Art Exhibitions, Museums Displays, and Other Cultural Events
Dec/22/2015: Borealis Gallery, Federal Building, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Magna Carta: Law, Liberty & Legacy
    Displayed a copy of the Magna Carta, dated from 1300, and signed by Edward III, and the accompanying Charter of the Forest also from 1300. Both copies were on tour to Canada from Durham Cathedral. The exhibition celebrated the 800th annivrsary of the signing of the original Magna Carta in 1215. The exhibit was small (maybe 600 SF?) but informative.
    The exhibition included modern English translations of both documents, with an interactive glossary and explanation of terms. It traced modern documents, such as the US Bill of Rights (1791) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), to Magna Carta. Notable that few of the clauses in Magna Carta remain in force; most have long since ceased to be relevant. The ones that do remain in force are the clauses dealing with apprehension of people and the right to justice:
    No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.
    To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.
Feb/13/2014: Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Chagall: Daphnis and Chloé
    A series of forty-two lithographs, created in the 1950s. The series illustrates an ancient Greek story about two young people on the island of Lesbos. It's a rural romance of a goatherd and a shepherdess and their route from innocence to marriage. Chagall's vision is poetic and symbolic and, unless you have the accompanying narrative, it's difficult to understand what the scences represent. Despite their sequential nature, this is not a graphic novel approach! The colours are vibrant and vivid, and the figures and landscape are stylized and abstract. The rural setting is emphazied by recurrent images of flowers, goats, and sheep. The artworks are from the National Gallery of Canada collections.
  • Angakkuq: Between Two Worlds
    Subtitle: Spiritual and Mythological Figures in Inuit and Inuvialuit Art
    Artworks from the north, featuring works from the Inuit Art Enthusiasts group, and curated by Bill and Michelle Tracy. The exhibition consisted primarily of prints and soapstone carvings, with some pieces also made from whalebone and other materials. "Angakkuq" can be translated as "shaman". Many of the works showed transformation or spirit beings intermediate between the human and animal worlds. I especially enjoyed the prints in this exhibition.
  • Of Heaven and Earth: 500 Years of Italian Painting from Glasgow Museums
    About forty paintings from a single museum collection. The start of the collection was a bequest from a local Glasgow businessman, Archibald McClellan, who actively collected in the early 19th century, with the intent of founding a public collection. At the time he started collecting, many artworks by major early Italian artists were not available, so his collection, and the works on display here, mostly represent paintings by less well-known Italian painters. Nevertheless, there are some well-known painters represented in the exhibition, including Botticelli, Titian, and Bellini. Most of the paintings, especially from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have religious themes and iconography - lots of angels, plump pink cherubs, and madonna-and-child images. Later paintings, from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries take up classical themes, with genre scenes and some landscapes. Notable among these was the View of San Giorgio Maggiore by Francesco Guardi, painted about 1760, in which the reflections of the buildings on the water are especially fine. Other memorable works included an Adoration of the Magi, painted on a wooden panel around 1503-1510 by an unknown painter known only as the "Master of the Glasgow Adoration". This painting had recently been restored and it was accompanied by a video showing the work of restoration/conservation including before and after images. Other notable works included two by Paris Bourdon (1500-1571). I was particularly struck by Virgin and Child with Saints John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, and George(?), painted arond 1524. The face and figure of Saint George were especially realistic and evocative. I also liked the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne by Antiveduto Gramatica, an artist unknown to me, painted around 1614-1617. The face of the older woman (Saint Anne) was aged but not threatening or sad. Older people often seem grotesque in paintings but not in this case. The exhibition was accompanied by an excellent full-colour catalogue.
  • Brenda Draney: Suspend
    A small exhibition in the second floor gallery. It featured paintings showing scenes mostly from outdoors. The tent (hence "suspend") appeared in many of the images and was featured in the artist's statement. Some of the images refer to the tent-life undertaken by people in the community of Slave Lake after the fire in summer 2011.
  • Lyndal Osborne: Bowerbird, Life as Art
    A forty-year career retrospective by an influential and well-known Alberta-based artist. This was an exhibition I was especially eager to see and it did not disappoint! The exhibition included prints, mostly from the earlier part of her career, and installations from the later part of her career. I really like the installations! The works included Darwin and the Arc of Time, a work that was also presented at the Biennale a few years' ago, and Tracing Tides: A Topographical Installation, which I think I saw some years' ago at this gallery. I really liked Tableaux for Transformation. This consisted of 320 small alcove boxes, 16 boxes high, filled with seeds, other plant materials, some marine objects, and a few man-made items, including wire fragments. Each box contains a different set of items. The colours and textures of the specimens commands attention. Another striking installation was ab ova, five banks of glass bell jars, each bank consisting of 20 jars arranged in four rows. Many of the jars contained large format seeds in bright colours, and, yes, I recognized many of them, including some large Caryophyllaceae. Of course, an artwork with seeds is bound to catch my attention! I spent a long time walking around and looking at Archipelago. This consisted of 16 small islands or cells, set on either side of a "river" or linear structure. Again, natural objects or specimens form a main part of the installation. There's an interesting video of the artist talking about the ideas behind this artwork; the video was playing in the area outside the exhibit space. A multimedia piece called Tidal Trace was almost hypnotic in its use of the sound of the sea, with a diorama-like connection between a video image of the ocean on the vertical wall and a beach-like installation on the floor. This is intelligent and thought-provoking artwork. The massing of forms is interesting and often arresting, and the colours and textures of the found objects in multiple has an impact that single specimens alone lack. The pieces are filled with curves, sinuous features and shapes, and soft colours. Many of the pieces explore edges or boundaries, river edges, littoral zones, or the interface between the organic and inorganic world. Regeneration and growth are pre-occupations, as evidenced by the use of seeds, flower heads, fruit parts, and even birds' nests. The objects themselves are static and not living, but they hint of life and its promise. The exhibition was accompanied by an informative illustrated catalogue.
Oct/21/2013: Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta
  • Transformations - A. Y. Jackson and Otto Dix
    This was the main feature exhibition. It contrasted the way in which their experience of World War I affected the vision of both artists. Both focussed primarily on images of landscapes.
    Jackson was a war artist, and the commentary drew parallels between his paintings of the battlefields of Europe and his later paintings of Canadian landscapes. Both feature dead, stark trees and there were some striking similarities in composition and perspective between artworks that showed different places but with an almost identical vision.
    Dix was new to me, although I recognized some of his artworks, including several showing wounded soldiers after the war. Dix's artistic vision, bleak and uncompromising, was not appreciated by the Nazi regime and his work was included in the 1937 Degenerate Art exhibition. Much of his work is monochromatic or uses a subdued and dark-hued colour palette. His landscapes are often broken and gashed by war, and trenches and shell holes feature prominently.
  • Made in Calgary: The 1980s
    Only had time for a quick walk through this. Mostly large format artworks in a variety of media, often mixed media. Some representational art, but many more abstract or surreal-type works. Also included some 3-D artworks, ceramics and mixed-media pieces. No real overall theme apparent, although representations of the person were prominent.
  • Historical Art from the Glenbow Collection
    Mostly paintings but some small bronze sculptures. Works focus mainly on the prairies. Included works by Cornelius Krieghoff, Carl Rungius, Paul Kane, Thomas Mower Martin, and Frederick Verner. It was especially interesting to see the different representations of bison in these artworks, from the more romantic to the anatomically improbable.
Oct/20/2013: California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California
  • Spent the entire day at this location, going through as many of the galleries and exhibits as I could. The place was very busy, with a long line up to get in at opening time - good sign! The display space concentrated mostly on live displays, with preserved specimens not prominent or abundant. Because of the concentration on live collections, it had much more of the ambience of a zoo or a science centre than a museum.
  • Steinhart Aquarium
    This was definitely their most trumpeted gallery and clearly, from the promotional material, was their showcase. It featured a large number of very large tanks, both salt water and fresh water, containing mostly fish, but also invertebrates.
  • Rain Forest Gallery
    This was a central cylindrical enclosed space stretching upwards several stories, with a spiral walkway around the outside. This allowed a view of the rainforest ecosystem at different levels within the vegetation, from forest floor and tropical river (one of the aquarium tanks), to canopy. The display area was filled with living plants, including large trees, and lots of vines and epiphytes. There were also live butterflies in the space, especially prominent at the canopy top level. The explanatory text labels were fairly minimal.
  • Evolution Gallery
    This gallery concentrated on Galapagos Islands, as a laboratory for evolution. One of the most striking displays was a large wall panel of human faces, made up of multiple images of different parts of different people's faces, giving the message that humanity is one.
  • Ethnographic Material
    Very little ethnographic material was on display.
Jul/30/2013: Provincial Archives of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Spanning a Century: Edmonton's High Level Bridge through Photographs
    A small exhibition of historic photographs, many showing stages in construction of the bridge. Celebrates the centenary of the opening of the bridge in 1913.
Apr/18/2013: Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • The News from Here: 2013 Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art
    A closer look at the artworks in this show. Several pieces are very memorable. In particular, I enjoyed the following pieces:
    • Herbacentric by Jennifer Wanner
      This was an animation, lasting for about 6 minutes, in sepia tones, that showed plants, forbs really, of vaguely threatening form grow, and appear to devour each other. The plants are often spiky and project leaflets that take on the character of hands to grasp nearby stems. More disturbingly, rather than being fixed in place, the plants appear to have the ability to walk or move, enhancing their threatening nature. Reminded me of triffids, something rather sci-fi-like about the forms and the narrative of consumption.
    • The Wood and Wave Each Other Know by Jason de Haan and Miruna Dragan
      This was probably my favourite piece. Jason de Haan plays a home-made cello in a fire-tower somewhere in the boreal forest. In the centre of the small space, a rotating video camera captures the scene in a continuous progression. We see the cellist reappear every minute or so, while behind him and on all sides, we see the forest and the sky, with clouds, thunder and lightning in the distance, and the sun setting. The music is free-form and winding, not all bowed, but employing a variety of sound styles and techniques. It's a bit dizzying to watch continuously, better for dipping into, but the cello sounds made an ambient background that filled the display space and could be heard when looking at other artworks. This artwork set a certain style or, pardon the pun, tone for the exhibition as a whole.
    • TheBindingLine by David Foy and Jennifer Saleik
      Two figures dominate this piece. One is a large animal-type form, with elongate red wooden ribs that function as legs, and two bear(?) skulls joined to create its head. It looks like a walking skeleton. It is being led on a rope by a large human-sized figure, with an unseen face, and draped robes. The animal is a beast of burden and is carrying another artwork, a circular object, like a shield, built up of layers of resin, each painted with dozens of small detailed realistic images. The object is translucent. Are these figures from fantasy? A representation of a gothic nightmare? I'm not sure, but it was arguably the most dominant and compelling of the large installations.
    • 06.21 by Laura St. Pierre
      It's evening. We are on some abandonned land in an industrial area or some land on the rural-urban fringe. The lights of the city and some buildings are visible in the distance. There are some large (ca. 1 m diameter) industial pipes scattered around. Some have been converted to greenhouses, with plastic sheeting taped or fastened over the entrances, and grow-lights set up inside. In the foreground, an overturned lawnchair suggests that the caretaker has abandonned the site in a hurry. Is this an attempt at self-sufficiency (grow your own food) in the shadowy space between country and city? An attempt to take back the city by using it for small-scale food production? Or an illegal grow-op? What are the plants? How is the power for the grow-lights brought to this site? Who is the caretaker? We are not told, but are left to ponder. The piece takes the form of a large (perhaps 4 m long by 2 m high) colour photograph or digital print. It is sharply-focussed, brightly coloured, and dominant.
    Other intriguing pieces included: a moving panel of lights connected to an organ generating music; a small house as an experiment in minimalist living; an apparently abstract black-and-white wall panel that resolves into women weeping; a plate of coloured tokens or disks; images of a person interacting with a stuffed(?) grizzly bear; and a couple's account of an expedition through some Edmonton neighbourhoods.
  • Transfer Station by David Janzen
    The background in each painting is a landscape scene, often with the sky or uplands as dominant elements. The foreground is some aspect of modern industry, usually the waste products of modern life and industrial activity as represented by landfills and dumps. The images were very much a "compare and contrast" exercise. Nevertheless, they were colourful, striking and attractive. A suite of about eight images were painted on small but different-sized oval panels and mounted as a group. His work is in some ways reminiscent of Edward Burtynsky, though in a different medium. However, the careful juxtaposition of the landscape and artifacts sends a different message. Perhaps that behind the industrial impact, the landscape remains and is not erased. I found this exhibition attractive and very thought-provoking.
  • A Story of Canadian Art: As Told by the Hart House Art Collection
    Hart House is part of the University of Toronto, and concentrates on arts and culture, intended as a gathering place for students. Lots of classic and well-known paintings in this exhibition, from Canadian painters that have become household names, though they were not at the time Hart House collected them. Much of the funding to purchase these works came from the Massey family. Many of the paintings in this display are very recognizable and include works by Tom Thompson, Emily Carr, and Lawren Harris.
