Art to Adore

I was fortunate to attend the National Gallery of Canada while the recipients of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts 2016, were on exhibit.  When I attend such a large collection as is available at our national gallery, it is typical that I feel particularly drawn to some work.  Sometimes, it is because I have followed particular artists over my years…sometimes, it is because the work is new to me, but visually, very exciting.

One woman’s work that has been of great interest to me all of these years is that of Jane Kidd.  She is original and a technical-sensory genius when it comes to tapestry.  I’ve picked up brochures about the artist, read what I could and viewed a few excellent short films about her process.  Her work, for me, is always organic and, typically, elements of nature are embedded.  I relate with this work.  I was so excited to see that she was acknowledged so beautifully in the gallery this past summer.

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Edward Burtynsky’s photographs have been represented very well in Calgary.  I’ve had the opportunity to connect with them in the Glenbow Art Gallery and in several exhibits that feature the best of Canada.  My own interest in environment and the exposure of the human mark on the landscape has always drawn me to Burtynsky’s work.  While I am involved in the rather sad practice of picking other people’s litter from the ground of a single pond ecosystem, Edward Burtynsky uses his images to speak to the collective about the impact of their choices.  His works have a lot to do with consumption and my favourite documentary has to be Manufactured Landscapes.

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Wanda Koop’s work, in its minimalist sense, always feels fresh and eloquent.  I’ve been blessed to have great space on her canvases in several instances.  I’ve always left feeling very blessed by  time spent standing in front of her work. This opportunity was no different. Her painting speaks about the collective conscience.  Many paintings, for me, talk about the consumption of land.  They are atmospheric in their nature.

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Bill Vazan was new to me.  This piece was a very potent image and I simply had to engage it and feel awed by it.  By connecting with it, I became fully aware that there was, inherent to the piece, depth of thought and energy and travel. The culminating piece is complex and intriguing.

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Some years ago, I read Verna Reid’s book, Women Between: Contruction of Self in The Work of Sharon Butala, Aganetha Dyck, Mary Meigs and Mary Pratt.

In Women Between, Verna Reid explores the evolving perceptions of “self” in the work of four Canadian women – visual artists Aganetha Dyck and Mary Pratt, and writers Sharon Butala and Mary Meigs. All four came into prominence in middle age, doing their most significant work in their mature years. They, along with the author, are members of a transitional generation of women, occupying the space between the traditional world of their mothers and the postmodern world of their daughters. The multiple roles they have played are reflected in the strong autobiographical content present in their work. Applying feminist and autobiographical theory, Reid considers the work of Butala, Dyck, Meigs, and Pratt in light of the influences that have shaped their senses of identity. As a contemporary of her subjects, Reid infuses her interviews with the four women with sensitivity and immediacy, lending a unique perspective to the exploration of their lives and work.

Sharon Butala’s writing is some of my favourite writing.  And, I’ve enjoyed reading about Mary Pratt and her practice as I tried to find my own way, making art and raising a family at the same time.  But, what really intrigued me was, discovering through this book and a single lecture at ACAD, the interesting practice of Aganetha Dyck.  To encounter her work at the National Gallery of Canada, gave me chills.  A wonderful moment for me!  What a joy to share this viewing with two of my nieces.

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Beyond Canada…other pieces were in the gallery, to adore.  A progression of work in the exhibit, A Solitary Mexican Modernist: artist, Rufino Tamayo‘s (1899-1981) exotic use of colour mirrors, I think, the climate and texture of Mexico.  I really enjoyed this work and liked the experience of seeing how, over years, the work progressed.  This exhibit marks 25 years since the artist’s death.  It was an honour to see this and in some ways, a visual relief at that point.

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I enjoyed interacting with the dynamics of the Ai Weiwei’s tree.

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There are so many fabulous documentaries and things written about Ai Weiwei’s practice and the intolerance he has endured as an artist, a person, and a mind.  I was blown away that I had the opportunity to celebrate a piece of his work in our national gallery.  I recommend my reader’s further investigation.

Perhaps one of the most potent sculptures that I encountered was this one, by Brian Jungen.  Strong social commentary, Brian Jungen’s found object sculpture do not fail to impact.  Lots to read about Brian on line.  Enjoy.

