19 December 2017

1st ANNUAL BOOKS ISSUE

  FROM THE EDITOR

 

Welcome to the first annual books issue of Galleries West Digital. In these pages, we explore a full range of arts publishing in Canada with information about some 40 books and catalogues either published this year or due out shortly. We believe it’s the most comprehensive guide you'll find this year.

Our cover story, How the Year Stacks Up, provides a quick lay of the publishing landscape and highlights some of this year’s major art books. We also feature four special articles that focus in greater detail on books about photography, Indigenous art, women artists, and fine craft and design.

We made a conscious choice to opt for breadth rather than depth, hoping to point readers to a range of options that might interest them rather than impose our choice of a handful of this year’s “best bets.” Even so, I’m sure we’ve missed some worthwhile books. One thing I discovered while managing this project is that there’s no one place to go for information about Canadian art books. I ended up browsing in bookstores, searching publisher’s websites, combing through various art and literary journals, and checking distributors like ABC Art Books Canada. So I encourage you to add books you’ve enjoyed (or perhaps even published) in the comment section below our stories to give other readers more information.

This issue’s final feature is a “readers’ choice” list of favourite books, old or new, domestic or international. We're grateful to everyone who sent along suggestions for this eclectic list. Again, you're most welcome to add your choices to the comments section so we can continue the conversation.

As for my favourite books? Through the years, I’ve gone through phases where I've read intensively about particular artists – for instance, I became fascinated by Picasso when I lived in Paris, and Georgia O’Keeffe and Emily Carr when I returned home to Canada. One book I remember with special fondness is Anne Truitt’s Day Book: The Journal of an Artist. I picked it up years ago, and it opened a window into the creative process long before I decided to go to art school. Thumbing through it now, I’m struck by the intimacy and lyricism of Truitt's voice. I need to read it again.

Earlier this month, I spotted another remarkable book at the opening of Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria. The show’s catalogue – like the show itself – offers stunning examples of nature photography via an international contest organized by the Natural History Museum in London. As it’s a quiet time in the art world, it seemed a worthy cover choice for the next issue of Galleries West Digital. The show draws attention to the plight of different animal species, some on the verge of extinction from preventable human causes like hunting and ecosystem destruction. Those images filled me with wonder, but also evoked sadness and anger, and I resolved to step up my support for conservation. I hope you will too after reading more about these inspiring photographers – including one who is just five years old – in our first issue of 2018.

On behalf of all of us at Galleries West Digital, I wish you peace and happiness for the coming year.

Until next time,

 

MASTHEAD

19 December 2017

Volume 2 Number 26
Copyright 2017

ISSN 2561-3316

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)
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Consulting Editor Jeffrey Spalding
Reviews Editor reviews@gallerieswest.ca
Contributors Paul Gessell, Mary-Beth Laviolette, Steven Ross Smith
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Tom Tait
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COVER STORY

How the Year Stacks Up

Oooh, art books! These tantalizing coffee-table stunners are hard to resist with their fascinating imagery and top-notch design. Each detail – whether the type of paper or the choice of fonts – demonstrates a rarefied commitment to quality and vision. It’s hard to walk past a book published by Phaidon, Abrams or Taschen, three of the big international players, without a covetous sigh. Canada isn’t in quite the same league: a less populous country means the market for niche books might well fit in the proverbial telephone booth, if one still existed. It’s challenging for publishers to turn much of a profit when they sell only a thousand copies. So art books can be risky financial ventures in this country, particularly for an industry reeling from closures and takeovers amid the turmoil of globalization and the digital revolution. Still, art books continue to be published, often in conjunction with exhibitions and subsidized through partnership deals with galleries and, indirectly, by taxpayers via cultural subsidies. But everything that makes art books appealing – the large format, the lavish photography, the quality binding – drives up production costs. “It’s always been a balancing act because the books are so expensive and the market is small,” says Howard White, the publisher of Vancouver-based Douglas & McIntyre and Harbour Publishing. “It’s difficult to do a lot of books.” Although he has no industry-wide statistics, he thinks fewer art books are being published these days in Canada. “I do sense there is less being done,” says White, who has been active in publishing since the 1970s. Of course, some books consistently do well. The Group of Seven and Emily Carr continue to attract buyers, a testament to their enduring importance as Canadian icons. As well, items with international appeal, like Douglas & McIntyre’s 2016 book of photographs by Wade Davis, a National Geographic explorer in residence, can also find buyers in foreign markets. More ►
– Portia Priegert