  • The Bequest: Ernest E. Poole and the AGA Collection
    Many of these paintings have been exhibited previously, and I have seen many of them in other exhibitions. The collection concentrates on Canadian art and especially the Group of Seven and related artists. This exhibition was mounted in the same gallery room as the Hart House collection, which made sense because many of the same artists are represented in both. At the same time, it made the exhibitions seem like one display and I found it difficult to remember which painting was from which collection!
  • Dutch Landscapes from Rembrandt to Van Gogh
    This was the main-floor feature exhibition, book-ended, as it were, by two of the most famous Dutch landscape artists. Most of the sixty artworks, however, were from the seventeeth and eighteenth centuries. with only a few from the nineteenth centuy. The artworks were mainly pen-and-ink sketches or engravings, mostly very small (smaller than a letter-sized sheet of paper) and incredibly detailed. Windmills, seascapes, and sailing vessels are prominent in many images, as are rural cottages, farmhouses, cattle, and gently rolling landscapes. These are almost all rural scenes. The exhibition included a suite of images focussed on trees, often almost portraits of single trees, several were drawn on blue paper which gave the images an evening-light appearance. The pen-and-ink style of these tree images reminded me of Adrian Hill's sketching instruction books. One of the Van Gogh artworks included in this exhibition was covered with a black cloth, we were told to prevent light damage, which visitors had to lift carefully to see it. The image was called The Swamp and was created in 1881. It was a charcoal(?) sketch of a landscape scene, drawn from a high angle so that the sky is equal in balance with the vegetation as a component of the image. My favourite of these works was Seascape, a late-19th century watercolour by Hendrik Willem Mesdag. A calm evening scene, with many sailing boats in the foreground and distance, and the hint of another shoreline in the distance. One could imagine the smell of salt-water and cry of the gulls, and the sound of the sails across the water.
Feb/22/2013: Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Beautiful Monsters: Beasts and Fantastic Creatures in Early European Prints
    A quick tour of this exhibit to visit some of my favourite works, including Dürer's Knight, Death, and the Devil.
  • The News from Here: 2013 Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art
    A series of about 30 artworks by young Alberta artists, working in a variety of different media, but none in traditional representative painting or art. Many pieces were installations, including various objects and imagery, especially video and types of digital capture.
Nov/30/2012: Bruce Peel Special Collections Library, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • The Spacious Margin: Eighteenth-Century Printed Books and the Traces of their Readers
    This was interesting. A selection of 62 books in which readers have written annotations, comments, dedications, and other marginalia, mostly dating to the eighteenth century. The hand-writing was difficult to read in places, but the useful accompanying catalogue gave transcribed versions.
Nov/23/2012: Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Monsters exhibit brochureBeautiful Monsters: Beasts and Fantastic Creatures in Early European Prints
    At first glance, this didn't seem a particularly interesting exhibition, but it turned out to be oddly fascinating in a rather grotesque way, especially after I discovered that it included several works by Albrecht Dürer. Among these was Knight, Death, and the Devil, probably one of the most widely reproduced and best known works by this artist. I have seen this reproduced in many books, but this was the first time I had seen an actual print of this engraving. What struck me most forcefully was how small the work is. It's only about 10" x 8" but packs in an immense amount of detail. The same was true in fact for almost all of the 50 artworks in this exhibition. Indeed, several of the artworks were only about the size of a large postage stamp. These were all black-and-white prints, mostly woodcuts, with some metal engravings. The earlier ones (i.e., those of Dürer and his contemporaries) tended to be threatening, enforcing good behaviour by showing the torments to which straying souls would be condemned in the afterlife. Much scope here for nightmarish monsters and anguish. Some imagery is vulgar or scatalogical, mocking bodily frailty and weakness. Some later prints, while also grotesque, had more of a satirical air, exaggerating the extreme behaviour of socialites for example. One could perhaps trace a lineage from this to the satirical prints of social commentary by Hogarth for example. The seventeenth century prints often explored the world of classical, especially Greek, legends, with Hercules and his encounters with various monsters much in evidence.
    Although the exhibition was divided into five sections (religious chimeras, mythological creatures, sea monsters, war horses and decorative motifs), there were common elements throughout. In particular, all the work showed a high degree of technical skill, which is all the more remarkable when one thinks of the conditions of poor lighting and limited magnification in which these artists worked. I had to strain my eyes to see detail on these, which certainly made me appreciate the sheer stamina and concentration that must have gone into creating them. The details in the background of many of the images were also fascinating. Allegorical or fabulous scenes were set against contemporary landscapes. So the backgrounds showed cities or countryside in miniature and fastidious detail. Dürer's work is also remarkable for the realism in some of the detail. He's particularly good at representing plants. One print had a clear nettle in the left foreground; another showed plaintain. In this, he reminded me strongly of Leonardo da Vinci, who also did superb botanical illustration. The artworks were all from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. The exhibition was accompanied by a brief list of works, that also contained some useful discussion of the imagery and its iconography and meaning.
  • EDO: Arts of Japan's Last Shogun Age
    This was a tremendously interesting exhibition. It comprised a great diversity of material, including scroll paintings, coloured prints, a few ceramics and pieces of laquerware, several suits of armour and some samurai swords, a large palanquin, and some photographs. The works are from the collections of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
    The works spanned the interval between 1603 to 1868. During most of this time, Japan was closed to outsiders and developed its own traditions and trends, uninfluenced by world events. In 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry, with a small fleet of US navy ships, forced Japan to allow access to foreigners. The exhibition also records this time of transition, and the impact of new technology, including photography. One section of the exhibition, for example, showed portraits of foreigners of different nationalities (Dutch, English, American, Russian) through the eyes of Japanese print makers. This exchange was a two-way street however and Japanese artworks burst upon the European (especially) art scene as something new, exotic and different. In fact, several of the famous and most iconic Japanese artworks (mainly prints) are ones that became popularized shortly after this contact. These include works by print makers Hiroshige and Hirokage, mostly created in the early to mid nineteenth century. Several prints by them are included in the exhibition and illustrate the "Ukiyo-e" genre. These prints emphasized scences of daily life, such as street scenes, travelling, farming, or fishing. Mount Fuji is often prominent in the background.
    One print I particularly liked was called Crossing the Oi River, created by Kunihisa Utagawa. It showed a large group of rafts. Each raft is occupied by one or sometimes two people, usually well-dressed women, and is being carried across the river on the shoulders of four brawny bearers. The men carrying the rafts are only seen from the shoulders up, the rest of their bodies are concealed beneath the waves. Their bodies are pale and naked, contrasting with the colourful concealment of the rich clothes of the passengers. The disparity in class and wealth is stark and yet on the surface this is just an everyday scene.
    I hadn't realized that Japan also had such a tradition of scroll artworks. I generally associate this artform with China. So I found these particularly interesting. Most of the scrolls include calligraphy. I did wish that the labels for the works had included a translation of the texts; this was given for only a few. Many of the scrolls showed distant landscape scenes, often seen as if from a high vantage point, and created with brushwork and neutral tone washes (almost like watercolour washes). In many of them, careful inspection showed human figues, but these are generally small, as if dwarfed or rendered powerless by the immensity of the scenes around them.
  • IMPRINT: Contemporary Art from the AGA Collection
    A small exhibition of works by eight local artists, mostly associated with the Society of Northern Alberta Print-artists (SNAP). Most works were created within the last 20 years. My guess is that the pairing of this display with Beautiful Monsters was intended to show that the art of print making is very much alive. If that was so, I felt this failed in its objective, and the modern works were eclipsed by comparison with the technical skill and detail shown by the older artworks.
  • Paul Freeman: It's Only Natural
    An installation. Two large elk in classical heroic poses, but each with myriad of antlers erupting from their torsos, producing almost tree-like forms. Possibly a commentary on mutation in modern wildlife?
  • Misled by Nature: Contemporary Art and the Baroque
    A series of large installations by six artists. I ran out of time for this, having spent several hours in the Monsters and EDO exhibitions, and will have to go back!
Oct/19/2012: Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau, Quebec
  • The Canada Hall
    No significant changes in this area since my visit several years ago.
Oct/18/2012: Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Ontario
  • Talisman Energy Fossil Gallery
    Concentrates on dinosaurs and was clearly very popular on this wet Saturday morning! The skeleton mounts were excellent. A suspended skeleton of a giant turtle (Archaeolon) was especially impressive.
  • Mammal Gallery
    Dioramas repurposed
  • RBC Blue Water Gallery
    Focus is on the marine world, especially marine mammals. Gallery is dominated by the skeleton of a blue whale.
  • Bird Gallery
    This was very well done. Many bird mounts but repurposed to illustrate aspects of bird biology and behaviour.
  • Animalium
    Live bugs in a bright sunny basement room.
  • Lichens
    A small display of photographs displayed in the Stone Wall Gallery on the lowest floor of the building.
Oct/8/2012: Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
  • A busy place with some interesting art exhibits.
Oct/7/2012: Sagebrush Studio & Galleries, Cabri Lake area, Saskatchewan
  • With a wonderful setting on the south-facing slope of a prairie valley, the gallery has several old buildings that the owner has moved to the site. These form the display galleries for his artworks.
Aug/11/2012: Telus Spark, Calgary, Alberta
  • Newly-opened Science Centre. Spent some time in the Earth & Sky component, watching the visitors interact with the displays. Lots of activities for children. Emphasis on hi-tech and digital technology, including an animation studio. Very few labels or explanatory material with the interactive stations.
Aug/11/2012: Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta
  • Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta
    Watched the introductory video and spent some time looking at display techniques in various areas of the gallery, in particular the use of photo imagery. Noted that the exhibition included three small bronzes by John Weaver: Roughneck (1983), Cable Tool Rig (1979), and The Geologist (1985).
  • The West
    Contemporary artists' interpretation of the West. This was very interesting. I liked The Lone Ranger, a 1986 artwork by James Westergard - a close up of the man's eyes, with the eyes emphasized by the untanned skin where his mask would have been. His skin is tanned and leathery - this is obviously an elderly Ranger! I also liked the Wooden Rider by Ron Spickett, also known as Gyo-zo. Created in 1969, this looks almost like Clint Eastwood in one of his spaghetti western roles, although the features of the cowboy are not depicted,
  • Canada on Canvas
    Forty paintings from the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Included works by Fred Verner, Cornelius Krieghoff, Jean Pail Lemieux, Tom Thompson, Arthur Lismer, Emily Carr, Frederick Carmichael, A. Y. Jackson, and Lawren Harris. Notable works included: La Conversation painted in 1968 by Jean Paul Lemiuex, an unsettling work that showed four ill-defined male figures dominating the foreground, with a snowy winter scene in the background, overall conveying an impression of menace; Mountain Sketch XCII by Lawren Harris; and Aftermath, a 1944 painting by A. J. Casson, that shows a landscape after a storm or after a war perhaps?
  • Critical Mass
    Sculpture by Shayne Dark. Sculptures, mostly made of applewood and ironwood. Exhibition comprised nine large artworks. Among them were Critical Mass #1, #2 and #3 (three large red pieces, taller than me, like giant pillars, with four or five legs each), Critical Mass #4 (bright blue, 5 limbs, sloping, almost alive), Wildfire #2 (cedarwood and paint,a corner piece, stacked, reaching higher, wood grain visible), Blizzard (white, a tangle of long white spikes, ironwood, looked as if it was bursting out of the wall). These were strange but I really liked them.
  • Niitsitapiisinni: Our Way of Life - The Blackfoot Gallery
    Dominant element is a large tipi which extends two floors.
  • Native Cultures from the Four Directions
    Features other cultural groups, complements the Blackfoot exhibition. Notable displays of Inuit and Northwest Coast material.
  • Warriors: A Global Journey Through Five Centuries
    Medieval arms and armour, and historic arms and armaments from around the world. Includes displays of arms from more recent 20th century warfare as well.
  • Treasures of the Mineral World
    Large mineral display. Also includes a panel showing the rock cycle, and a piece of the Acasta gneiss.
Aug/10/2012: Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park, Alberta
  • Blackfoot Crossing brochureExhibitions featuring Blackfoot history and culture, especially emphasizing cultural continuity and ongoing cultural activities, such as the Chicken Dance Championship which had taken place the day before our visit. The building itself is very impressive and incorporates Blackfoot iconography in its design and layout. It echoes the form of a tipi. The facility has a stunning location, on the north side of the valley's edge overlooking the Bow River. The Cluny Site, a well-known archaeological site, is in the valley below the centre.
