Prince Albert arts volunteer curating exhibit dedicated to late friend Mac Hone

Prince Albert-born artist McGregor 'Mac' Hone's signature is shown in the bottom right hand corner of a landscape piece in the John V. Hicks Gallery on Jan. 9, 2020. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

McGregor ‘Mac’ Hone was a man of many interests. You could have an intelligent conversation with him “about anything under the sun.”

That’s according to a dedicated volunteer at the Mann Art Gallery, who first met Hone back in 1984. Russ Mode is curating the Mac Hone Landscapes exhibit in the John V. Hicks Gallery, which is running until Jan. 27.

“(It’s) to give the viewer an idea of the breadth of work that Mac did in his career in terms of landscape art. Of course, Mac is very well known for the variety of work that he did in his career. He’s got prints; he’s got landscapes; he’s got portraits; he’s got the entire range,” explained Mode.

He chose 15 pieces out of about 2,000 of Hone’s that the Mann Art Gallery has in its permanent collection. In March of 2015, Hone’s family members gifted a collection of artwork spanning Hone and his wife Beth’s careers.

Mode wanted to display the art that best reflected Hone’s time in the Saskatchewan prairies and B.C.

Out of the 15 pieces, several are of trees. One acrylic on paper piece shows smoothly blended colours of purple, red and blue, while others are ink on paper. They’re black and white, created with bold lines and textures.

This untitled ink on paper piece was a gift from McGregor ‘Mac’ Hone’s family to the Mann Art Gallery in 2015. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Mac Hone Landscapes wasn’t the original plan to fill the space in January. An Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Council (OSAC) exhibit had to be cancelled because the art was too large.

As Mode explained, some of the packing crates were 900 pounds. With the Arts Centre having no loading dock and a narrow wheelchair ramp, they had to think of something else.

“I said ‘Well, we’ve got lots of Mac Hone landscapes in the collection,’” said Mode. It fit perfectly because the original OSAC exhibit was of landscape art.

Mode doesn’t consider himself an artist—In fact, he jokes that the extent of his ability is stick men—but he’s always related to Hone’s landscape pieces.

“I used to do a fair bit of photography,” he said.

“The landscapes are predominantly prairie scenes, Qu’Appelle Valley scenes, which when I was doing photography, that’s what I did. That’s the sort of thing that I like.”

He said he’s encountered many of the scenes Hone recreated in his art. This includes landscapes in B.C., where Mode used to work and Hone served as a victory ship welder during the Second World War. Even after the war, Hone often returned to B.C. to visit.

‘Deep Creek’ (acrylic on paper) is one of 15 pieces in the Mac Hone Landscapes exhibit in the John V. Hicks Gallery. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Mode, a math and science teacher for 33 years, met Hone and his wife at meetings for the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation. Mode was a councillor and Hone a previous president.

“He was a very intelligent man and had a tremendous range of interests,” explained Mode.

“He had an intelligent thing to say about whatever you were discussing and well thought out, well reasoned, a very interesting person to talk to. And of course the things that he had done in his life were just remarkable, not only the art, but also his teaching,” he said.

Mode explained that Hone was the principal of Central Collegiate High School in Regina, where he developed an innovative visual arts program for students.

Hone was born in Prince Albert in 1920, but lived in Saskatoon while attending university and in Lumsden, Sask. after his retirement. He passed away in 2007.

“When Mac travelled and worked, he was constantly influenced by his surroundings; this body of work is an expression of this fascination. Forests, snow-covered prairie plains, mountains and rivers are some of the prominent themes that pervade Mac’s work,” reads the description of the exhibit in the John V. Hicks Gallery.

“The exhibition attempts to show a variety of landforms depicted through different media types and representational styles, while indirectly commenting on the effects of human activity regarding the environment.”

The John V. Hicks Gallery, which is located on the second floor of the Arts Centre, is jointly programmed by the Mann Art Gallery and by the Prince Albert Council for the Arts. Mode has been volunteering at the Mann Art Gallery for a year and a half.

This story has been corrected to clarify that the Hicks Gallery is jointly programmed by the Mann Art Gallery and the Council for the Arts.