for an interview with Carleton University Magazine. While most motorists may have cursed the construction that forced cars to detour off the main road, Batte stopped to admire and photograph the rural autumn landscape----inspiration, perhaps, for her next original work of art.
The 33 year-old Kitchener, Ontario native makes a living photographing landscapes and transforming them into original oil paintings. It's a unique art form described as photo-realism. For the last six years Batte has been living, working and honing her craft in Egypt. This past fall she packed up her immense portfolio and returned to Canada to promote her work to Canadian galleries.
Batte moved to Egypt in 1992 after graduating from teacher's college in Kingston, Ontario. Her teaching degree, combined with an honours degree in architecture and art history from Carleton, landed her a one-year contract to teach visual arts at an international school in Egypt. The aspiring artist was instantly mesmerized by the "timeless beauty" of the Egyptian landscape and before she knew it, the 12-month contract had turned into years. Batte resigned from teaching in 1995 to paint full-time.
With her 15-year-old Minolta camera and a standard 50 mm lens, Batte has since explored and photographed all parts of Egypt ---from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, the Western desert to the Sinai and along the Nile River. She's accumulated over 1000 images. Back in her studio in an apartment in Maadi, a suburb of Cairo, Batte works intensely to transform the "detailed"
images onto canvas using oil paint. In addition to her landscapes, she has also produced some very personal works of realism and expressionism.
Through my paintings I try to transform a blank canvas into the illusion of a three-dimensional space into which the viewer may step," Batte says. "I try to paint so that the viewers feel they are looking through a perfect window."
Batte's own viewpoint as a female artist---a foreigner among predominately Arabic-speaking Muslims where women are veiled and cloaked in dark clothing---is partly what has sparked her success in Egypt. "They say I really flatter their country," she says. "They say I capture the beauty that they don't see themselves."
Batte's original oil paintings and limited edition prints are in private collections in Canada, Egypt, France, Finland, Italy, Trinidad and the US. and she has held numerous exhibitions of her work in galleries in Egypt.
In September, 1998, Batte completed her first Canadian exhibition at the Kitchener/Waterloo Art Gallery in her hometown of Kitchener, Ontario. That exhibition, and a subsequent one at the IlluminaryArt Gallery in Toronto, mark Batte's first foray onto the Canadian art scene. Batte knows there will be adjustments to make as she attempts to establish herself as an artist in Canada. But the roll of film she's tucked away of eastern Ontario's cornfields may just mark the beginning of her new North American collection.
'My goal is to travel across Canada and to begin painting it," she says. "I want to capture the majesty of Canada. It's pretty unlimited."
  Lewis, Nancy "Artist captures Egypt's Beauty on Canvas." Carleton University Magazine, Winter 1999: 30