Jul/13/2012: Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta
  • Charlie Russell exhibition catalogue coverCharlie Russell and the First Calgary Stampede
    An exhibition assembled to commemorate the centenary of the first Calgary Stampede, which was held in 1912. The exhibition included 17 of the 20 paintings that Russell brought to Calgary to display (and sell) at the first Stampede. Many of these were bought by individuals and are still held in private collections, so assembling this set of paintings must have involved considerable organizational effort. Glenbow's Summer 2012 Calendar notes that thirteen of the original paintings were sold in 1912, to three different collectors (one British, one American, and one Canadian) and that in 2012 five private owners and seven institutions loaned paintings for this exhibition. An interesting commentary on the dispersal of the artworks during the last century! The exhibition was curated by Glenbow Senior Curator Lorain Lounsberry with the assistance of noted art historian and Russell expert Brian Dippie. Three of the original paintings couldn't be obtained for the exhibition; one is in an institutional collections, one is in a travelling exhibition, and the whereabouts of one painting, Dangerous, couldn't be determined and remains a mystery. The exhibition was supplemented by four other paintings by Russell, which were exhibited at the 1919 Stampede, including the Queen's War Hounds, painted in 1914. The Glenbow exhibition was accompanied by an informative and well-illustrated catalogue, which also gives some background on the Stampede.
    Seeing the paintings together en masse was certainly striking. A few patterns or themes seemed to stand out from this set. Most of the sky treatment in the paintings is quite bland, often with a pastel wash and lots of pink, reflecting the fact that many of the scenes were set in early morning or near sunset. The horses are major characters in most of the scenes and generally have individuality and characteristics that make them personalities too. In most of the paintings, the focus is firmly on the human players, who are generally at the centre of the image, large, and dominant. The landscape is a backdrop for the action, but is rarely a dominant element. This is a contrast to other western artists (e.g., Illingworth Kerr) in which the landscape is the main character and human activity is almost incidental. For Russell, the people and what they are doing are the focus of his imagination. In fact, much of the landscape is fairly generic and could be more of less anywhere in the west. In the scenes which have mountains in the distance, I was looking for recognizable peaks (such as Chief Mountain) that would provide context, but this detail is usually not present. Many of the paintings focus on cowboys and cowboy life, including working life, letting of steam in leisure time, and encounters with law enforcement (horse stealing, mainly). Nine of the paintings have Aboriginal people as the main characters, while in only one (The Buffalo Watering Hole) people are absent and the animals dominate the scene.
    This last painting is particularly interesting. The viewpoint is low and the viewer is looking up at the animals which thus have a massive monumentality and fill most of the centreground. The nearest bison, a large bull, has raised his head from drinking - water is dripping from his muzzle - and is turning his head towards the viewer, his tail raised high in warning. Many of Russell's paintings depict an on-going incident - the action has already started and we (the viewers) are entering the narrative part way through. In this scene, we are at a moment of statis or calm, which is deceptive. We are at the beginning of the incident. If the bison's behaviour runs true to form, the next few minutes are going to see considerable action!
    Glenbow summer 2012 calendar coverOne of the few paintings in which location is important is The Wagon Boss, a 1909 painting with a bull train (ox-drawn wagons) leaving Fort Benton, which can be seen on the river flats in the mid-distance. In the foreground, deep ruts show that this is not the first bull train on this route. And in the left foreground, there is a brown bottle, unlabelled, lying under a shrub; the implication is that this is a liquor bottle. The story here is subtle, but can be read clearly. This bull train is heading north along the Whoop-up Trail, carrying, in part, a pernicious cargo of whiskey. What has to be remembered is that this was not a contemporary scene. At the time Russell was painting, the whiskey trade, at least in this form, was long gone. This scene hearkens back to the hey-day of the whiskey trade in the 1870s, at least thirty years earlier. Thus here Russell is a painter of a historical scene, not a recorder of contemporary life. Russell's paintings are not réportage, but are mythologizing memory and folklore.
    Other particularly notable paintings in this exhibition included two that were set in the mountains and recorded encounters with grizzly bears (Disputed Trail, and The Price of his Hide), and one (Rainy Morning) that was an early morning scene at a round-up camp in heavy rain. The shiny yellow slickers, the condensed breath mist around the muzzles of the horses, and the dull smoky campfire aptly conveyed the chill and misery of waking up wet.
    This was an excellent and worthwhile exhibition!
  • Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta
    Took a detailed look at the Fur Trade section, featuring David Thompson and his wife Charlotte Small. This also featured a large canoe, and an area that appeared to be configured for storytelling or programming. This component was set in an enclosed and fairly contemplative space, which is interesting because the activity (travel for the Fur Trade) took place in open unbounded landscapes. Also revisited the CPR train component, with its various media (sound, narrative, paintings, and historic photographs, as well as artifacts) for conveying the story. And looked at the wall of photographs for the section on the mining towns of the Crowsnest Pass. A very effective treatment to convey the diversity of people and their lives and activities in that region.
  • Critical Mass
    Barely had time to glance at this but would have liked to have seen more. Sculpture by Shayne Dark. The featured piece, in blue, was strongly reminiscent of a human contortionist, although the six "limbs" would seem to preclude that interpretation!
Jun/01/2012: Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Alex Janvier
    This was a powerful and absorbing exhibition. It featured more than 90 artworks from all stages of Janvier's career, from two paintings he did while still in high-school to some works painted very recently. The works span 50 years of creative endeavour. His style is very distinctive. He generally uses strong primary colours, and curves and circles predominate. He often paints on circular canvases too. His work often goes right to the edge of the canvas, and appears to extend beyond it, making it appear that the canvas is merely giving a window into a much larger work. His work is generally not representational but predominantly abstract, although it often includes recognizable motifs, such as flowers, deer or other animals, fish or birds.
    The most recent works were a series of large canvases in a series called 'Tribute', which were an homage to his colleagues in the Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporation (PNIAI). These were Daphne Odjig, Jackson Beardy, Eddy Cobiness, Norval Morrisseau, Carl Ray and Joseph Sanchez. The series also included a tribute painting to Bill Reid, and one that Janvier painted for himself, making eight canvases in total.
    The exhibition also made mention of the large mural commissions that he has undertaken. I have seen several of these, including the Morning Star mural in the domed ceiling of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa.
  • 7 Years in the City: Art from the AGA Collection
    Fifteen works (seven paintings, eight steel sculptures), each by a different Edmonton-based artist and produced between 1981 and 1987. All in modernist style, and none representational.
  • Brendan McGillicuddy: Anthropocene
    This was very imaginative and well done. A single large piece of syrofoam, grey, and carved into the shape of a large ice or rock formation. The piece was about five feet high and perhaps ten feet long.
    The artist took the idea from a famous painting by Caspar David Friedrich called Das Eismeer or The Sea of Ice, which was completed in 1824. Friedrich was well known for painting dramatic landscape scenes, many of which are in winter and feature rock formations. Many of his paintings have been widely-reproduced as exemplars of a certain Romantic style. He emphasized the power of landscape and the puniness of people in comparison, with themes related to bleakness and solitude. See discussion of his work in Simon Schama's Landscape and Memory, pp 338-340, for example. In The Sea of Ice, a ship has been crushed by arctic ice. The ice has been broken, pushed and stacked up in large pinnicular slabs. The foreground slabs however are orange in colour and look more like rock than ice. Perhaps this is meant to emphasize how close the ship's crew got to safety, or at least land.
    McGillicuddy's work is more rounded and less spiky than Friedrich's but still echoes that vision, with the sculpture itself, massive, centred in the gallery space and dominating the scene. Unlike Friedrich's work, here the slabs are all oriented the same way and appear to be leaning, almost like a stack of cards. Of course, part of the irony is that styrofoam, unlike rock or ice, isn't heavy nor is it hard. So the massiveness of the piece is an illusion.
    The Anthropocene is a term used by some earth scientists to refer to the current interval, beginning in 1800 AD, when humans have had the greatest impact on landscape and environments, and humanity has itself, one could argue, become a more potent geological force. See Steffen, Will, Jacques Grinevald, Paul Crutzen and John McNeill (2011) The Anthropocene: conceptual and historical perspectives. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Series A 369:842-867.
Jun/01/2012: Enterprise Square Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Sir Samuel Steele Collection exhibit catalogue coverSam Steele: The Journey of a Canadian Hero
    The exhibition showcased some of the materials from the Samuel Steele Collection, part of the Bruce Peel Special Collections at the University of Alberta. The exhibition was dominated by printed material, including diaries, letters, record books, and other items. There were some fire-arms and some uniforms, as well as other militaria. Some of the images had been enlarged to more than life-size and were on the walls. A long time-line stretched the full length of a wall on one side of the gallery, apparently about 100 feet, showing events in Steele's life above the line, and world events below the line to provide context. This was very informative and extremely well done. The rest of the exhibition was arranged in several alcoves opposite the timeline, with the materials organized roughly chronologically. Many of the letters and diaries are handwritten, which makes them often difficult to read.
    Steele participated in the Red River Expedition of 1870, the formation of the Northwest Mounted Police and the Great March West of 1874, and the campaign to put down the Northwest Rebellion of 1885. He went on to undertake policing duties in the Yukon, and participate in the Boer War, and the First World War. Materials related to all these events were featured in the exhibition. The exhibition included a film, about 20 minutes in length, in which two actors costumed as Sam and his wife Marie read extracts from their letters to each other. This was quite well done, although I didn't see all of it. Not planned this way, but I visited the exhibition on the day it opened and the staff were very excited about it and keen to share their knowledge with visitors.
Jun/01/2012: Temporarily on 124th Street, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Curiosities
    A mobile exhibition held in a rented cube van, which was parked on the west side of 124th Street, just north of Stony Plain Road, for four hours in the afternoon. Five chests of drawers, each with four drawers. Five curators, each worked with four artists to assemble artworks that each fit in a drawer. The works were viewed by opening each drawer in turn. Each chest was themed: landscape, line, family, collections, and intimacy. The project was devised by a local art collective called 'Fast and Dirty'.
  • Hmmmmm. One day, three totally different exhibitions = exceedingly tired feet!
May/04/2012: Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Alberta Mistresses of the Modern: 1935-1975
    This was interesting. It featured artworks by ten women artists working in Alberta, although not all were from Alberta or necessarily lived in Alberta for a long time. Nine of them were mostly painters and one (Sibyl Budde Laubenthal) was a ceramic artist. The other artists included Annora Brown, Thelma Manarey, Janet Mitchell, Marion Nicoll, Laura Evans Reid, Margaret Shelton, Helen Stadelbauer, Ella May Walker, and Dorothy Henzell Willis. Each woman's art was represented by about eight works, showing the diversity of their creative expression and subject matter. I was especially interested in Annora Brown, because her work has been exhibited previously at the Provincial Museum of Alberta. The AGA exhibition only included one of her botanical paintings produced for the Glenbow, although it was a very fine one (of Heracleum lanatum or cow parsnip).
  • Art School: Banff 1947
    Apparently, the Banff School of Fine Arts was set up as an Extension program of the University of Alberta. The exhibition showcased artworks from the faculty at the school from the 1947 summer season. And what a stellar group it was! The teachers included H. G. Glyde, A. C. Leighton, Walter J. Phillips, A. Y. Jackson, J. W. G. Macdonald, Marion Nicoll, and André Biéler. The exhibition opened with a black-and-white photograph showing the faculty as a group sitting on steps in front of a building, almost all smiling and animated. What I hadn't realized was that many of A. Y. Jackson's prairie paintings (which I really like!) were created as part of his association with the School as a faculty member for six summers in the 1940s. The exhibition text indicated that after the school finished he'd invite himself to stay with various students in southern Alberta in order to do some more painting. The exhibition was accompanied by a black-and-white NFB film from 1946 about the Banff School of Fine Arts. I watched part of this. It was obviously a different time; students cycling to the school and just leaving the bikes outside without locking them up!
May/04/2012: Telus Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • China's Imperial Modern: The Painter's Craft
    A selection of artworks from the University of Alberta Museum's MacTaggart Art Collection. Pieces on display mostly consisted of brushwork hanging scrolls, and hence black-and-white and shades of grey. Most dated from the seventeenth century, with some from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The exhibition was designed to show how an artform that was associated with the elite became more widely available in late Imperial China, through techniques such as wood block printing. Not exactly mass-marketing, but broader dissemination. Pattern books established standardized representation of figures, expressions, and scenes, which artists or copyists could assemble into different works.
    My favourite piece, however, was a long scroll, laid out horizontally, which was called Temple Fair and was created in the 1690s. It was in full colour and showed a market scene, as though viewed obliquely from above. The scene, which was created by an artist called Wang Hui (1632 - 1717) was dense with detail. In the foreground, there as a river, with river boats transporting goods to the market, and many moored up alonng the quay. Two bridges allowed foot traffic across the river. These were swing bridges and one was swung open to allow a boat to pass. On the shore, traders were selling goods, including live geese. In the background, the temple spanned almost the entire width of the scene and consisted of many interlinked courtyards. The ones closer to the foreground were busier, while the ones towards the background were quieter or empty of people. The people in the courtyards were often dressed in finer clothes than the people on the quay, and presumably were more upper-class or powerful. The caption for this piece drew attention to a small group of scholars in one of the courtyards examining a scroll painting, very like the others hung in this exhibition, and indicated that this was a reference to an older art style and was used by the artist to set this scene into the longer creative tradition. This was a spectacular piece and demanded close attention and study.