FIVE THINGS

Extraordinary Books on Indigenous Art

1

SakKijâjuk is a word in the Labrador dialect of Inuktitut meaning “to be visible.” It’s also, fittingly, the name of a touring exhibition that lavishly introduces – “makes visible” – Inuit art from the region known by Indigenous people as Nunatsiavut. This unique collection of sculptures, photographs, fur fashions and more will be shown at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, starting May 26. Can’t get to Winnipeg? Then buy the accompanying, stylish coffee table book SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut. The author, Heather Igloliorte, an important voice in Inuit art these days, is an art history professor at Concordia University in Montreal. The book, a joint project of The Rooms in St. John’s, N.L., and Goose Lane Editions in Fredericton, is just one of the many extraordinary illustrated books on Indigenous art published this year in Canada. SakKijâjuk is not about stereotypical Inuit art. Instead, there are ghoulish night-time photographs by Jennie Williams, surreal oil paintings by Mark Igloliorte, classy silver work by Michael Massie and fire-engine red sealskin fashions by Maria Merkuratsuk. Another Goose Lane book about breakthrough Inuit art, this one on the drawings of the late Annie Pootoogook, is to be published early in 2018. The book and an ongoing exhibition at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ont., are both called Cutting Ice, a term the McMichael says implies “something that matters or has consequence.” More ►
– Paul Gessell

 

FIVE THINGS

Craft and Design: Five to Check Out

2

This may sound a little over the top, but 2017 is a banner year for books about Canadian fine craft and design. Of course, when talking about books, what I’m referring to is more accurately described as exhibition catalogues. But big deal. These publications can contain as much good reading, photography and design as a standard book. And this year, five notable publications stand out, all with something pleasurable to look at and read. First off is a bilingual publication, Canadian Craft Biennial, produced by the Art Gallery of Burlington and Craft Ontario. It scores high for how it covers the content of its main exhibition, Can Craft? Craft Can! Sure, the exhibition title is a tad corny, but how fortunate to be presented with images of each work along with nine essays that examine different aspects of Canadian contemporary craft. Sandra Alfoldy, a leading historian in Canadian craft, considers three key transformations in the handmade between Canada’s 1967 centennial and the 150th anniversary this year. Critic and artist Amy Gogarty explores the theme of sustainability by highlighting some works in the exhibition. And individual artists, including Karen Cantine, Beth Biggs, Cheryl Wilson Smith and the phenomenal jacquard weaver Ruth Scheuing, are given longer essay-style treatments. More ►
– Mary-Beth Laviolette

FIVE THINGS

Photography: Historical Themes Popular

3

Their clothes are often ragged, their beards wild and bushy. But most unforgettable are the eyes; they shine with optimism, daring and a disquieting intensity. These are the fortune hunters, the men who headed west to the 1848 California Gold Rush. Their images were captured by various photographers in daguerreotypes, a new photographic process at the time. Those amazingly preserved images now appear in a rogues’ gallery of a book called Gold and Silver, which accompanies an exhibition of the same name, on view until April 2 at the National Gallery of Canada. The book was authored by Luce Lebart, director of the Canadian Photography Institute, a branch of the gallery. The exhibition also includes a few Klondike Gold Rush photos taken half a century later in Yukon. The California daguerreotypes were part of a donation of 11,000 images and objects to the photography institute in 2016 from the Archives of Modern Conflict, a London-based organization that maintains a vast lens-based collection. Gold and Silver is just one of many recent books on the market (or soon to be) that focus on the art of photography, both historical and contemporary. Another gem, of doorstop proportions, is titled Notman: A Visionary Photographer. It tells the story of William Notman, the Scottish immigrant who opened a photography studio in Montreal in 1856 and became Canada’s first internationally known photographer, creating dazzling portraits of Montreal’s rich elite. The Notman firm also sent photographers west to capture turn-of-the-century images of a small, dusty town called Calgary and sweeping vistas of the Banff area. More ►
– Paul Gessell

 

