4 July 2017

MARIA HUPFIELD

FROM THE EDITOR

 

I'm sitting at my desk on Canada Day, proofreading this issue and thinking about what to say in this note. By the time you read these words, July 1 will have come and gone, 150 years marked, and our American neighbours will be celebrating their national holiday.

While our biweekly publishing schedule means there's no sesquicentennial  issue per se, stories about various commemorative projects have been a recurring theme since Galleries West Digital launched last November. This issue notes yet another: a voyage through the Northwest Passage by a rotating roster of artists, a project duly covered by veteran Ottawa arts writer Paul Gessell. At the same time, we have also considered how artists are interrogating this anniversary. Our June 20 issue, for instance, featured a cover story on Kent Monkman and his critique of colonial history, work now showing at the Glenbow in Calgary. This issue's cover story is about Anishinaabe artist Maria Hupfield. Her work considers identity, community and how, as Murray Whyte, of the Toronto Star, has written, "meaning can change, sometimes radically, when the context shifts."

Whyte can turn an elegant phrase, and it's always a privilege to edit his writing. His story on Hupfield demonstrates again why he is one of the finest (and, let's face it, few remaining) visual arts writers in the Canadian newspaper industry. It's often said that teachers learn as much from their students as their students learn from them, and I think the same holds true of editors and writers. I know my writing has improved by editing other writers, mulling over things like clarity, brevity and (sigh) grammar, while trying to preserve voice and a depth of insight. Editing is an inexact art, a balancing act in which perfection, as with most things in life, is a frustrating chimera. But, of course, that's also what makes it interesting.

That said, I have spent some time working with a new writer from Calgary, Catherine Carlyle, who considers Adrian Stimson's fascinating project about Indigenous soldiers in the First World War. Poking through an array of websites as I fact-checked her review reminded me again how much I love the varied journeys that artists take, and also how important it is to encourage and develop new writers.

A good arts writer is much more than someone who knows the arts: Along with a sensitivity to language, it also takes curiosity and attentiveness, a willingness to dig for interesting details, as well as a clarity of vision to describe a piece of art so readers can visualize it. And, of course, let's not forget the courage it takes to set out one's honest response to the work. It can be a vulnerable place. Editors are a safety net, not just to catch spelling mistakes and other blunders, but to challenge assumptions and push for excellence.

We're in an interesting time, here in the chasm of the great analog and digital divide, watching lumbering old publications die, or transform into flimsy spectres of their storied past. Sure it's easy to set up a blog these days, and come and go they do, sometimes useful, sometimes not, but largely functioning beneath the tide of public awareness. It's often difficult for emerging writers to get the kind of attention they need to develop craft skills and critical vision. Gigs for arts writers are increasingly few and far between.

Galleries West has taken the leap into digital, asking writers, new and old, to produce stories under tighter deadlines and provide substantive and varied coverage that is accessible without sliding into triviality. Our writers track what's happening in Western Canadian art communities, large and small, helping to create a magazine that's fresh and timely. If you have already signed up for the email reminder that we send out when we publish a new issue each second Tuesday, we thank you. If not, this is a chance to support artists – and arts writers – as Canada embarks on its next 150 years.

Until next time,

 

MASTHEAD

04 July 2017

Volume 2 Number 14
Copyright 2017

Galleries West Digital is an online magazine published every second Tuesday to promote and advance the visual arts. Launched in 2016, it replaces the print version of Galleries West magazine, which covered art and artists in Western Canada for 15 years. Our award-winning website, gallerieswest.ca, the repository for all content, is an open archive of information about the arts in communities large and small throughout Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columba as well as Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

Editor Portia Priegert
editor@gallerieswest.ca
250-382-0567 (Victoria)
Toll Free 866-415-3282
Consulting Editor Jeffrey Spalding
Reviews Editor reviews@gallerieswest.ca
Contributors Catherine Carlyle, Beverly Cramp, Paul Gessell, Murray Whyte
Publisher
Tom Tait
publisher@gallerieswest.ca
403-234-7097 (Calgary)
Toll Free 866-697-2002
Advertising Director advertising@gallerieswest.ca
403-234-7097 (Calgary)
Toll Free 866-697-2002
Social Media Editor listings@gallerieswest.ca
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Toll Free 866-697-2002
Mailing Address Galleries West Digital
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We acknowledge the support of the Alberta Media Fund for our publishing program.

