A special touring exhibit will be at the Mann Art Gallery over the next month.
On Friday evening, the Mann hosted the opening reception for a new exhibition of innovative textile-based art produced on the Canadian Prairies during the second half of the 20th century. The exhibit is called Prairie Interlace: Weaving, Modernisms and The Expanded Frame, 1960–2000.
It’s curated by Michele Hardy, Timothy Long and Julia Krueger and is a collaboration between Nickle Galleries at the University of Calgary, Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina and independent curator Krueger.
“Prairie Interlace is a show that came about because we wanted to expand the history of the arts in the prairie provinces and start to talk about things beyond painting, (and) sculpture,” Krueger said. “In the Regina area there is also quite a rich history of ceramics, and we all knew of really great artists that were working between 1960 and 2000, which is the time period that this show covers. We all knew great artists that we wanted to learn more about so we said ‘hey let’s get together and do a show to start figuring out what was going on.”
The show features work by artists who made their marks here in Prince Albert including Aganetha Dyck, Ann Newdigate, Annabel Taylor, Margreet van Walsem, Kate Waterhouse and others.
Hardy who is curator at the Nickel, said the collaborating institutions of the Mackenzie and Nickle Galleries wrote a successful funding application with Krueger and the show opened in the fall in Calgary to great success.
“It was so successful. It did so well for us,” she said. “The show will continue to travel. After the run at the Mann it will go to the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba in Brandon this summer and then it will finish its run at the Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina opening in November.”
Hardy said the exhibit chose to come to the Mann because curator Marcus Miller showed interest but also because of the connection to the area through artists.
“Artists like Margreet van Walsem were working here in Prince Albert along with Aganetha Dyck, who is quite a well known artist, but then we have also got some rugs by Anne Ratt who is also from the north as well,” Krueger added.
With a focus on weaving and other interlace practices, such as rug hooking and crochet, the exhibition examines how artists of diverse backgrounds wove new histories of fibre during a period of intense energy and collective creativity.
“We had to make pretty tough decisions,” Krueger said. “This isn’t really a retrospective. It’s more of a snapshot because there was just so many great works that we just couldn’t fit everybody in.”
Krueger explained that through curating the exhibit she learned about the scale of the pieces. She was surprised by the size of some of the works, and by the large number of pieces available.
“This show is a little bit of a smaller show just because of the size of the gallery, but one of the ways that we made a selection of what to include here was (asking), ‘what could actually fit in this building,’ because there are literally some pieces that are too tall,” Krueger said.
“I always thought that it was painting that was big at this point in time, this just really surprised me, the scale,” she added.
Hardy grew up in Vancouver, but moved to the prairies where she learned about the scale, colour and vivacity of the work of local artists.
“This was such a learning curve just to understand how much activity was happening on the prairies and the scale and the talent and the wonderful connections between different communities and different communities of practice,” she explained.
Krueger said Saskatchewan played a key role with artists like Dyck and van Walsem leading the way. She also payed tribute to Ann Newdigate, who was also a major part of it.
“Those same people were also practising and learning down at the summer school for the arts in the Fort Qu’Appelle area but then they would also go to Banff and do workshops there,” Krueger said. “It this whole sort of circuit. I didn’t realize it was as interconnected as we’re still learning and finding out.”
Hardy said the Summer School for the Arts, Banff and the former Art College of Alberta all played a role in the connections between artists.
According to Krueger and Hardy, there is a book coming out in the future through the University of Calgary Press and the website www.prairieinterlace.ca also provides more information.
“We are hoping to get launch dates soon but it should launch this fall,” Hardy said. “We are hoping it will launch at the Mackenzie Art Gallery and I know lots of people are really interested in the book. We have got 11 fabulous essays by really leading scholars about the artists about some of the interconnections.”
Krueger said the website and book helps to get information out about weaving at that point in time.
“We are still really lucky that a number of the artists are still alive and contribute interviews to the website, but there is also a number of artists who have passed so we really want to get this history down,” Krueger said.
Hardy hopes that the exhibition inspires another generation of creators and scholars to start working in this area.
“There was only so much that we could do, so much that we could cover,” Krueger added. “We are hoping that the next generation gets inspired to dig a little deeper and go a little further and curate more exhibitions for the future.”
After an introduction by Miller, both Hardy and Krueger walked the crowd through the exhibit.
The third curator Long could not attend the opening reception.
The exhibit will be at the Mann Art Gallery from April 14 to May 27.