Canadian sculptor’s artistic roots lead to Mann Art Gallery donation

The Mann Art Gallery in Prince Albert received a major boost in November thanks to a prominent international artist and former Prince Albert resident.

Canadian sculptor Aganetha Dyck and her family donated 66 pieces for the Mann Art Gallery, including a shrunken clothing series titled ‘Sizes 8-46’ and later work with honeybees involving jars, feeder boards, drawings, and beeswax-covered ceramics.

“I was just so delighted,” Mann Art Gallery curator and director Marcus Miller said when asked about the donation. “It was really just fantastic.”

Miller received a message from Dyck in late September about a possible donation. The donation it will take gallery employees months to catalogue and appraise the collection.

“All that backroom kind of stuff is going to be done over the course of the next year,” Miller explained. “In August, I think, it should be all processed and we should be able to start showing them after then.”

Dyck was born to a Mennonite family in Winnipeg in 1937. She moved to Prince Albert with her husband in 1972 and began her artistic training under the instruction of George Glenn and Margaret van Walsem.

Although Dyck and her family moved back to Winnipeg in 1976, she continued her artistic pursuits, and had her first solo show in 1979. Since then, she’s shown her work at hundreds of solo and group exhibits across Canada, and in the United States and Europe. She’s won a number of awards for her work, including the Governor General’s Award in Visual Arts and Media in 2007.

TURN – Mann Art Gallery adds to permanent collection with two new purchases

Although she became an international artist, Dyck never forgot her artistic roots in Prince Albert. Miller said that was a big reason for the donation.

“She wrote me this lovely email and she explained that she actually had her artistic formation when she lived in Prince Albert,” Miller said. “I’m just tickled pink that we have that fantastic donation from her.”

Dyck is best known for her work with honeybees, which she started in 1989. She describes the work as a collaboration, placing objects into bee hives and allowing the insects to build honeycomb on top of the pieces. A single work can sometimes take years to complete.

The most prominent is ‘Glass Dress: Lady in Waiting’, which is on display in the National Gallery of Canada, and took six years to complete.

“(The Mann Art Gallery) is a great home for the Aganetha Dyck works,” Miller said. “She became an artist in Prince Albert, so I’m just so happy to have these.”

Dyck’s works weren’t the only new pieces the gallery acquired towards the end of 2021. Thanks to the generous patronage of Roger and Diane Mann, the gallery was able to purchase two new paintings from local artists: ‘Complex Sky’ by Gregory Hardy, and ‘Wildfire’ by Ken van Rees.

Both works are on display until Jan. 15.

“These two paintings by these two artists who work in our midst and work in our area are really going to enhance our collection,” Miller said. “The Mann Art Gallery is the place for this.”

Both artists have a collection of works on display at the Mann Art Gallery, and Miller said he’s confident they purchased the best ones.

Ken van Rees’ work is the most recent, having just been completed in 2021. The piece uses charcoal logs placed on canvas and mounted on a birch panel.

A former soil scientist with the University of Saskatchewan, van Rees was inspired by the charred wood left at a soil plot in northern Saskatchewan following the 2015 wildfires. He noticed the charred remains rubbing off on his clothes, and decided to put it to artistic use as a member of the local Men who Paint group.

“I believe that we got the most beautiful (work),” Miller said. “These are abstract works, but they’re also produced in the boreal forest around our area. It’s a very different way of making the paintings, but they’re also beautiful.”

Hardy’s completed his painting in 2019. It’s a charcoal and acrylic paint on canvas that features Saskatchewan skies prominently. Like van Rees, Harding has a local connection, having created the work at his cabin not far from Prince Albert.

“What he’s really known for—and what would strike you if you walked into this show—is how concrete and prominent the sky is in all his paintings,” Miller said. “The one we purchased, I think, is the stellar one in the show. It’s a beautiful, beautiful painting. It’s a fantastic, dazzling painting.”

Miller also thanked the Manns for their support, which he credited for helping build the Mann Art Gallery’s collection into one of the best in the province.

“Today, we have about 4,000 objects in our collection,” he explained. “I would say it’s probably one of the most important public collections of art in the province, and it’s thanks to Diane and Roger Mann.”

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