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If you have the chance to get out to the ‘big’ galleries…you will never be disappointed.  Canada…a prosperous and blessed Nation!  We need to celebrate our opportunities as artists and as citizens.  Never take the arts for granted!

 

 

Where are you, Ronnie Burkett? Connecting with a photograph!

I am continuing to explore Edward Burtynsky’s present-day exhibit, Encounters, featured at the Glenbow Art Gallery, one photgraph at a time.  A tremendous puppeteer and artist in his own right, Ronnie Burkett selected Burtynsky’s photograph, Temagami #18, Abandoned Iron Ore Mines, Sherman Mines, Ontario1991. 

Temagami #18, Abandoned Irone Ore Mines, Sherman Mines, Ontario 1991 Edward Burtynsky

This photograph is a part of Glenbow’s permanent collection.  Again, I am no stranger to Temagami and that part of the world, so this image feels personal.  The very small image that I am able to include here does not give justice to the overall message in Burkett’s narrative.  His message feels very optimistic and views the setting of Burtynsky’s image as just that, a set…he envisions the space as a theatrical environment…a stage backdrop and delivers an amazing description of the space.

 

The East Pit of Sherman Mine in Temagami, Ontario from the air. M. Nelson via Wikipedia

Where are you, Marie Delorme? Thinking about a photograph!

Container Ports #10, Delta Port, Vancouver, British Columbia Photographer: Edward Burtynsky

As I continue to look back upon the Glenbow exhibit, Encounters,  I am very much intrigued by the people who were guest curators and their approach to selecting a single photograph by Edward Burtynsky for the exhibit.  Marie Delorme is the CEO for the Imagination Group and is a mentor to many, it seems, in every aspect of her life.  I was moved by the narrative that was exhibited alongside her selection of Container Ports #110, Delta Port, Vancouver, British Columbia.  The gist of Marie’s narrative is that manufacturing and consumerism pulls humankind away from our connection with nature.  I can’t agree more.  I agree that there has to be some reconciliation happen between humanity’s need to consume…and its ability to protect the planet, all at the same time.  This can no longer be a matter of (P)olitics and/or polarized views…somehow we have to come more to a middle in our understanding of the issues.  Thank you for your selection, Marie Delorme and best wishes on your journey!

As you view the Burtynsky photograph,  there is a pathway.  Where does it lead?

Where are you, Linh Ly? Spending time with a photograph…

I first saw Linh Ly’s work while viewing an art talk at the Triangle Art Gallery/Museum of Contemporary Art MOCA.  On exhibit, was the most intriguing piece, a huge tapestry constructed from what seemed to be a zillion photographs.

Reoccurances: Photo Tapestry by Linh Ly 2005

I was absolutely captivated by her talk and felt that it made references that I had formerly used in some experimental pieces in the studio, where I had reconstructed blocks cut from my oil paintings, into traditional quilting patterns on panels.  It was a wonderful thing to see that she was one of the guest curators for the Glenbow exhibit of Edward Burtynsky’s work, Encounters.

The piece that she selected for the Glenbow exhibit was Uranium Tailings #12 Elliot Lake, Ontario.  I chose to feature this piece because I was curious about which of Burtynsky’s pieces would captivate another photographer, someone who has also explored the notion of environment, but from a different point of view.  Linh Ly has published a book titled, The Spaces Between Us.

Be obscure clearly. E.B. White

Uranium Tailings #12, Elliot Lake, Ontario, 1995 Photographer: Edward Burtynsky

Where are you, Tanya Harnett? Connecting with photographs!

Cold Lake First Nations: Damaged Spring at Blueberry Point 2011, Collection of the artist, Tanya Harnett

Directly from the Glenbow Museum Exhibition Schedule…

Tanya Harnett is a photographer who uses her art form to explore notions of spirituality and materiality, technological modes of representation and hierarchy of media. Join Tanya as she discusses how her practice as a photographer engaged her in this curatorial process and how her own photography shaped her decision when selecting a Burtynsky photography for the exhibition.”