Mar/07/2012: Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta
  • Edward Burtynsky: Encounters
    Thirty of Burtynsky's large format photographs, each chosen by a different guest curator, and most accompanied by an essay describing why it was chosen and what it meant to the selector. The guest curators included many well-known names from Canadian media (George Stromboulopoulos, Barbara Budd), the arts (Ronnie Burkett, Fred Stenson), and science and heritage fields (Marty Magne, Phil Currie). Others were less well-known (at least to me), and were from the business, sports, and popular culture worlds. Most guest curators were individuals but two images were chosen by groups (an elementary school class, and an adult learning centre). The images were stunning. Some curators had chosen the images primarily on the basis of aesthetics or design or simple visual appeal. But others had clearly brought some knowledge of the place or thing photographed to their selection, and these discussions were more interesting and informative. Several images were from Burtynsky's quarries series. I found these the most striking images and the essays were often the most thought-provoking. At least three images were from the Carrara Marble Quarry series, and the varied reactions of the guest curators to the images formed a striking contrast. I really enjoyed this exhibition. The images are wonderful and the idea of a guest curated exhibition in this instance worked really well. This was excellent!
  • Laurie Anderson: The Gray Rabbit
    An installation consisting of moving projections focussed downwards onto a large rugged oblong on the floor in a darkened room. Movement was directional, along the oblong, suggesting narrative or perhaps the passage of time. Grey colours and shadows.
  • Iain Baxter&: 1n40rmat10n
    The exhibition space was filled with a school group creating their own art, and was inaccessible.
  • Many Faces, Many Paths: Art of Asia
    A long-term exhibition. Mainly sculptures (statues, humanoid figures) and other 3D artworks. Requires more time to absorb and understand.
  • Modernist Art from the Glenbow Collection
    A small room densely packed with paintings, organized roughly in chronologic and stylistic order. Comprises 80 artworks, many from painters concerned with the western landscape. I noted paintings by Emily Carr (Among the Firs), Illingworth Kerr, Frederick Varley and H. G. Glyde.
  • Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta
    A quick survey of this exhibition which has now been open for several years. It was quite busy with at least one school group, and several small family groups. The Chinese restaurant area seemed especially popular. Many of the displays are open (no plexi) and many of these had 'Thank you for not touching' notices. This emphasizes the problems of confusion between touchable materials and those that are not for handling. It is not always clear which is which. Hence the notices.
Feb/27/2012: Rutherford South Library Lobby and Bruce Peel Special Collections Library, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Ally Sloper and C. H. Chapman: A Victorian Comic Strip and His Devoted Illustrator
    A selection of illustrations by Charles Henry Chapman, who was active from the late 19th century to the 1960s. The Ally Sloper cartoons were created mostly in the first couple of decades of the 20th century. Interestingly, Chapman was brought up in Reading and was associated with that area for most of his life. Chapman was also the illustrator for many of the Billy Bunter stories. The collection was donated to University of Alberta by his grandson, who lives in Edmonton. Most of his work consists of single large blackline illustrations (very much in the manner of Giles' cartoons), featuring his central character in a variety of situations. Images are complex and dense with detail. Many refer to contemporary events and so are sometimes difficult to understand.
  • I’m No Superman: The Comic Collection of Gilbert Bouchard
    Gilbert Bouchard was a commentator on the Edmonton arts and culture scene. He died in 2009. His comic collection was donated to University of Alberta by his family. The display showed a selection from the 3,700 comics in the collection. Many first editions, and many different comic book series are represented. Colourful, yes, but their appeal escapes me.
Feb/24/2012: Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Rearview Mirror: New Art from Central and Eastern Europe
    Mostly installations or video artworks. An overall impression of gloom, industry, and violence. Underlying much of this are not-so-subtle political messages too. At first glance, most of the art seems very much of the "nail a sneaker to a log" school. This was one of those displays that repaid thought afterwards. Many works use found objects or objects repurposed - an extreme form of recycling. In one case, the artist (Ivan Moudov) actually referred to incorporating stolen objects in his artworks. What's worrisome is that he indicates that these are stolen from existing artworks in galleries or museums. His compilation is a series of boxes (Fragments) containing objects - pieces of paper, images, labels, artifacts - spanning different times (2002 to 2007). This was interesting in comparison to a box of miniatures of artworks by Marcel Duchamp in the Icons of Modernism exhibition. Similar idea, different context and application. Many artworks are highly minimalist. Possibly the most extreme of these is Freed Doorway (Roman Ondák), which is just that, a door leaning against a wall. So what, one might ask. This means nothing without context. The context, I suspect, being that doors in eastern Europe were for many years not access points to freedoms, but were both closed and locked. So by "freeing" or removing the door, the place where it once stood is left as an open portal for egress. None of this is easy. The point is not the artworks themselves, which are in most cases not particularly interesting to look at and don't show much evidence of skill or craftsmanship, but the messaging that they convey. And that messaging is only going to be accessible to a viewer with some knowledge of recent European history. I did not watch most of the video pieces, although one was hard to miss - Manifesto of Futurist Woman (Let's Conclude) by Anetta Mona Chisa and Lucia Tkácová. A large projection screen showing a troupe of drum majorettes, marching across a concrete bridge. Dressed in red jackets and short skirts, with white boots, and fixed bright smiles. Their arms move in unison, windmill fashion. I didn't get this at the time, but I read afterwards that their arm-movements actually spell out a message in semaphore. Again, another example of the work being mystifying to the viewer without context and de-coding. I was interested in this and did some research on this work later. The title appears to echo a debate about Futurism that took place just before WWI. Valentine de Saint-Point wrote "Manifesto of the Futurist Woman" in 1912 in response to a declaration by F. T. Marinetti entitled "The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism". Marinetti, a poet, was later associated with Fascism and evinced considerable scorn for women. Clearly the debate continues to have resonance. The semaphore message is apparently the concluding part of Saint-Point's response. Decoding required on several levels!
  • Chris Millar: The Untimely Transmogrification of the Problem
    Two-dimensional artworks and constructed works (models). Small figures, often from popular culture, crowded and overlapping. Intensely busy, and tiny (magnifying glass provided for those who want the details). Much of the imagery is unpleasant and concerned with bodily functions that are best left unviewed.
  • Dara Humniski: MASS
    In the lobby area, two large cloud-like black-and-white outlines on the wall, one more filled-in than the other. Bringing the outside inside perhaps?
  • Icons of Modernism exhibition brochure coverIcons of Modernism from the National Gallery of Canada
    This referred to art of the early 20th century. Exhibition consisted of paintings, etchings, sculptures, some 3-D installations, and one film piece. The works illustrated the differing artistic styles of the early 20th century, including late Impressionism (Cézanne), Fauvism (Derain), Cubism (Popova, Braque, Lipschitz), Surrealism (Dali), Vorticism (Epstein), Futurism (C.R.W. Nevison), Neo-Classicism (Matisse, Picasso, Lége), Dadaism (Duchamp), and Abstractionism (Mondrian). My favourite piece in this exhibition was Rock Drill by Jacob Epstein (created 1913-1916). The upper torso of a humanoid figure, with powerful shoulders and chest, and one arm ending in an object like a drilling tool instead of a hand. The face is covered, with a long snout, almost dog-like. The figure looked menacing and sinister, as well as powerful. There is nothing soft or yielding about this figure. It seems like the ultimate industrial man, prepared to attack the earth itself. The figure, especially the head, strongly reminded me of the android soldiers in the Star Wars movies. Another powerful piece was Returning to the Trenches 1914 by C.R.W. Nevison. This painting showed a troop of soldiers marching back to the front. The viewer is, as it were, standing at the roadside. We don't see the faces of the soldiers. Their bodies are outlined in abstract geometric shapes, in dark colours, mainly blues and greys, with many shadows. The are leaning forward, carrying heavy packs, and weapons. The only flash of colour is given by the red of their trousers beneath their long great-coats. Their feet are shown almost as a blur, giving the impression of movement and marching.
  • Venerator: Contemporary Art from the AGA Collection
    Comprised ten artworks, mostly paintings but some mixed media. Icons reprocessed, including traditional icons such as Christ, more modern vernacular icons such as Wayne Gretzky, and historical icons such as Big Bear, Poundmaker, and Louis Riel. Included two artworks by Aboriginal artists Jane Ash Poitras and George Littlechild. The most amusing piece was a giant humbug repurposed as a window pane. With the exception of this piece and one other, all the works comprised people's portraits as the central image.
  • Hunting Blind exhibition brochure coverRobin Arseneault and Paul Jackson Hunting Blind, 2011
    This is quirky and fun. It's an outdoor installation on the upper terrace. Today, it was covered in snow and bleak. There are three components: a box-like structure on stilts, five tall objects that looked like plungers for explosive charges, and five semicircular metal objects with holes resembling eyes. The catalogue described these as The Tower, The Perches, and The Shields respectively. All were black and so stood out against the snow. The title is a play on words, both indicating a search for something, and also a place in which to hide to wait for prey to pass. Thus an exterior and an interior meaning. The catalogue included accompanying Stage Directions written by Diana Sherlock, purporting to be a tour of the piece. This was amusing too!
Feb/02/2012: John W. Scott Health Sciences Library, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Harry Potter's World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine
    A small exhibition, consisting of six panels, each accompanied by a small display case. The display cases contained books (some originals and some facsimilies), many from the Rawlinson Rare Book Collection of the Health Sciences Library, others from the Peel Special Collections Library, University of Alberta. The cases also included a few artifacts (e.g., vials, pestle and mortar) related to specific panel topics. Each panel featured a different aspect of studies at Hogwarts, and then related this to a specific real historical figure and, usually, some associated book or books from the Renaissance era. Panels were as follows:
    • Potions. Described alchemy. Featured Nicolas Flamel (1330-1418) and his search for the Philosopher's Stone.
    • Monsters. Highlighted by manticore, dragon and basilisk. Discussed lycanthropy. Featured Konrad Gesner (1516-1565) and his Historiae animalium.
    • Herbology. Showcased the mandrake root. Featured Jens Meydenbach and his book Hortus sanitatis about medicinal plants. The display case also contained a copy of Nicholas Culpeper's Herbal.
    • Fantastic Beasts. Centred on the centaur. Featured Paracelsus (1493-1541), and his curiosity about other cultures and their approach to healing, emphasized what can be learned from "the other". Associated case showed (mostly facsimiles) of Ambroise Paré's On Monsters and Marvels and Discourse on the Unicorn, Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) and De Humani Corporis Fabrica, and Leonardo Da Vinci's anaotomical and dissection drawings.
    • Magical Creatures. Examined myths surrounding the unicorn. Featured Ambroise Paré (?1510-1690), who was dubious about the use of unicorn blood as a remedy but included it in his book anyway.
    • Immortality. Featured Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettescheim (1486-1535) and De Occulta Philosophia. Re-iterated the message of respect for nature and using knowledge for "right" purposes. Associated case showed Harry Potter books (some in translation to other languages) and discussed popular fiction as a way into science as well as its value as a method of pedagogy. Showed some scholarly books that picked up these themes, including Science of Harry Potter and How Magic Really Works by Roger Highfield, and The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles edited by William Irwin and Gregory Bassham, and Political Issues in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Series by Dedria Bryfonski.
  • This was an interesting approach to trying to engage children in science. I wonder how well it worked. One comment in the Guest Book declared "I love Harry Potter. Magic over Science!", the exact opposite to the overall messaging. I did feel that there was some confusion in the panels over what was real or historical, and what was fictional. There was some use of colour to distinguish this, but it could have been made more obvious. The exhibition was developed and was being toured by the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.
Jan/28/2012: Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Prairie Life: Settlement and the Last Best West, 1930-1955
    A small exhibition drawn from the Gallery's permanent collection. Paintings by some well-known names were included in this exhibition, including Henry Glyde, Illingworth Kerr, Jon Snow, and Ella May Walker. Paintings show (mostly) Alberta at a time of transition. Several artworks emphasize the isolation and hardship of rural life, a theme that was likely exacerbated by the difficulties of the Dirty Thirties and the Depression, while others show the transition to new economic modalities driven by industrialization, especially the search for oil. The sense of anxiety is perhaps best encapsulated in a superb painting showing a recognizable Edmonton as though it was being subjected to an aerial bombardment in the War, with burning buildings and grain elevators framing fleeing people, some wounded, all shocked and distressed, while the dome of the Legislature and edge of the river valley in the background tie to the location. Apart from that, the painting that I found most telling was a watercolour piece by Robert Newton Hurley, created in 1947 but untitled. It showed a prairie winter scene, probably near sunset, dominated by horizontal lines, with the sky taking up most of the upper two-thirds of the image. So far, conventional prairie imagery. Leading the viewer into the image is a line of telegraph poles, some leaning at angles, already suggesting a sense of decay. They direct the eye to a small community on the horizon. Low buildings are almost silhouetted against the sky. In the centre, an elevator points to the sky. The imagery reminded me strongly of the 18th century Dutch landscape painters, but whereas in those images the architectural feature pointing at the sky was a church spire, here it is a grain elevator. Some effect, completely different message. Hurley was a Saskatchewan-based artist, especially active in the 1940s and 1950s.
