Don Proch

It’s not often that a book is published about your junior high art school teacher, is it?  Don Proch was no ordinary middle school teacher. He taught me how to draw perspective, which is no small feat in a classroom of enthusiastic 13 year olds.  His teaching career was short-lived; he’s been creating art full time for most of his life. His artworks are found in public and corporate collections from Vancouver, Canada to New York, U.S.A.

Don Proch- Masking and Mapping by Patiricia Bovey, University of Manitoba Press, 2019

Don Proch- Masking and Mapping by Patiricia Bovey, University of Manitoba Press, 2019

Night Landing Mask, Don Proch, 1982, Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, galleries west.ca image

Night Landing Mask, Don Proch, 1982, Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, galleries west.ca image

Take a look at this short video produced by Mayberry Fine Art. Mr. Proch (how could I call him Don?!) talks about his process, and his influences.  He describes his objects as three dimensional drawing and says making these things is the most fun I can have.

Chicken Bone Mask, Don Proch, 1978

Chicken Bone Mask, Don Proch, 1978

Isn’t the work intriguing?  Unique?  He has a singular voice that remains contemporary in its exploration of humans interacting with the land.  And what could be more à propos than masks?  If you want to learn a bit more, here’s an interesting interview  by Robert Enright from Border Crossings.

And, really, you want to see the images in the book, Don Proch –  Masking and Mapping.  It’s easily ordered from the University of Manitoba Press, or your local independent bookstore.  Ask your public library to acquire a copy. Patricia Bovey has done a remarkable job compiling all the images, details, and dates of Don Proch’s extraordinary life and art into an accessible and enjoyable format.  It’s a gorgeous book, and an incredible resource.

Thanks to Ms Bovey for this book.  Thanks to Mr. Proch for teaching me drawing fundamentals.  Thank you, Don Proch, for your art.

To wear – or not wear- Indigenous designs

To wear – or not to wear – indigenous design is a topic of discussion that keeps popping up in my social circles.  The clothing and jewellery are gorgeous, but is it cultural appropriation when non-indigenous people wear them?

Mary Simon is Canada’s newest Governor General.  At her recent inauguration she wore a dress and jacket designed and decorated by Victoria Okpik and Julie Grenier.   This brief article from the Inuit Art Foundation highlights the artists and their works.  (Have a look because you won’t want to miss the image of the outfit Victoria Okpik designed for the musical artist Elisapie.)

Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada, cbc.ca image

Mary Simon is Canada's newest Governor General, cbc.ca image

Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada, cbc.ca image

Mary Simon is indigenous – born in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik.  It’s more than appropriate that she wears clothing created by indigenous artists.  I wonder, though,  whether it’s fitting for me, a first generation Canadian, to wear indigenous designs?

As I explore the question, it seems clear that we bear a responsibility as consumers / wearers to ensure that the work is authentic, not mass produced. Has the artist been compensated for their creations?  Has the artist been paid?

If you’re interested in reading more about the propriety of wearing indigenous designs, here’s a  HuffPost article by Haley Lewis and a Toronto Star interview with indigenous artist Killa Atencio.  You may also want to check out this Indigenous Arts Collective. Their tagline is We are artists FOR artists.

(Thanks to CARFAC for popularizing the question Has the artist been paid? and the Inuit Art Foundation  for advancing the work of indigenous artists.)

 

Insights into Artist Books

Any regular (or irregular) reader of this blog knows that art and books are important to The Art Caravan.  We’ve looked at a few significant books  and authors  amidst the scores of posts about art.

Artist books seem a match made in heaven, don’t you think?  I mentioned them briefly in this post about the Athenaeum Music & Art Library (speaking of heaven….)   I’ve explored making them, too – creating various structures and enclosures.

If, edition of 5, 2015, intaglio

Intaglio, relief print, marbling, paper cutting

X marks the spot…., 2016, accordion book and clamshell box

If you’d like to know more about artist books, I recommend The Book as Artone of a series of short videos in Insightsfrom the de Young and Legion of Honor Museums in San Francisco.  Also in the series, Iliazd: Publishing as an Art Form,  is a remarkably beautiful ten minute video focusing on Ilia Zdanevich’s fifty years of creating original hand-made books with prominent 20th century artists.

de Young Museum, San Fransisco, T. Vatrt image

May we all be enjoying time this summer reading books.  If you’re looking for suggestions, head to the Good Reads page on this blog.

Libreria Palazzo Roberti, Bassano del Grappa, Italia, T. Vatrt image

Murals of La Jolla 2021

In the spirit of summer The Art Caravan proposes a (virtual) trip to the beach. Admittedly it’s not nearly as much fun digitally as it is in person, but advantages include less sand in our shoes, and no risk of sunburn.

La Jolla, California is a stunningly beautiful oceanside town north of San Diego.  Unlike many beach towns, it features  exceptional art on the streets and in its museums.  I unearthed several older posts extolling its virtues.

1° 2° 3° 4°, Robert Irwin, 1997, photo by T. Vatrt

I’ve previously written (here) about The Murals of La Jolla, but the recent additions to the public art project justify a return trip.

Gamboa Seasons in La Jolla, Beatriz Milhazes, 2020, muralsoflajolla.com image

Beatriz Milhazes….swoon.  A mural – or three – is an appropriate medium for her work.  (Read more about her here.)

The Murals of La Jolla is an excellent website , with plenty of images and information about touring the artworks.

Favorite Color, 2010, Roy McMakin, ljathenaeum.org

May we all enjoy a summer filled with beach time, and good art.  Remember the sunscreen.