If you wander the internet, you will find all manner of project that Tanya Harnett has been involved with.  As guest curator for Encounters, she selected another Edward Burtynsky piece that is powerful for me, Nickle Tailings #30, Sudbury, Ontario.  Through my university-years 1973-1977, I used to travel back east by train, to visit my parents in Ontario.  I remember the view out my window, forehead against the glass window, as we journeyed early in the morning through the devastation of Sudbury’s landscape.  This was my place of birth.  This image spoke to my heart as I stood before it in the Glenbow Museum yesterday afternoon.  Thank you for selecting this particular piece, Tanya.

Nickel Tailings #30, Sudbury, Ontario Photographer: Edward Burtynsky

Where are you, Jeff Melanson? Connecting with a photograph!

Carrara Marble Quarries #26, Carrara, Italy, 1993 Edward Burtynsky

Of the photographs exhibited in Encounters, Jeff Melanson chose Edward Burtynsky’s Carrara Marble Quarries #26, Carrara, Italy.  Burtynsky’s quarry explorations are compelling for many reasons, but especially for the mere scale of the excavations that he has observed.  We are reminded, where Carrara is concerned, that Michelangelo and other masters carved such sculptures as David out of Carrara marble.  This same marble continues to be excavated to this day.  After a very sensitive observation of the photograph, Melanson, president of the Banff Center, includes the following quote by Francois Voltaire (1694-1778).

“C’est a ce prix que vous mangez du surre on Europe.”

'C'est a ce prix que vous mangez du sucre en Europe', illustration from chapter 19 of 'Candide' by Francois Voltaire (1694-1778) engraved by Pierre Charles Baquoy (1759-1829) 1787.

 Here, Melanson reminds us that our ways of living DO come at a cost.

Where are you, Fred Stenson? Connecting with a photograph!

Homestead #39, Alberta Foothills, Highway 3, Fort Macleod, Alberta by Edward Burtynsky

Fred Stenson, author of The Trade, Lightning and The Great Karoo, chose an Edward Burtynsky photograph that feels the most nostalgic for me.  Given my love for south western Alberta and my forever-connection with the Oldman River, it only makes sense that this one, for me, is the charmer!  In fact, I got to weeping as I read Stenson’s narrative that was posted on the wall, next to the photograph, Homestead#39, Alberta Foothills Highway 3, Fort Macleod, Alberta.  He wrote at some length about Charcoal, a Blood Indian.  I remember reading Charcoal’s World by Hugh Dempsey during the university-years.  My tears, then, were tears of frustration at the sadness.  While this Burtynsky photograph is not so literal in its portrayal of a consumed land…I feel the same way as I look at it.  It remains a photograph of consumption if you think about it the way that Stenson has framed it.

Where are you, Cam Christiansen? Connecting with a photograph!

Shipyard #11, Qili Port, Zhejiang Province, China, 2005

Cam Christiansen chose as his ‘encounter’ with Edward Burtynsky’s work, one of my favourites, Shipyard #11, Qili Port, Zhejiang Province, China, 2005.  In his narrative, this gifted film maker, draws comparisons between the image and bleached whale bones…he observes how the upper reaches of the ship’s body fragment and break apart, exaggerated by the minimalist sky.  He also looks at the colour palette and sees the similarities between the composition/colour and the traditional works of the West Coast Haida.  I’m so glad for Cam Christiansen’s selection, here.

Where are you, Danny Michel? Connecting With a Photograph!

Oxford Tire Pile #2. Westley, California (1999). Photograph by Edward Burtynsky.

Of Edward Burtynsky’s photographs curated for the recent exhibit, Encounters, Danny Michel chose  Oxford Tire Pile #2 Westly, California.   It was a very frustrating thing, that the Glenbow did not provide, for purchase, a catologue of these works, along with the adjoining narrative.  The words shared by each guest curator were so fitting and in most cases, moving.  I had to plod along writing notes, as I always do, and spent a generous amount of time visiting with each photograph.  I’ve written about Burtynsky’s work before.  I went through a phase of needing to watch Manufactured Landscapes once a week…for a very long time…I never cease to be amazed by the beauty that this photographer captures in such ‘difficult’ subject matter! 

And what of Danny Michel?  One thing that he got me thinking about was, “Yeah….what would the Sumerians think about this photograph?  Inventors of the wheel…would they have ever imagined tires in such abundance, discarded in huge heaps?  Overwhelming imagery!