FROM THE EDITOR
When I was studying for a Master's degree at UBC, we read theory – a lot of theory. Often, the most profound insights were the simplest. Like Judith Butler's assertion that the self is never fully transparent to itself, an idea I disputed at the time but have since come to realize is achingly true. Then there is Eve Sedgwick's statement that "people are different." This I had less trouble accepting – I'd made that discovery as a young journalist. Over and over, I would think I knew what people were going to say, and over and over they would surprise me. One wonderful thing about talking with strangers, whether you're a reporter or not, is that you never reach a point where you can no longer be surprised. There is always something to learn.
While working on this issue, I had yet another surprise – a marriage proposal, of sorts. It was a first, popped out in that odd, lopsided intimacy that the best journalists seemingly conjure out of nowhere. "Hey," the artist said, "if you married me, you could have all my work." OK, maybe that's just what passed for flirting back in the day, but I took it more as an artistic cri de coeur of an existential nature: "Who will care for my work after I am gone?" It reminded me of calls I've had from strangers over the years – here at Galleries West and also at the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Arts, when I worked there, from relatives facing a studio crammed with work after an artist's sudden death. Bereft and overwhelmed, they are faced, on an intimate personal level, with preserving meaning or erasing a history.
I understand the pain of dismantling a studio. Before I moved to Victoria, my precious $100-a-month sanctuary in Kelowna was facing redevelopment. I sold what I could, gave away pieces to friends, and made a trip to the dump. There's something heartbreaking about standing at the lip of an open pit and tipping art you've worked and reworked, yet never quite resolved, into the abyss. It's not as sad as breaking up with someone you love, or scattering the ashes of your parents, but it's the loss of something close to the bone, something once imbued with such possibility.
Where is this all leading? Well, not to be too metaphysical, but this issue of Galleries West, like many before it, seems guided by an invisible hand. Stories I assign piecemeal, in haste, somehow morph back finding echoes in other stories, creating a network of invisible threads, a rhizomatic growth I could never have planned. In this issue, the last before a sesquicentennial both celebrated and contested, I feel the ache of history, identity and the passage of time.
As Canadians, our collective understanding of history is more complex than it was 50 years ago. We are less a country of mindless boosterism; we have a more nuanced, if still emerging, understanding of the shadow side of history, the human and environmental costs tithed at the altar of colonialism and the reductionist erasures of unofficial histories and cultural identities, to list but a few. This sensibility, to me, is reflected in the latest work of Kent Monkman, Karen Tam and Tammy McGrath, as well as some pieces in the Oh Ceramics show in Medicine Hat. They invite reflection about where we have been and how that understanding informs the future.
As always, I end this note with a gentle request to sign up for the email reminder we send out when we publish a new issue each second Tuesday. As a subscriber to this free online magazine, you help sustain our growth, and we, in turn, help sustain artists and their work. Many in the West have been left out of national conversations about culture. Galleries West Digital is a way to make artists more visible. Canadians are diverse, different one from the other. In hearing the stories of others, we mature and become more transparent to ourselves.
Until next time,