  • State of Nature: Western Canadian Landscapes from the AGA Collection, 1980 to the Present
    Another small exhibition of perhaps a dozen large-format paintings. These were all very evocative and appealing artworks, in several different styles, although mainly representational. The exhibition formed a splendid contrast and comparison to the other two landscape-themed displays, and illustrated the enduring appeal of the Canadian landscape as a source of inspiration. Perhaps what was most striking about these images was the lack of people. These are unpopulated landscapes, perhaps unconsciously emphasizing the trope of space and emptiness associated with the myth of Canada. Constructed landscapes (fields, fence lines) were also notably absent. Instead, many of these were set in woodland or forest terrain, with northern boreal forest being a dominant theme. Muskeg, fallen trees, ponds, birches, conifers, a sense of loneliness and, often, decay. Several looked like terrain in Elk Island Park, though the captions indicated they were painted elsewhere. Colours in many of these paintings were muted. However, one artwork shone with vibrant greens and blues, an acrylic painting of a forest stream by John McKee. The stream-bed is rocky, with the water cascading over boulders in the foreground. The shrubs and trees grow over the water - there is no shoreline visible - and logs and debris are hung-up on rocks in the midground. In the background the stream bends to the right, so our view is cut off by the steep vegetated slope on the left. This reminded me very much of the stream at the head of Moraine Lake in Banff National Park. It seemed to appeal strongly to other visitors too. I saw several people sitting on a bench just looking at this work. Other artists represented in the exhibition included David Alexander, Dorothy Knowles, Ted Goodwin, Gregory Hardy, Norman Yates, and Peter von Tiesenhausen.
  • A Passion for Nature: Landscape Painting from 19th Century France
    Looked at landscapes in French painting from the mid-19th to early 20th century. Comprised 33 works, including some by well-known artists such as Monet, Rousseau, and Corot. The explanatory text emphasized the technological changes (such as oil paint in tubes) that allowed artists to go outside the studio and paint en pleine air. Some panels also noted the importance of photography for composition, whereby artists took photographs in the field and then used them to help in composition back in the studio. Impressionism is much in evidence, although other movements, such as Naturalism and the Barbizon painters, are featured. The painting that attracted the most attention from visitors was Willows at Vértheuil by Claude Monet, perhaps because it is so recognizable in style and subject matter and has been much reproduced. The exhibition also included the View from Cap Martin of Monte Carlo by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The image I found most intriguing was The Naturalists by Jehan Vibert. Two figures, identified as a scientist and a priest, dominate the piece. They are out in the woods. The scientist has caught an insect and both are peering at it, the scientist with a magnifying glass. The priest holds a book, whether it is a breviary or a scholarly work we are not certain. The scientist holds a net, for collecting insects, and his hat is a repository for pinned insects, especially butterflies. The caption noted that "insects are victims of science and the church as these two belief systems sought to impose order on the natural world". As painted in the late 19th century (1870a), the image, in approach and costume (18th century), hearkens back to an earlier age; it is clearly not a contemporary scene. The reference to science and scientists in the caption is also an anachronism, because neither would have been recognized categories in the time in which the image is set. A copy is reproduced on-line here. Artworks were from the collections of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
Oct/28/2011: Telus World of Science, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition
    A travelling exhibition featuring some of the materials collected from the debris field around the wreck of the Titanic as well as from the ship itself. The exhibit was arranged in four main rooms, with connections between them. At the entrance to the exhibit, each visitor was given a "boarding pass" listing the name of a person or group on board. The exhibition started by describing the building of the ship, emphasizing the luxurious nature of the First Class passenger accommodation, but also giving a comparison of the conditions in Second and Third Class, as well as the billets for the crew. Food and living conditions were highlighted in this section, with sample menus on the wall, and artifacts that included tableware, dishware, several wine bottles, and personal items (hair brush, hand mirror) that would have belonged to passengers. Some paper materials, mainly postcards, had also survived and were on display, as well as one leather valise. A recreation of one of the third (?) class passenger cabins was located between the second and third rooms. Four people would have shared this cabin, which was about 8' x 8', with two sets of bunk beds.
    The collision with the iceberg, sinking of the ship, and rescue of the passengers were described in the third room, mostly in panel text, with some video CGI reconstruction. This room also featured an "ice wall" representing the iceberg, which visitors were invited to touch. The last room brought the reality of the tragedy home more poignantly, with cases showing objects that can be associated with specific people, most of whom perished in the sinking, although one set of artifacts belonged to a tradesman who missed the ship although his luggage got aboard. Here, a wall listed the names of all the passengers and crew, indicated which people survived and which perished. Visitors were encouraged to match the name or names on the boarding card with the list and find out whether "their" person survived or not. My card was for a husband and wife, John and Mary Chapman, both of whom died in the event. The experience was enhanced by sounds - music in the first rooms, wind and waves in the "sinking" room. There was some sound bleed, especially with the music in the first two rooms. The text was clear (mainly black on cream) and easy to read, informative without being too long. The lighting was good in most places. The exhibition information indicated that more than 200 artifacts were on display, although it did not seem particularly artifact-rich.
Oct/14/2011: Bruce Peel Special Collections Library, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Sir Samuel Steele Collection exhibit catalogue coverPortrait of a Canadian Icon: Sir Samuel Steele Collection
    A selection from the documents of the Steele Collection, including letters, envelopes, various types of official correspondence and office records, diaries, photographs, certificates and citations. Arranged in chronologic order according to major career stages and life events, including the Red River Expedition (1870), service with the North-West Mounted Police and the Great March West (beginning in 1874), marriage in 1890, service in the Yukon in connection with the Klondike Gold Rush (1898-1899), service with Lord Strathcona's Horse and the South African Constabulary during the Boer War (1899-1902), and service in World War I (1914-1918). Many of the letters and diaries are handwritten, which made them challenging to read. Few labels or other explanatory information in the exhibition; for more background, visitors needed to consult a short but informative accompanying catalogue.
Jun/17/2011: Bruce Peel Special Collections Library, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • The Last Best West exhibit catalogue coverThe Last Best West: Glimpses of the Prairie Provinces from the Golden Age of Postcards
    Comprised about 100 postcards dating from the early decades of the 20th century, arranged according to topics such as transportation, disasters, parades etc. Each card was accompanied by a larger format (about 10 x 8 inches) reproduction, on which it was usually easier to see details than on the originals. In some cases, the backs of the cards or accompanying hand-written material was also shown. The exhibition, which was curated by Edmonton-based historian Ken Tingley, was accompanied by an informative catalogue.
Jun/03/2011: Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Andy Warhol: Manufactured
    The exhibition included several dozen artworks (almost 90) and some of Warhol's film and video works. Most of the works dated from the 1960s, when Warhol was a central figure of the whole cultural ferment of that experimental era, at least the New York component of that scene. It also included some examples of early works from his student days in late 1940s and as a commercial artist. Most of the best known and most iconic works were large and colourful, often based on newspaper photographs or other photographic imagery. Among them were several well-known artworks, including images of Jackie Kennedy, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Campbell's Soup Cans, and a Remington typewriter. There were also many self-portraits, Many of these images have been widely reproduced. Warhol (1928-1987) often used repetition in his artworks, reproducing the same image many times to give a tiled effect. Lettering and type are often components of the images, indicating derivation from newspapers, and he used often bright startling and unexpected colours. One of his last works was a pixellated version of Leonardo's Last Supper, two images, overlain with lavender pink, side by side and taking up the entire side wall of the gallery display space. This exhibition was interesting for showing the development of the artist through his lifetime. I did not watch any of the film or video works. Most of the artworks were from the collections of The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
  • Sarah Fuller: My Banff
    This was a small exhibition comprising mainly large format colour photographs (about a dozen) of the artist's friends and acquaintances who live and work in Banff. Her intention was, apparently, to show Banff as a place where people live and work, as a corrective to the pervasive perception of it as a tourist town. The images were accompanied by a model of the town, covered with a plexiglass dome (called the Banff Bubble), on which the images were reproduced as "thumbnails" and placed on the model in the place where they were taken. Places important to the artist were emphasized, so some tourist places, like the Banff Springs Hotel, are almost invisible. The model thus serves as a map and a "mind map" as well as a link between the various images.
  • Lawren Harris Abstractions
    This exhibition included twenty works from the later part of Harris's life (14 from the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, and six from the AGA's collections). The exhibition was anchored by six large full-colour paintings. Between these were smaller drawings, usually black and white, which often appeared to show sketches or preliminary designs for the larger works, or ways in which Harris (1885-1970) was working through his ideas on composition. The works showed an interesting progression, with the earlier works composed primarily of straight lines and angles and the later works being much more flowing and organic. One of the later works looked almost like a piece of agate, segments of brown and tan.
  • Nature and Spirit: Emily Carr’s Coastal Landscapes
    Thirty-five paintings by Carr (1871 - 1945) from the collections of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Many of these I have seen before at other exhibitions, but they remain powerful and compelling. A palette predominantly of shades of green. Forest images, also totem poles, and village scenes from the west coast (an interesting contrast with similar images in the Phillips exhibition). Perhaps the best known and most iconic image is Big Raven. The exhibition text emphasized the connection between Carr and Harris.
  • Haida Art: Mapping an Ancient Language
    This was very interesting. The bulk of the exhibition consisted of objects collected by George Mercer Dawson during an 1878 visit to Haida Gwaii. He was fascinated by the west coast arts and culture and was concerned about the plight of the people. The 88 objects on display included carved feast bowls, a woven and painted hat, spoons, masks, rattles, a bentwood box, and miniature carved totem poles. The objects were mostly of wood or argillite, sometimes with inlays of shell, including abalone. Some had been painted although the paint (black and red) was often only partly preserved. These totem poles were mostly carved from argillite and the text labels noted that these were often items produced in for the tourist trade. The exhibition text dated some of the objects to the early 19th century or earlier, but it was not clear how the pieces had been dated. Several large text panels explained the construction and visual language of Haida art, noting the three part design (large outline shapes in black, inner lines in red, and then a line infill sometimes in a third colour). The images are dominated by animal forms (bear, beaver, raven, eagle, orca, seal, fish, mainly), and mythological creatures. Haida artist Robert Davidson was involved in curating the exhibit and also contributed several (I think about eight) artworks, mainly large format paintings, that used the same traditional shapes and approach but often different colours (including yellows) and made a striking contrast to the earlier art style. Although the artifacts were remarkable, I felt that the display method did not work well. The artifacts were shown in groups, in cases. Each artifact had a number, and then the text description was on a panel, either as a sloper to the case or at the side. This made it very difficult to relate the explanation to the artifact, especially when the label discussed a complex design, such as a sequence of animals shown on a spoon-handle or a miniature totem pole. The font was also small and hard to read.
  • Walter J. Phillips: Water and Woods
    I did not recognize the name of this artist, but I instantly recognized several of the paintings when I walked into the display. Phillips (1884 - 1963) was commissioned by the HBC to produce paintings of York Boats for their calendars, and several of these have been widely reproduced. Phillips was born, brought up and trained in England, and came to Canada as an adult in 1913, living first in Winnipeg, before moving to Alberta. He lived in Banff (in 1940s) and Calgary, and was an influential teacher. The exhibition included watercolours and woodcuts. Phillips was primarily a landscape painter, though his landscapes almost always include evidence of people. He was also interested in local architecture and the built environment. Thus his west coast paintings often include town and village scenes, even if they are dwarfed by the surrounding landscape. His palette, subject matter, and approach are reminiscent of Impressionism, especially in the earlier works. Several later works (e.g., a pine tree by a lake shore) also evoke comparison with works of the Group of Seven, especially Tom Thomson. One work that particularly impressed me was of the toe of the Athabasca Glacier, a watercolour, painted in 1949. Unlike many views of this locality, which are of the toe itself, this one is the view from the toe, looking down the Sunwapta Valley, with the lower slopes of Mount Wilcox to the right. Sunwapta Lake (then newly-formed) fills the centre of the image, with large blocks of ice, presumably the edge of the toe, framing the image on the left. Interesting, this is one of the few paintings in which there is no obvious indication of human presence, although we know that the newly-built road is just out of sight, hidden by the mound of the moraine on the far side of Sunwapta Lake. This exhibition was an unexpected delight!
Jan/02/2011: Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Henri Matisse: A Celebration of Art and Line
    The exhibition included 159 prints, 7 drawings, 5 paintings, and 4 sculptures. It was interesting to see how the same image - same model, same pose, same setting - had been reworked in different artworks.
  • Edward Burtynsky: Oil
    The exhibition comprised 55 large crisp clear photographs portraying the life-cycle of oil in our society from the extraction and petrochemical processing, to the use in motor vehicles and other transportation, to the residues from oil use, such as shipbreaking in Chittagong and mountains of used tires. This was an unexpectedly dramatic and thought-provoking presentation.
  • The Symbolist Muse: A Selection of Prints from the National Gallery of Canada
    Included prints by Paul Gauguin, Edvard Munch, Max Klinger, and Max Kurzweil among others. Prints were by European artists, mostly based in France or Germany, and dated mainly from the 1880s and 1890s.