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Maria Hupfield, "The One Who Keeps on Giving," 2017, two single-channel video projections with sound, 15 min. loop, courtesy of the artist and Galerie Hugues Charbonneau, Montréal

COVER STORY

Maria Hupfield: The One Who Keeps on Giving

Maria Hupfield has spent the last seven years in Brooklyn, a far cry – in every respect – from the decidedly less urban surroundings of Wasauksing First Nation near Parry Sound, Ont., where she grew up. It was a calculated move – Hupfield was positioning herself at a critical distance from the rising tide of Indigenous contemporary art making in Canada, determined to find her own voice. So for her first major homecoming at the Power Plant in Toronto last winter, an exhibition now on view at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery in Lethbridge until Sept. 10, some careful introspection about her roots was very much in order. There, alongside her established sculptural practice of remaking everyday objects – a snowmobile helmet, a cassette tape player, boots, moccasins, a canoe – with industrial felt, an effort to neutralize loaded symbols and reduce them to simple, pliable form – Hupfield made a pair of videos. Called The One Who Keeps on Giving, they’re the same, but intensely different. In the gallery, they face off against each other, taking turns, one after the other. Both show Hupfield – impassive but peaceful – holding a small oil painting of turbulent blue waters. Around her is a procession of intense music and movement: Her brother and sister, both professional powwow dancers, perform the slow, deliberate steps of a ceremonial dance. Her sister, a powwow singer, gives voice to the unfolding scene. The difference here is the setting. On one screen, it unfolds under a wash of warm light on the wooden stage of the Stockey Centre in Parry Sound during an Indigenous storytellers’ festival. On the other, the same performance, but on the cool concrete floors of the Power Plant itself, the performers active against a backdrop of stark white. More ►
– Murray Whyte

 

Students take in the Pangnirtunug Fjord in Nunavut on a 2016 Students on Ice expedition. Photo by Lee Narraway / SOI Foundation.

FIVE THINGS

Artists Voyage Through the Northwest Passage

1

When Geoff Phillips, an artist from Maple Creek in southwest Saskatchewan, boards the former Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Prince for a unique voyage marking Canada’s 150th birthday, he plans to set one of his canvases out on deck and start working. Phillips is an experienced plein air painter and often straps canvases to his back as he mountain bikes from his home to nearby scenic spots in the Cypress Hills, where he is artist-in-residence at Canada’s only interprovincial park. But Phillips will encounter very different landscapes when he participates in a Canada 150 project that’s taking a rotating roster of artists, scientists and other passengers on a 150-day voyage of discovery from Toronto to Victoria through the Northwest Passage. The voyage, which began June 1 and ends Oct. 28, includes about 60 passengers at any one time. It is organized by an educational charity, Students on Ice, and is funded by the federal government and other donors. Each of the 15 artists picked by a jury spends a week or two on board the ship, renamed the Canada C3 (to refer to our three coasts), stopping at various communities along the way. Phillips, one of five artists from Western Canada and the North, will be on the second last of the voyage’s 15 legs, travelling along the British Columbia coast from Bella Bella on the mainland to Campbell River on the east coast of Vancouver Island. More ►
– Paul Gessell

Elad Lassry, "Devon Rex," 2011, chromogenic print and painted frame, courtesy of the artist, photo courtesy of 303 Gallery, New York

FIVE THINGS

Elad Lassry’s Unsettling Beauty

2

In the age of Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, almost everyone has become a photographer. The proliferation  – some might even say the visual pollution – of images staggers the imagination, making it harder for photo-based art to capture attention. But a solo show at the Vancouver Art Gallery by Elad Lassry, an Israeli artist based in Los Angeles, challenges perceptions of what contemporary photography can be. Lassry, born in 1977 in Tel Aviv, came of age as analog technology was being overtaken by digital. He moved to Los Angeles in 1998 to study film and photography. After earning an MFA, his work quickly caught the attention of galleries around the world. Lassry’s images – some 70 are on view until Oct. 1 as part of his first major exhibition in Canada – are both exquisite and disquieting. The subject matter is familiar – food, cute animals, everyday objects and movie stars from the 1970s – but presented in unusual ways. Take, for example, his domestic cat images. Selkirk Rex, LaPerm is, at first glance, a diptych of two shaggy orange-haired cats. But the backdrop is an acid green hue one wouldn’t expect; it’s unnatural and unsettling. The frame is the same green. More ►
– Beverly Cramp

Adrian Stimson, "TRENCH," 2017, durational performance on the Siksika (Blackfoot) Nation east of Calgary

FIVE THINGS

Adrian Stimson Honours Indigenous Warriors

3

Military coordinates – 50° 50′ 3″ N 113° 4′ 22″ W – indicate the pivotal location of Adrian Stimson’s latest interdisciplinary performance, TRENCH, created to honour the often-overlooked histories of thousands of Indigenous soldiers in the First World War. Stimson’s compelling durational performance from dawn to dusk for five days, from May 23 to May 27, on land near his familial home in the Siksika (Blackfoot) Nation, about an hour’s drive east of Calgary, was based on his research into conflicts like the 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge in France. Stimson decided to dig his own trench after learning about the complexity of trench warfare and the visceral physicality of life and death on the front a century ago. His work is part of the contemporary art contributed to War Stories: 1917, on view until Aug. 27 at Calgary’s Military Museums. The University of Calgary’s Founders’ Gallery, housed in the museum complex, also contributes two other present-day perspectives: Ontario artist Jason Baerg offers a contemporary take on an Indigenous soldier and Alberta artist Dianne Bos presents photographs of historic battlefields as they appear today. However, TRENCH, one of four performative interventions by Stimson, is a highlight. More ►
– Catherine Carlyle

