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Joan Balzar (November 8, 1928 – January 16, 2016) was a Canadian artist, known for her vividly coloured hard-edged abstract paintings, which sometimes included metallic powders or neon tubing.

Joan Balzar
Born(1928-11-08)November 8, 1928
DiedJanuary 16, 2016(2016-01-16) (aged 87)
North Vancouver, British Columbia
EducationVancouver School of Art
Known forArtist


Joan Balzar was born Wilma Joan King in Vancouver, British Columbia, on November 8, 1928, and raised in Victoria by parents Wilfred and Mae King.[1] She studied commercial art briefly at the Broadway Edison School in Seattle, Washington. She graduated with honours from the Vancouver School of Art in 1958, where she studied with Jack Shadbolt, Joseph Plaskett, and Peter Aspell. After graduation, she attended the Painter's Workshop Summer Session provided by the UBC Extension Department. She also studied in Paris, Guatemala, and Mexico.

She was married in 1950 to Roman Balzar, an engineer; the marriage lasted for 22 years, and she continued to be known professionally as Joan Balzar throughout her life. She married a second time, to Alexander Cotter, taking his name but not using it professionally.

Joan Balzar died on January 16, 2016, in North Vancouver.[2]


Joan Balzar has been accorded significant retrospectives at the Belkin Satellite in 2003,[3] the West Vancouver Museum in 2009,[4] and Simon Fraser University Gallery in 2011,[5] for which an exhibition catalogue Joan Balzar: Vancouver Orbital was published.

When she was traveling in Guatemala, she was commissioned to paint in Tikal, and held a solo exhibition at the Biblioteca Nacional, in 1959; the exhibition was reviewed in several local papers, including Diario de Centro America,[6] and Prensa Libre.[7]

Joan Balzar also exhibited in solo and group exhibitions at commercial galleries, including the New Design Gallery, Bau-Xi Gallery, and Elliott Louis Gallery, and public galleries including the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, the West Vancouver Museum, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Federation of Canadian Artists.

Balzar's work Perimeter was one of more than 160 works included in the Seattle Art Museum's Northwest Artists 53rd Annual exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum Pavilion in 1967,[8] and one of five artists awarded a purchase prize;[9] Perimeter is now included in the permanent collection at the Seattle Art Museum.[10]

Her painting Yellow X was included in Focus '69 at the Bau-Xi Gallery, and was recognized by critic Charlotte Townsend-Gault as "one of the best pieces in the show", and by critic Joan Lowndes as "the smasher of the show". Yellow X was later borrowed by the Vancouver Art Gallery for their exhibition "Vancouver 1965-75" in 1995, and was subsequently purchased for the Gallery's permanent collection in 1996; it was exhibited again in PAINT,[11] and reproduced in the catalogue Paint: A Psychedelic Primer.[12]

Her work was included in Idyll at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery in 2008,[13] and she participated in an artist talk with Audrey Capel Doray, moderated by artist and curator Lorna Brown.[14]


Joan Balzar's work is found in public and private collections in Canada and in the United States, including the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery[15] at The University of British Columbia, the West Vancouver Museum[16] and the Seattle Art Museum.[17]


  • Jeffries, Bill. Joan Balzar: Vancouver Orbital. Burnaby: Simon Fraser University Gallery, 2011. ISBN 978-0-9868581-0-9
  • Szewczyk, Monika, et al. Paint: A Psychedelic Primer. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, 2006. ISBN 978-1895442618


  1. ^ Weder, Adele. "Joan Balzar: Abstract painter stood out in '60s West Coast art scene". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  2. ^ "Obituary: Joan (Balzar) Cotter". The Vancouver Province. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  3. ^ "Joan Balzar". Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  4. ^ "Joan Balzar 1960+". West Vancouver Museum. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  5. ^ "Joan Balzar: Vancouver Orbital". SFU Galleries. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  6. ^ "Joan Balzar Inaugura Interesante Exposicion". Diario de Centro America. 26 September 1959.
  7. ^ "Escena por Apuntador". Prensa Libre. 28 July 1959.
  8. ^ Grooms, R. H. (18 November 1967). "Canadian Art Exhibition Worth Trip to Seattle". Victoria Daily Times.
  9. ^ Northwest Artists 53rd Annual. Seattle, Washington: Seattle Art Museum. 1967. pp. Brochure.
  10. ^ "Joan Balzar". Collections - Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  11. ^ "Paint: 7 New Painters + BC Painters Since the 1960s" (PDF). Vancouver Art Gallery. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  12. ^ Szewczyk, Monika; et al. (2006). Paint: A Psychedelic Primer. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery.
  13. ^ "Idyll: Three Exhibitions". Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  14. ^ "Audrey Capel Doray and Joan Balzar in Conversation with Lorna Brown". Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  15. ^ "Joan Balzar". Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery - Collection. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  16. ^ "Our Collection". West Vancouver Museum. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  17. ^ "Joan Balzar". Seattle Art Museum - Collections. Retrieved 6 March 2016.