  • Reframing a Nation
    Drawn from the Gallery's collections, this exhibit examined how the Canadian landscape is expressed in paintings from the 19th to the 20th century. It included artworks by Frederick Verner, Cornelius Krieghoff, Tom Thomson, members of The Group of Seven, Emily Carr and David Milne.
  • Laura St. Pierre: Urban Vernacular
    Large-scale photographs of three-dimensional structures, resembling dwellings, constructed of cast-off materials and junk, and often set in industrial or degraded urban landscapes. Structures resembled shanty-town dwellings.
Dec/20/2010: Telus World of Science, Calgary, Alberta
  • Einstein & Darwin
    Two travelling exhibitions. The Darwin exhibit was assembled as part of the 200th Anniversary of his birth in 1809. The exhibition was organized and circulated by the American Museum of Natural History in collaboration with the Museum of Science, Boston, The Field Museum, Chicago, the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada, and the Natural History Museum, London, England.
    The Einstein exhibition celebrated in particular the 'annus mirabilis' of 1905 in which four papers, representing Einstein's most significant work, were published. It was organized by the American Museum of Natural History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles. Both exhibitions consisted primarily of 2D elements.
    This was an interesting pairing. Two scientists, both of whom were ground-breakers in their own age, and whose work was denigrated and rejected by some of their contemporaries. Both were or became 'Establishment' figures, though in very different ways.
  • The Darwin exhibition had more 3D components, including a reconstruction of his study in Down House (which was very evocative) and several fossil specimens, of which the most impressive was a fossil cast of a Glyptodont skeleton. It also included some live animals, including an iguana and some amphibians. It included some video, including a very small and not well highlighted component featuring scientists such as Niles Eldredge, one of the exhibition's curators, talking about the meaning of Darwin's work and its importance to modern science. Perhaps because of the space in which it was installed, there was no clear path through the exhibition. It was highly modular, however, with each module essentially self-contained, which made the lack of a clear narrative line have less of an impact.The text was clear and well thought-out, with key words and elements pulled out in different fonts and colours. The high-quality scans of type plant specimens were very impressive, not least for the quality of the scans which looked, at first glance, real. Of the two exhibitions, this one was arguably the more successful.
  • The Einstein exhibition included much biographical material on his life and career, including his Nobel prize citation. It also included a short documentary movie about his life (in which the sound was set far too loud so that there was sound-bleed throughout the rest of the display area). There were some components designed to illustrate the meaning of his scientific discoveries, including relativity. These incorporated 'hands-on' elements. Several of these were interesting but often not well-explained so that it took some time to figure out what they were showing. This was especially the case with the component containing the relativity 'clock' demonstration which, when you figured it our, was really striking. Perhaps to negate the essentially static nature of most of the exhibition's components, the designers had chosen a very bright colour palette, including glaring almost fluorescent pinks and yellows, often with light or white text. This made the text extremely difficult to read, especially in the lower light areas.
Sep/25/2010: Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
  • Clayton Brothers: Inside Out
    The display included twenty-six paintings and three mixed-media installations created collaboratively by brothers Rob and Christian Clayton. Born in the 1960s, the brothers work together and create artworks that reflect popular culture. The images are complex, crowded, colourful, and often disturbing with an undertone of violence. The images are not naturalistic but highly stylized, sometimes with an almost cartoonish quality, with odd juxtapositions of elements. Solitary people are often the focus of the image; there was no image that showed people communicating with each other. The figures are large, and surrounded by objects that may look threatening. People are often shown hurt or damaged in some way. There is an almost surreal or unreal quality to the representations. One series of images showed people and fruit, with the fruit large and sometimes obscuring or appearing to consume parts of the people. Another series, entitled Patient, showed people in medical situations, hooked up to machines or undergoing treatments which appeared to be painful or alienating. These were very unsettling images.
Sep/06/2010: Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • M. C. Escher: the Mathemagician
    The display included 54 works from the collections of the National Gallery of Canada. Many of the artworks are well known, the tessellations of the plane in various animal forms for instance, but it also included some lesser-known works, such as Italian landscape drawings. This was a fascinating exhibition!
  • Piranesi's Prisons: Architecture of Mystery and Imagination
    A very interesting pairing with the Escher exhibit. This comprised prints produced by Piranesi in the mid 1700s, selected from the National Gallery of Canada collections. The images are often dark and sombre and play with perspective to create strange structures. This appears to be an imaginative ancestor to Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast.
  • Reframing a Nation
    Drawn from the Gallery's collections, this exhibit examined how the Canadian landscape is expressed in paintings from the 19th to the 20th century. It included artworks by Frederick Verner, Cornelius Krieghoff, Tom Thomson, members of The Group of Seven, Emily Carr and David Milne.
  • The Art of Warner Bros. Cartoons
    This included 165 drawings, paintings, and animation outlines from the classic era of cartoons, roughly 1930s to 1960s. Showed the changes and development of characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig. It was interesting to see some representations that would now no-longer be considered "politically correct", such as the stereotypical Mexican characters.
Jul/21/2010: Cameron Library foyer, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Journeys Beyond the Neatline: Expanding the boundaries of cartography
    An exhibition of 25 map-inspired artworks by two very different artists:
    • Hermeneut on a Bike: Eleven Geo-logical Lessons in Love and Landscape by Michael J. Coulis
      Maps describing a trans-Canada bicycle journey from the east to west coast that the artist undertook as a form of healing after the death of his wife.
    • A Transect - Due East by Matthew J. Rangel
      A record of a walk inland from the San Joaquin Valley to the top of Black Kaweah in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California.
May/28/2010: Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Timeland: 2010 Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art
    Presented the work of 24 mostly early-career artists, with some senior artists, working in a variety of media, including painting, structures, sculpture, installations, and video. My favourite artworks were:
    • Darwin and the Arc of Time: Barnacles to Volcanoes by Lyndal Osborne - which looked like a Victorian cabinet of curiosities and was fascinating to examine in detail. It included shells and other marine life remains, mostly invertebrates, some mounted as if collected, some connected by tubing to large glass jars.
    • White Fence at Night by David M. C. Miller - which was a wall full of digital photograph images of, yep, white fences at night. It had a strangely hypnotic effect.
    • Wilderment, 2010 by Rita McKeough - an installation depicting the rural-urban fringe, with model cranes moving bundles of wheat. The cranes were visualized as a life-form, gradually invading and taking over the prairies.
  • Edgar Degas: Figures in Motion
    This exhibition included about 40 artworks, predominantly bronze sculptures, plus drawings, paintings and prints. The ballet dancers were much in evidence, Other artworks showed horses and women bathing. Degas had a particular facility for painting women in informal poses in private moments, such as bathing or personal grooming. These images have an immediacy and quiet intimacy and are not, despite the subject matter, voyeuristic. Although this was not apparent in the exhibition text, the bronzes on display here were not created by Degas. He sculpted in wax and the bronzes were made from his wax sculptures after his death, The casts were apparently authorized by his family. It is therefore an interesting question as to how far or whether these can be considered original artworks.There was a missed opportunity here to discuss the idea of authenticity.
  • Francisco Goya: The Disasters of War and Los Caprichos
    Prints from two volumes that Goya produced: Los Caprichos in 1799 and The Disasters of War in 1810-1820. Many of these images are disturbing and unsettling, The second volume graphically portrays Goya's record of the suffering and atrocities of the Peninsular War. Los Caprichos is a savage indictment of the cruelty and repression of the Inquisition and the corruption and venality of the church and aristocracy in Spain at the time.
  • Karsh: Image Maker
    Included many of the iconic images so widely reproduced that have defined many of the important personalities of the 20th century, including Einstein, Hemingway, and Churchill. The exhibition also included information about Karsh's studio and his working methods, including his interaction with his subjects, and the technical aspects of producing the finished image.
Oct/05/2009: Vancouver Art Gallery Vancouver, Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Two Visions: Emily Carr and Jack Shadbolt
    Compared the work of two artists who painted west coast landscapes but with very different styles and approaches.
  • Scott MacFarland
    Photographs, often large landscape panoramas, include a series focussed on Hampstead Heath, and some showing workplaces, Boathouses, especially at night. These were arresting and absorbing images
  • Is Only the Mind Allowed to Wander
    Artworks from the Gallery's permanent collection showing different artistic visions of the human body and its components
  • Group of Seven paintings from the Gallery's permanent collection
Oct/04/2009: Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Fine examples of west coast ethnographic objects, including totem poles, carved house fronts, and cedar boxes, also artworks by Bill Reid including gold and silver jewellery. Well laid-out displays and informative labels.
Aug/20/2009: Telus World of Science, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Da Vinci - The Genius
    Da Vinci - The Genius exhibit catalogue coverThis exhibition was looking rather tired after travelling for several years. It featured primarily models of inventions or objects made from the drawings and notes in Da Vinci's notebooks. There were various mechanical devices (cranes, pontoon bridges, Archimedean screws, etc.), experiments in flight (various wings or human-powered machines), military engines (a multi-barrelled gun, a "tank"-like vehicle), and designs for towns and cities. Many were 'hands-on' working models, that allowed scope for much visitor interaction. The exhibition also included some pages of his anatomical drawings, most of which have been widely-published elsewhere, including the "Universal Man" drawing. Good pictures in the accompanying catalogue.
Oct/17/2008: Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Banff, Alberta
  • Out There: Adventure Photography
    An exhibition of mountain photography, mainly of "extreme" sports, predominantly climbing. Some of the images were amazing. There was one of a chap snowboarding down the steep face of Mount Athabasca! How is that possible? More to the point, he had to climb the mountain first. On the other hand, there were some great images of people fly-fishing, hiking, and canoeing, that had a gentler aura and looked more inviting. Works by several photographers were represented; most images had been taken in recent years.
Sep/13/2008: Museé du Louvre, Paris, France
  • Spent most time looking at the 17th and 18th century Spanish paintings in the Denon wing, including paintings by Murillo, El Greco, Velasquez and Panini, whose paintings were amazingly detailed and intricate.
  • Grande Gallery and The Marriage at Cana by Veronese, one of my favourite artworks, filled with activity and colour.
  • Visited the Greek and Roman antiquities, including fragments of the Parthenon frieze, marble busts, mosaics and frescos, and the Etruscan tomb couple.
Sep/14/2008: Musée de la sculpture en plein air, Quai Saint-Bernard, Paris, France
  • Modern sculpture exhibit, with no really memorable pieces. The most fascinating aspect of this park was the gatherings of people in groups dancing in many different styles, mainly more formal ballroom styles.
Sep/14/2008: Grande Galerie de l'évolution, Musée national d'histoire naturelle, Jardin des Plantes, Paris, France
  • Geology mapGallery of GeologyThis is a very fine building and dominates the Jardin. Outside this museum in the Esplanade Milne Edwards was a large map showing the geology of France, part of an exhibition for the International Year of Planet Earth (IPY) in 2008. It was a very simple but extremely effective exhibit. In the plaza, all the geology map sheets (at 1:50,000 scale) from the various regions of France were assembled to make one giant map of the whole country. This was obviously a great hit with the public. People were walking all over it, gesturing, talking, and clearly trying to find their home towns. Nearby, there was a display of large rock specimens and concretions, illustrating some of the main rock types of France.
Sep/14/2008: Galerie de paléontologie et d'anatomie comparée, Musée national d'histoire naturelle, Jardin des Plantes, Paris, France
  • Gallery of Comparative AnatomyThe lower hall comprises the comparative anatomy exhibition. It did not disappoint. A long beautiful room filled with vertebrate skeletons, all posed identically, and all facing the same way, towards the river. Looked as if they were all marching forward into the future. The symbolism was obvious because at the front of the display was a human figure. It was magnificently grotesque. A superb example of old-style museum display. Around the walls were display cases with preserved parts of specimens in jars, sealed with lead. The labels were handwritten in ink, which had faded. Many were, I would guess, the original 19th century labels. The display included several really intriguing and historically-significant specimens. These included the skeleton of a quagga (Equus quagga), an extinct equid, a Tasmanian tiger or Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), also extinct, and a specimen of rorqual, actually the type specimen prepared by Georges Cuvier himself, as well as a coelacanth encased in resin. Several type specimens were on display, which I found quite amazing because these are usually kept in more secure and higher-quality storage. The sun was pouring in through the windows and onto the specimens and the room was quite hot. It can't be good for the specimens to be in conditions of such variable temperature.