FIVE THINGS

Preserving Women’s Stories

4

Mary Schäffer – adventurer, writer, painter, photographer – is captured by historian Colleen Skidmore in her book, Searching for Mary Schäffer: Women Wilderness Photography. Part of a recent spate of books that preserve the stories of women artists, it tells how Schäffer, born into a wealthy Philadelphia family, defied convention by making four-month horseback excursions north of Banff, accompanied by a female companion and guides, in the summers of 1907 and 1908. One of the first white women to visit the area, she painted stunning watercolours of the alpine flora and took remarkable photographs of Indigenous families. She published accounts of her travels, best exemplified by her 1911 book Old Indian Trails, a hit in North America and Britain. It was even reviewed in the New York Times, and favourably so. Schäffer travelled widely to give public lectures and show her slides, and her work appeared in magazines in London and New York. In 1908, she visited Japan and photographed the Ainu people on Hokkaido, part of the growing genre of women’s travel writing that emerged as international transportation improved. By 1912, Schäffer’s adventures were subsiding. One of the book’s final images is an elegant portrait of Schäffer, a dog at her feet, sitting beside a large fireplace in her Banff home, Tarry-a-while, where she lived until her death in 1937. Skidmore’s book, published by the University of Alberta Press, is academic in tone, but engaging nonetheless. It deservedly fits Schäffer into a historical narrative mostly populated by men. Meanwhile, another history of a Canadian artist who defied gender stereotypes – Mary Riter Hamilton – was also published this year. An early war artist, she grew up on a Manitoba homestead, and endured hardship and danger to paint the battlefields of France and Belgium in the immediate aftermath of the First World War. More ►
– Steven Ross Smith

FIVE THINGS

Readers Make Their Choices

5

Searching for something good to read this holiday season? We decided to reach out to the community – our readers, our writers, artists that we’ve covered over the years and people who work at galleries – for suggestions. We’ve gathered an eclectic list of titles: Some hot off the press and some old favourites, some top sellers and some that will be harder to find, whether in Canada or further afield. Naughty or nice, you’re welcome to check out this list. If you have other suggestions, please add them in the comments section at the end of the story, so this collective gift can keep on giving. And so, without further ado … Reader Shayla Perreault, a Vancouver artist who works at the Contemporary Art Gallery, was the first to send in her suggestions. She reads a lot and says her favourite is a 2006 book, The Yellow House, by British art critic Martin Gayford. Perreault says his account of the nine weeks Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin spent as roommates in Arles in 1888 is a page-turner. “It’s easy to get wrapped up in Vincent’s dreams and hope they turn out, at least for a time,” she says. “Gayford makes a topic we may think we know about feel fresh and exciting.” In Winnipeg, artist and writer Cliff Eyland recommends After Kathy Acker by Chris Kraus. This 2017 biography of Acker, an American writer, performance artist and all-round bohemian, was based on archival research and conversations with Acker’s friends two decades after her death. “Fascinating stuff,” says Eyland. “I’m studying it, really.” More ►

 

Norman Cohn, Pauloosie Qulitalik, Lizzie Qulitalik, Mary Qulitalik, Rachel Uyarashuk, Jonah Uyarashuk and Zacharias Kunuk (left to right) on the set of "Nunaqpa (Going Inland)" in 1990.

NEWS ROUNDUP

Inuit Art a First for Venice Biennale

The artist collective Isuma, Canada’s first Inuit video-based production company, will represent Canada at the 2019 Venice Biennale. It’s the first time Inuit art has been presented at the prestigious art festival. Isuma, meaning “to think, or a state of thoughtfulness” in Inuktitut, was founded in 1990 by  Zacharias Kunuk, Norman Cohn and the late Paul Apak Angilirq and Pauloosie Qulitalik and created the first video-based work to win a major award at the Cannes Film Festival. Previous projects include Atanarjuat The Fast Runner, Nunavut (Our Land), Maliglutit (Searchers), Hunting With My Ancestors and The Journals of Knud Rasmussen. Canada’s exhibitions in Venice are commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada and produced in partnership with the Canada Council for the Arts. The project’s curator will be announced in 2018.

Meanwhile, in other news:

  • Exposure, Alberta’s photo festival, will feature more than 40 exhibitions in Calgary, Banff, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and elsewhere throughout February.
  • The 2018 Capture Photography Festival in Vancouver kicks off April 3 with a talk by internationally renowned photography curator and critic David Campany.
  • Vancouver-based artist Vanessa Lam is the winner of the 8th annual Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series for emerging artists in Miami Beach.
  • An important early painting by Emily Carr, Le Paysage, has been acquired by the Audain Art Museum in Whistler, B.C.
  • Travis Cole, the editor of BlackFlash Magazine, will become the executive director of Saskatoon’s Paved Arts in January, replacing Alexander Rogalski, who is moving to the Saskatchewan Arts Board.
  • Matthew Hills is the new director of the Grenfell Art Gallery at Memorial University in Newfoundland. Hills spent the last five years managing the University of Alberta Art Collection in Edmonton.

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