 

 

Paddy Lamb, "Rapture of the Deserted," charcoal and wood, 90" x 114" x 24"

FIVE THINGS

Paddy Lamb’s Broken Treasures

4

Alberta artist Paddy Lamb studied history at Trinity College in Dublin as a young man, and his love of the past  has never left him. Now, a lifetime later, he is showing All Bones and Broken Treasures, poetic semi-abstract work that evokes the land and its stories. These latest pieces, on view at Edmonton’s Front Gallery until July 15, combine expressive drawing and painting with objects he has found out walking – animal skulls, bits of rusted farm machinery and the like. For his sombre installation, Rapture of the Deserted, for instance, Lamb uses old pallets, painted black and topped by two weathered fence posts. Behind are three charcoal drawings of bits of machinery he picked up here and there. The work’s religious overtones can’t be ignored. The pallets are stacked to resemble an altar. And, of course, triptychs have a long history in Christian art, although they typically feature golden icons replete with the promise of a wondrous afterlife. Lamb, who moved to Canada in 1985, says he was thinking about early settlers when he made the piece. “The formal traditions that they left behind in Europe probably would have included altarpieces and churches and things like that, and they would have been deprived of that in a way, but also forced to rely very heavily on pieces of equipment that were their livelihood, really. So I was just merging the two, in a way.” More ►
– Portia Priegert

 

David Robinson, "Draped Figure," 2009, unique paper and resin, 31" x 44" x 15" photo courtesy of Robinson Studios

FIVE THINGS

David Robinson’s Conditional Figures

5

Vancouver sculptor David Robinson is interested in the human body. An artist for the last 25 years, he describes his work as humanist realism that explores basic, often metaphysical, questions about existence. His show, The Conditional Figure, at the Pendulum Gallery in Vancouver until July 21, includes a dozen pieces that span the last decade, often showing the body in a dynamic way. His paper-and-resin sculpture, Draped Figure, for instance, features a reclining figure almost at the point of falling. The sculpture, made in 2009, started from a loose sketch of a suspended figure, a common theme in his work. “A lot of them have been grappling in some way with their means of suspension,” he says. “It was interesting to me to remove that grappling, struggling aspect and have the figure quite limp and leaning into the space in a different way.” Robinson says working with paper encourages intuitive exploration. “The way that material would hang and sway, and the weight of that form in the middle, begat this notion that the figure could almost be slipping, in the precarious moment of almost falling from that cradling hammock-type form.” The work thus becomes both a psychological and metaphorical commentary on the human condition. Robinson uses a range of media – everything from bronze, iron, steel and silver to polymer-gypsum, cement and hydrostone – and his work varies in size. Originally from Toronto, he studied at the Ontario College of Art and has exhibited nationally and internationally. He is represented by the Newzones Gallery of Contemporary Art in Calgary. More images ►

Sylvia Grace Borda, "John and Theresa Southam, Waits News, Baker Street," 2017, exhibition prints, 36" x 24" and Google street view dimensional tableau at http://tinyurl.com/y7bfbk4r

NEWS ROUNDUP

All You Need is Love (and Kisses)

6

Need a little love in  your life? Then check out The Kissing Project on Google Street View. Vancouver artist Sylvia Grace Borda has been staging images of people smooching in and around Nelson, B.C., as part of her  residency at the Oxygen Art Centre. Borda, who has worked with Google Street View since 2013, was inspired by a photograph of a Doukhobor couple kissing on a Nelson street in the 1950s. She put out a call asking people to suggest kissing partners. The kissers stood motionless while their image was captured by a panosphere camera, creating a 3D portrait with multiple viewpoints. Theresa Southam posed with her husband, John, at Waits News, a place they used to meet 30 years ago, before they were married. “We later fed our children ice cream there,” says Southam. “It’s the centre of town, and the meeting place for so many. To us, it’s really amazing that the shop still maintains its orginal layout.” Meanwhile, Holly Strilaeff shared a kiss on her 38th wedding anniversary with husband, John, outside the Nelson courthouse, the same spot as the Doukhobor couple. “With this image we hope to share our love with others,” says Strilaeff. An exhibition of 15 prints from the series, along with statements from participants, is on view at Oxygen until July 8. Curious how Borda does it? It’s too complex to explain here, but check out her website at  sylviagborda.com/kissing-project.html.

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