  • Gallery of PalaeontologyThe upper hall comprises the palaeontology exhibition. The specimens here were all arranged the same way, in upright poses, all facing the same way. What was amazing was how complete most of these specimens were. The display started with dinosaurs, including a large apatosaur and an Iguanodon (one of the specimens from the Begian quarry that confirmed Gideon Mantell's suppositions). There was rather more explanatory labelling on these specimens - the anatomy specimens mostly had just names - but still very little contextual or historical information and the labels were mostly very old and faded. The display included a wonderful Megatherium specimen, a Glyptodont, and several large mammoth specimens, including a massive European mammoth (Mammuthus meridionalis) which was probably about half as tall again as the Woolly Mammoth. The displays also included skeleton mounts of Smilodon, Cave Bears, and eggs from Aepyornis (extinct Elephant Bird from Madagascar). Around the walls were more partial specimens including a bison horn core sequence. An upper gallery ran around this floor, which provided a better view of the larger specimens in the hall. This upper gallery also had display cases of invertebrate material, including a fine sequence of ammonites. These cases were in very poor shape. The specimens were badly displayed; the cases were dirty, the linings were crumpled and damaged and the labels were faded and curled. The room itself was in poor shape too; the paint was peeling off the walls, the walls were dusty, and in one place I noticed a display case held together with fibre tape! One cabinet contained Lamark's specimens, apparently a 250th anniversary display, but these were dusty too. There was some attempt at explanation here, with some hand-drawn posters on the wall explaining the various fossil groups. It must be difficult to convince people of the scientific value of the specimens when they are so poorly displayed and apparently uncared for. Nevertheless, this is a stunning and magnificent collection, of immense historical and scientific importance.
Sep/13/2008: Museé de l'Orangerie, Paris, France
  • Water Lilies paintings by Claude Monet. Eight paintings arranged in two rooms. Each room was oval with the paintings on the outer walls and diffuse light from overhead skylights filtered through a linen panel diffuser. The walls were bare cream stonework, which set off the paintings magnificently. Spent more than an hour in these rooms, sitting on the oval benches in the rooms centres, just looking at the paintings. This was an overwhelming experience. The paintings were much larger than I expected. The four in the first room were lighter in mood, containing more pinks and pastels, more like dawn or sunset scenes. The four in the second room were more sombre, containing more blues and purples, and included some reflections of tree trunks and overhanging willow branches, more evocative of dusk, night, or winter (even though the lilies were in bloom and leaves on the trees). That is, they evoked a more wintry or elegiac mood.
  • Lower level of the museum showed a collection of late Impressionist paintings, including several Renoirs, and paintings by Cezanne, Utrillo, Daumier, and Picasso. All were from the collection of an art dealer called Paul Guillaume and showed what a 1920s art collection may have looked like. The Renoirs and Utrillos were particularly memorable.
Sep/12/2008: Museé du Louvre, Paris, France
  • Spent first part of day in the Sully wing, looking at Egyptian antiquities. Besides sarcophagi and funerary items, saw materials dealing with daily life, including pottery, and an impressive musical instrument display. Also a display of preserved plant foods, including dates, olives, wheat, and various other plant parts, some for food, some for medicine use. Saw the red granite sarcophagus of Ramses III. Also linen textiles and jewellery.
  • Second half of day in the gallery of 18th and 19th century French romantic painters, before continuing to the Denon wing and the large format French paintings, including paintings by Géricault, Delacroix, David, and Ingres.
Sep/09/2008: Gardens and Palace of Versailles, France
  • Versailles: Visitor's Guide book coverArrived at the gardens early, before the main tourist rush, on a wonderful late summer day. The gardens were beautiful, the plants were still in full bloom - lots of dahlias, asters, hassleria. The topiary and hedges were newly trimmed and crisp. The white marble statues were flaming in the sunshine against the backdrop of green. None of the fountains were active, which meant that the statuary and flowers were reflected in the water. On the Grand Canal, there were girls in single skulls rowing, with a coach training them; this appeared to be a rowing club. The Canal was home to a large group of giant carp; we counted 27 in total. Most were about 2 feet long and several were up to 3 feet long or more. They were obviously accustomed to being fed!
  • Toured the King's apartments, the Hall of Mirrors, and the Queen's apartments. Rooms very crowded and difficult to see the artworks. Saw several works by Veronese and the terrific Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David.
  • Many of the state rooms had centrepieces that were large inflated plastic figures which were parts of an installation by an American artist called Jeff Koons. The first room contained a large inflated purple poodle that looked as if it was made of balloons but was about 8 feet tall. Also prominent were a giant lobster suspended from a ceiling, vacuum cleaners with attachments, Michael Jackson holding a monkey, two turtle life-rings, and a shiny gold figure outside in the grounds. They were certainly not in keeping with the rest of the decor! The tour guides were quite outraged by these artworks.
Sep/08/2008: Centre national d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou (Centre Pompidou), Paris, France
  • Museum, Level 4, Les Oeuvres de 1960 à nos jours
    Mainly 20th century and early 21st century art, predominantly paintings and some photography exhibits and video art. Much of this was minimalist art, and tended to concentrate on the dismal or unpleasant aspects of life. Explanatory texts often emphasized that artworks were meant as political commentary or were meant to point out social justice themes. Several small rooms were devoted to design of objects, mainly utilitarian in nature, such as chairs or other types of home furniture.
  • Miroslav Tichý
    Featured works by this Czech photographer, who was based in Prague and in his home town of Kyjov. He was a recluse with an obsession for women's bodies. He took images in secret (i.e., did not ask permission from the subjects), with home-made cameras, between the 1950s and 1980s. His work was only "discovered" only a few years prior to this exhibit, when he was in his 80s. The text indicated that his art was a refusal to conform to Communism, although this seemed like rationalization. The works were disturbingly creepy, highly voyeuristic and seemed indicative of a profoundly disordered personality.
  • Museum, Level 5, Les oeuvres de 1905 à 1960
    Displays included, among many others, works by Matisse, Magritte, Braque, Kandinsky and Picasso, and two works by Salvadore Dali. Included one piece by Jackson Pollock and a video of him describing how he worked; this was interesting and informative.
Jul/25/2008: Telus World of Science, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Body Worlds
    Not actually as disturbing as I thought it would be. A series of 'plastinated' human cadavers and parts of cadavers. In most cases, all or most of the skin has been removed, to show the internal structure and organs. The bodies are posed in ways that show off specific parts of the musculature or skeletal structure. One particularly striking pose is that of a young male basketball player. As with many of the cadavers, this one is also posed with a prop, in this case, a basketball. There are also a few animal cadavers treated the same way, most notably a horse with a rider. Some of the bodies or body parts are posed so as to show specific pathologies, such as excessive fat in a very obese person or the diseased lung of a heavy smoker. The space in which this exhibition was displayed was not ideal, with a narrow concourse connected two parts of the exhibition space. Some of the exhibits were in rough shape. For example, blood vessels in some of the plastinated specimens were falling off and visible in the bottom of the display case. These specimens appear to be quite fragile.
Mar/14/2008: Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta
  • Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta
    A new permanent exhibition (opened in spring 2007) about southern Alberta history, told through a focus on 48 specific men and women, interesting characters that have shaped the province's history. These individuals were apparently chosen so as define what it is to be an Albertan. Among them are James Macleod, Jerry Potts, John Ware, and Sam Steele. The majority of the figures are men, but there are some notable women, including Mary Schäffer Warren and Dr Helen Bulyea. A few of the featured people (Peter Lougheed, Preston Manning) are living figures. Memorable displays include the reconstruction of the interior of a Chinese restaurant and railroad passenger car.
Jun/16/2007: Museé du Louvre, Paris, France
  • Too much to describe in details! Among the highlights seen were:
    • The Gladiator
    • The Winged Victory - very awkwardly placed at the top of a flight of stairs so that it is hard to see and usually obscured by the crowds
    • The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci - remarkable for its small size and the incredible press of people in the room
  • Spent most time in the Denon Wing - mostly French and Italian paintings, including:
    • The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault
  • Babylonian artifacts, including the great winged bulls
Jun/15/2007: Museé Carnavalet, Paris, France
  • The Museum surrounds a courtyard which features a wonderful and colourful formal garden. The Museum concentrates on French history, with a particular focus on the Revolutionary era. I found the exhibits very disorganized and, like most French museums, there was little text or contextual information for the displays. There were many Belle Epoque paintings, predominantly street scenes, scenes along the quais of Paris, and scenes of café life. One floor was devoted primarily to art from the French Revolution and other civil upheavals of the 19th century. Portraits of Danton, Robespierre, and Charlotte Corday were particularly prominent. Also a portrait of Dr Guillotin, inventor of the infamous execution device. There was some material dealing with Napoleon but a lot less than I had expected.
  • Parts of the Museum were closed; apparently renovations are in progress. The rooms dealing with archaeology and the early history of Paris were unavailable.
  • The Museum also had a very good bookstore.
Jun/14/2007: Museé D'Orsay, Paris, France
  • The Museum is located in an old railway station, on the banks of the Seine. The main hall still features the station clock. The building is very well restored, and the exhibitions are well laid out. The collection is impressive and extensive, mainly Impressionist artworks, predominantly paintings, although there are also several sections featuring different designers, mainly furniture designers. The Art Nouveau furniture is particularly memorable. Many famous paintings are included in this collection, including Le déjeuner sur l'herbe and at least one of Monet's waterlily paintings. Saw paintings by Monet, Manet, Rousseau, Degas, Pisarro, Van Gogh, and Bonnard, among others. Especially impressive was the Dancers series by Degas and the Little Dancer statuette.
  • The main gallery (formerly the railway concourse) was the setting for sculptures, primarily statuary, including several pieces by Rodin and a huge carved polar bear by François Pompon (1855 - 1933) - not an artist I had heard of previously. In another part of the Museum, there was also a great carved bison by him.
Jun/14/2007: Rodin Museum, Paris, France
  • Burghers of Calais bronzeThe Museum consists of the house and studio where Rodin lived, and extensive grounds. The smaller artworks, plus plaster study models are in the house. Many of these had been used in The Gates of Hell. Rodin tended to re-use parts of the figures in different artworks. The works included The Kiss and several other famous nudes. Most of the larger artworks are outside in an attractive garden. These included The Gates of Hell, The Burghers of Calais, The Thinker, and a full-size statue of Balzac. Much of this material was very powerful and often disturbing.
Jun/13/2007: Monet's House and Gardens, Giverny, France
  • Monet's watergarden at GivernyThe house is small but comfortable. Monet's studio has a large window for light. The yellow kitchen and dining room was warm and inviting.
  • The gardens were an overwhelming blaze of colour and scents. Long narrow rectangular flower beds separated by gravel walks that lead up to the house. Main flowers in bloom were large poppies, lilies, and geraniums.
  • A passage under the adjacent lane gave access to the watergarden. This was fabulous! Several small ponds were crammed with water lilies, many of which were in bloom, and surrounded by weeping willows. Some of the islands and surrounds were crowded with thickets of bamboo.
Jun/13/2007: Musée d'art améicain, Giverny, France
  • Impressionist Giverny: A Colony of Artists, 1885-1915
    An exhibition of artworks by American painters who came to live and work in Giverny at the close of the 19th century, largely attracted by Monet's fame and reputation.
Jun/12/2007: Gardens and Palace of Versailles, France
  • royal bedroom at versaillesThe entire palace is like a gigantic museum. with artworks everywhere. Unfortunately, the crowds were immense and the only way to tour through was with a guide which gave no time to find out or appreciate any of the pieces. One was left with an impression of wealth, opulence, and overwhelming ostentation, especially through the use of gold for ornamentation. The high-ceilinged state rooms glittered and shone, crammed with paintings, mirrors, wall-hangings, marble statues and busts, plasterwork, glass and ceramics. Even the domestic apartments (royal bedrooms, dressing rooms) were filled with gold and colour. Toured the king's and queen's bedrooms, and drawing rooms, the Hall of Mirrors and the Hall of War. This latter was a long room with paintings depicting major French war victories going back to almost mythical times and continuing through the Middle Ages and concluding with Napoleon's various victories. Napoleon is much in evidence here. The paintings include an enormous canvas by Jacques-Louis David depicting Napoleon's coronation, which has been much reproduced.
  • The gardens, though less frenetic, are also filled with statuary and other artworks, which are, however, usually well integrated into the overall design. The long walk from the palace leads to a large ornamental pool dominated by an ornate statue of Apollo rising from the waves.
Jun/11/2007: Musée de Luxembourg, Paris, France
  • Lalique exhibition catalogue coverRené Lalique - Bijoux d’exception 1890-1912
    An exhibition of beautiful and outstanding artworks, primarily jewelry but also other decorative pieces, especially made from glass, such as lamp-shades, vases, and perfume bottles. The jewelry included pendants, necklaces, brooches, ear-rings, and bracelets. The craftsmanship displayed in these pieces was astounding, as was the imaginative use of, especially, nature imagery. Many pieces of jewelry were based on insect or other invertebrate lifeforms and body-shapes, such as dragonflies, wasps, bees, and butterflies.
Jun/11/2007: Panthéon, Paris, France
  • statue of Bastet in the PantheonAn impressive and imposing building, best known as the location of tombs of "great men" of France, mainly writers and other artists, including Dumas and Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and the Curies (Marie Curie is the only woman buried there). Although a secular monument, the building has very much the air of a church, perhaps because of the dome and monumental architecture and its use as a mausoleum.
  • Foucault's Pendulum
    Swinging slowly from the high-point of the dome, the pendulum was watched over, unexpectedly, by a marble statue of Bastet, the Egyptian cat goddess. Seeing this classic science demonstration in place was most interesting.
Jun/11/2007: Musée national du Moyen Âge, Paris, France
  • Also known as the Cluny Museum from its location in L'Hôtel de Cluny, a building that dates, in part, from the 13th century
  • Trésors de la Peste noire: Erfurt et Colmar
    Special exhibition of jewelry and other items recovered from buried caches, recently found, thought to have been hidden by members of the Jewish community during the years of the Black Death.
  • La Dame à la licorne (The Lady and the Unicorn)
    Lady with the Unicorn catalogue coverThis Museum is noted for its collection of tapestries, but this set is by far the most famous of the collection. It consists of six large tapestries, with colourful if enigmatic, imagery. The artworks are in a room of their own, which was very crowded, and seem better conserved and interpreted than most of the other exhibits. Seen in 'real life', these tapestries are stunning, much larger than expected, and unexpectedly moving. The catalogue for this exhibit is informative, and discusses the manufacture, iconography, and history of this tapestry set.
Oct/11/2004: Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Alex Colville: Return: Paintings, Drawings and Prints 1994-2002
    One of the final major exhibitions before the Gallery closed for rebuilding and rebranding in 2010 as the "Art Gallery of Alberta". A display of paintings by one of Canada's iconic artists, whose artistic style is instantly recognizable. Although the paintings usually show ordinary scenes, they are all slightly disturbing, though it is difficult to know why. Perhaps because, despite the presence of people, the scenes often seem empty and the people portrayed are usually solitary, or seem solitary and are not interacting with others. The works included a recent painting, from 2001, entitled Surveyor, showing an androgynous figure bent over and looking through a transit from a high viewpoint across an estuary. It encapsulates the remote and detached feeling of so much of Colville's work. The exhibition included 15 paintings, together with seriagraphs (silk-screen prints), and preparatory drawings and sketches for the paintings. It was a very enjoyable and thought-provoking display. The exhibition was prepared and toured by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
March 2003: Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta
  • The Glory Hills by John R. Maywood
    Four large paintings that captured the landscape of this parkland forest in central Alberta at four different seasons. The paintings were arranged on four walls of a small exhibition space, so that one could turn around and feel as if moving through the seasons. The Glory Hills refers to an area west of Edmonton and north of Spruce Grove
March 2002: Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Joe Norris exhibition brochure coverJoe Norris: Painted Visions of Nova Scotia
    An exhibition of paintings and painted furniture by the Nova Scotia folk artist (1924-1996). Colourful with strong primary colours and filled with east coast imagery, including seagulls, sailing ships, small boats, coastal scenes, sheds and wooden houses, and shoreline landscapes. Stylized shapes and figures, flat surfaces, little sense of perspective.
  • Jade: The Ultimate Treasure of Ancient China
    Jade objects from the Neolithic to the early 20th century. The most spectacular of these was a jade burial suit created for Princess Dou Wan, which dates from the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD). The suit was made of small plates of jade held together with gold wire. The suit would have completely covered the body.
Jun/01/2000: Nickle Arts Museum, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta
  • GeoTreasures (May 26 to June 24 2000)
    The Museum hosted this exibition which included several several geoscience components from different institutions. It was related to the GeoCanada2000 conference that was held on campus, May 29 - June 2 2000. Among the components were:
    • The most striking feature of the GeoTreasures exhibit was a huge mammoth skeleton. It was posed as though sinking to the ground in death. This was a cast of the Hebior mammoth, found in 1994 in Wisconsin. The bones were associated with stone tools, suggesting people killed and butchered the mammoth (see Hall, 1995, Mammoth Trumpet (2):5-8).
    • The exhibition also included several fine displays of gemstones and minerals, including some from the Geology Collection at my institution, the Provincial Museum of Alberta.
    • I especially enjoyed the display of fossils from the Burgess Shale, mainly because I had never seen these actual specimens before, only pictures of them in books. The specimens, from the Royal Ontario Museum collections, included an array of surreal creatures, some with feathery looking appendages, others with peculiar body morphologies. Truly fascinating.
  • Women in Profile
    An intriguing exhibition that highlighted women depicted on coinage through the ages. The Nickle Arts Museum is well-known for its fine numismatics collection.
Nov/28/1999: National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario
  • Re-visiting the Group of Seven paintings
Nov/28/1999: Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Ontario
  • Looked around the permanent exhibits, including the display on the upper floor related to pollen and pollen records. Overall the displays were very disappointing - dingy and tatty exhibitions in urgent need of refurbishment.
Nov/27/1999: Canadian Museum of Civilization, Ottawa, Ontario
  • Grand Hall
    Six house facades from different Aboriginal groups from the Pacific coast
  • Emergence from the Shadow: First Peoples' Photographic Perspective
    Photographs by Aboriginal people, showing their perspectives on their lives. These were contrasted with photographs taken by anthropologists at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century
  • Legends of our Time: Native Ranching and Rodeo Life on the Plains and Plateau
    Focuses on ranching, horses, cowboys and cattle.
  • Inuit and Englishmen: The Nunavut Voyages of Martin Frobisher
    Focuses on Martin Frobisher's 1576-1578 expeditions to Arctic Canada, including his attempts to set up a mining operation, and a permanent settlement. Both were unsuccessful.
Feb/06/1999: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia
  • I had hoped to see some paintings by Emily Carr, but these were mostly on loan to other exhibitions at other institutions.
Feb/05/1999: Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, British Columbia
  • Leonardo da Vinci catalogue coverLeonardo da Vinci: scientist, inventor, artist
    A great exhibit but very crowded so that it was difficult to spend long looking at any one component The artistic works, especially the botanical drawings and the anatomical drawings, were particularly interesting. The labels and explanatory text for the artifacts was very limited though, so there was comparatively little context for much of the material. The accompanying catalogue is excellent, with some fine reproductions of the drawings and artworks and informative text.
  • First Peoples Gallery
    Concentrates on the richness and diversity of west coast cultures. Includes the recreation of a house, with carvings in the interior. Spectacular west coast art, especially masks, notably from the Haida and Kwakiutl cultures
  • Whales
    IMAX movie. Documentary that dealt with blue whales, right whales, humpback whales, and orcas.
May 1998: Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario
  • Julia Margaret Cameron: The Creative Process: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum
    Famous 19th century photographer, who took pictures mainly in southern England. She was socially well-connected and the exhibition included a famous photograph that she took of Tennyson, which has been widely reproduced in books. Most of her photos however, were romanticized images of her servants’ children, dressed up as cherubs and fairies etc. These are fairly distasteful which shows how sensibilities have changed over the years, because these were immensely popular at the time (she sold copies commercially). Exhibition comprised 95 prints.
  • Art in Bloom: A Celebration of Art and Flowers
    A special spring exhibition. The AGO had invited various artists and gardeners to make up floral or plant arrangements on the theme of spring. Comprising 38 works, these were scattered around the Gallery and some were quite spectacular. More works of art with plants than traditional sedate flower-arrangements.
Oct/27/1995: Fine Arts Department, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Rubens to Picasso catalogue coverRubens to Picasso
    Most of the drawings were preliminary sketches for later paintings, not finished works in their own right, and it was interesting to see how ideas had been worked out on paper. Most were monochromatic, either black-on-white or red-on-tan, using charcoal or chalk as the drawing tool, and paper, often recycled and in varying condition, to draw on. The exhibition was very crowded and the lights were quite dim, so it was a bit of a strain to look at the material. The accompanying catalogue is excellent and very informative.
Oct/12/1995: National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario
  • Group of Seven book coverThe Group of Seven: Art for a Nation
    The opening day for a big new exhibit of "Group of Seven" paintings. The Group of Seven were a group of artists who were especially active in 1920s and 1930s, although a number of them were still painting in 1970s. They were the first Canadian painters to actually go outside the studio to any extent and explore the Canadian landscape, including the Rockies and the Arctic, through painting. Their paintings were extremely controversial at the time because they did not conform to the critics' expectations of what painting should be, which was controlled by the European styles. However, many of their paintings have since become almost national symbols of Canada, so much so that they have become almost a cliché in their own right. Whenever you see a painting of Canada, it is probably one of these. The paintings were far more impressive in 'real life'. Many of the canvases were huge and overwhelmed by their sheer size. Mostly they were oil paintings, and the colours and the textures were very vivid - you don't get an impression of this at all through reproductions in books.
  • The Wilderness of War: David Milne's Watercolours of the First World War WW1 paintings by Canada's official war artist. Most of these were watercolours, done on paper that looked as though it came from a sketch-book. So most of them were very small, about 8" x 10". But their impact was tremendous, in terms of their evocation of desolation and destruction. Almost all the paintings were of landscapes and scenes - hardly any contained people, other than bodies - painted with a very subdued palette, mainly browns, blues, greens, and greys, and they presented a powerful statement of the futility and sadness of war.
  • Other artworks, including contemporary art and photography
    One artwork that stands out in memory was of a full-size stuffed camel in the middle of a room. Its expression of petulant annoyance was rather disturbing.
Oct/12/1995: Canadian Museum of Civilization, Hull, Quebec
  • Grand Hall gallery guide coverThe Grand Hall
    Concentrates almost entirely on peoples of the west coast, which gives a rather misleading impression of the diversity and background of Canada's Aboriginal people. Some of the displays were rather dark and a bit confusing; in one area there was a shelf jutting out at about knee-height which I didn't see because it was so dark, and so I walked right into it. I thought this was badly designed. The displays themselves were most impressive. There were some large house-poles from the coast, and some recreations of houses from the different Aboriginal groups.
  • The Spirit of Haida Gwaii
    A massive and complex sculpture by artist Bill Reid, located in the main hall of the Museum. This is the plaster original from which the bronzes, on display at the Vancouver Airport and the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC, were cast
  • Homage to Nature: Landscape Kimonos by Itchiku Kubota
    Special exhibit by one of the Japanese "Living Treasures". These are skilled craftsmen/women who are paid by the Japanese government to pass on their skills to others. The featured person is an artist who uses paints, weaving etc. to create gorgeously decorated kimonos. Many of them have extremely intricate landscape designs on them. Looked as if they were made for exhibit and not for wearing.
  • The Mystery of the Maya
    This was an IMAX movie, which I did not see, but there was also some related display material in the lobby and the plaza at the entrance to the Museum.
Aug/10/1994: Reynolds Museum, Wetaskiwin, Alberta
  • History of transport, vintage cars, trucks, and farm machinery.
Sep/22/1993: Vancouver Aquarium, Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Vancouver Aquarium guidebook coverSea otters, killer whales.
Jun/24/1989: Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta
Spring 1989: Bruce Peel Special Collections Library, Rutherford South Library, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • thoughtprints exhibit catalogue coverthoughtprints: An investigation of the form and content of language on the printed page
    A small exhibition of works selected from the Bruce Peel Special Collections and designed by students in Des594 and Des494, Visual Communication Design, Department of Art and Design, University of Alberta. Books, maps, and printed materials were selected according to five themes: content equals form; form determines content; content determines form; hyperform; and hypercontent. The display was accompanied by a printed catalogue, providing details of the works selected and the rationale for their inclusion, that is, how each fit with its assigned theme.
Mar/25/1989: Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta
Sep/22/1988: Ring House Gallery, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Cryptogams: A Photographic Exhibition of Lichens, Mosses and Liverworts of Northwest North America
    The exhibition included 38 colour photographs of lichens, mosses, and liverworts taken by Robin Bovey to illustrate the field guide Mosses, Lichens and Ferns of Northwest North America. A visually appealing presentation, it highlighted the important role of these plants in northern and coastal ecosystems. Cryptogams was organized by the Ring House Gallery and the Department of Botany, University of Alberta.
Mar/16/1988: Calgary Zoo, Calgary, Alberta
  • Panda Magic
    Two Giant Pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), a male and female, visiting from China. The Pandas were named Qun Qun and Xi Xi, and were on display between February and September 1988, as part of events surrounding the XV Winter Olympic Games. A popular public attraction, the exhibit was very crowded.
Mar/14/1988: Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta
  • The Spirit Sings exhibit catalogue coverThe Spirit Sings: Artistic Traditions of Canada's First Peoples
    A spectacular exhibition of Canadian Aboriginal art and artifacts, assembled as part of the cultural festivities surrounding the XV Winter Olympic Games in Calgary. The exhibition was accompanied by an informative and well illustrated catalogue.
Spring 1981: Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario
  • Vincent van Gogh and the Birth of Cloisonism
    There were long line-ups to get into the Gallery and the exhibition was very crowded. It concentrated on artworks from the late 1880s. The painting that I best remember is the Sunflowers, reproduced in many art books and on posters, but powerful for its colour and vibrancy when seen 'for real'. Many of the paintings in this exhibition were, in fact, iconic and much-reproduced images, which no doubt accounted for the intense public interest and crowds. This was a powerful and memorable exhibition.
early 1970s: Imperial College, London, England
  • Moon Rocks from Apollo Mission
    Large crowds to see a case with a few fragments of lunar rock material collected during one of the Apollo missions. It was amazing to think that these rocks were from so far away, although the pieces themselves were not very impressive, being grey, fine-grained and fairly nondescript.
This presentation has been compiled and is © 1998-2016 by
Alwynne B. Beaudoin (
Last updated April 16, 2016
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