 

 

 

UnEditioned at Manhattan Graphics Center

Summer 2021-officially!  We may (here’s hoping) safely resuming non-pandemic life.  It’s time to go outside, reconnect with others, and resume some activities.  Keeping that advice in mind, The Art Caravan posts will be brief this summer.

I will quickly draw your attention to the Manhattan Graphics Center.  MGC, a professional printmaking studio,  opened in 1986.   It provides space, equipment and opportunities for artists to learn printmaking, and to produce and show their artworks in New York City.

Elizabeth McAlpin is a practising artist and member of Manhattan Graphics Center

Elizabeth McAlpin, Manhattan Graphics Center, T. Vatrt image

What great news (sigh of relief) to read of its reopening. Not only has it managed to survive  the shutdowns of the last 15 months but MGC is offering expanded membership opportunities, and a collaboration with Center for the Book Arts.

The Center for the Book Arts, NYC, T. Vatrt image

The Center for the Book Arts, NYC, T. Vatrt image

The Center for the Book Arts, NYC, T. Vatrt image

Both Centers offer workshops and courses, virtually and (soon!) in the studios.  Until July 31,  MGC has a virtual exhibition UnEditionedjuried by Katie Michel of The Planthouse Gallery. I am honoured to have a print included in the show.  You might want to take a quick look at this link before heading outside…

more to explore 3, Terry Vatrt, UnEditioned virtual exhibition at Manhattan Graphics Center

more to explore 3, Terry Vatrt, intaglio, chine collé, ink, coloured pencil

 

 

Taking Shakespeare

I planned to write a different post this week.  Seeing the online version of the play Taking Shakespeare a couple of days ago changed my mind (or course, if you want to follow the cheesy caravan pun.)

I am growing increasingly weary of all things on a screen. Perhaps you are, too?  (Oh, I admit  there are many advantages to using  Zoom and new horizons to explore via YouTube, but, as in all things, a balance is necessary. Acknowledging the irony,  I sincerely thank you for reading this post – on a screen.)  I have a subscription to the Belfry Theatre and almost reluctantly tuned in to the final production of their spring season.

Belfry Theatre, belfry.bc.ca image

My reluctance was short lived.  Taking Shakespeare by John Murrell is an extremely well written play. An award winning writer, Murrell also translated plays, and wrote librettos.  He received a Governor General’s Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement  in 2008.  The Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia provides a brief  summary of his prolific works, as well as his interesting life.

The realistic dialogue, and the authentic characterizations are brought to life by excellent actors.  Patti Allan and Austin Eckert are both experienced stage and screen performers.  Allan, as the professor, gave a particularly nuanced performance of a cynical professional woman of a certain age tutoring the seemingly apathetic, directionless student.

As with other visual performing arts, the success of the online presentation also depends significantly on the skills of the the videographer.  Candelario Andrade presents a simple, but very effective delivery of the play.  I was able to concentrate on the characters’ relationship, as well as focus on them as individuals.  (You may want to watch his Video Editor demo reel .)

The good news is that you can watch the play, too.  It’s available until Sunday, June 13.  Tickets are available from the Belfry Theatre.  I highly recommend it.

Taking Shakespeare, Belfry Theatre, belfry.bc.ca image

Honouring Arts Advocate Dr. Shirley Thomson

The headline Donor supports Venice Biennale’s Canada Pavillon caught my eye.  I’m fond of Venice  – one big art gallery, really! – and visited the Architecture Biennale in 2016.  (You can read a short post about my Biennale adventures here, and a brief description about the Canadian exhibition here.)

Venice Biennale site, image by T. Vatrt

Venice Biennale site, image by T. Vatrt

What is interesting about the $3 million donation to maintain the Canadian Pavillon at the Venice Biennale site is that the donor remains anonymous.   Instead, the patron wishes to honour a former director of the National Gallery of Canada, Dr. Shirley Thomson (1930-2010.)  Barbara Stead- Coyle (National Gallery of Canada Foundation) reports The donor wanted the focus to be on Dr. Thomson and Dr. Thomson’s time at the gallery.  

Among her many achievements, Dr. Thomson was the director of the National Gallery of Canada when it moved from an office building to its current (and stunning) purpose-built location along the Ottawa River.

Maman, Louise Bourgeois, 1999 National Gallery of Canada image

Maman, Louise Bourgeois, 1999 National Gallery of Canada image

National Gallery of Canada, T. Vatrt image

During her 1987-1997 tenure at the National Gallery, Dr. Thomson diversified the permanent collection, acquiring contemporary art, as well as important historical works.  Under her direction, the gallery purchased  Barnett Newman’s Voice of Fire (1967) in 1989 for $1.8 million.  It proved to be a highly controversial topic in Canada, outraging Conservative politicians, and sparking discussions amongst Canadians. How wonderful to have citizens talking about art!

Here’s a concise video by  National Gallery curator Annabelle Kienle Ponka  explaining the significance of this painting.

Voice of Fire, Barnett Newman, Winnipeg Free Press image

In addition to her degrees in fine art and history, Dr. Shirley Thomson received an honorary degree from Université Concordia in 2001.  This citation outlines some of her many accomplishments throughout her career, as well as at the National Gallery.  Besides diversifying the permanent collection with savvy purchases (imagine what Voice of Fire is worth today) she valued education and accesibility for all:  she initiated an internship program for university students, and began the Cybermuse program, which ensured the collection’s online availability.  In honour of the donation, the Abstract Expressionist space is now The Dr. Shirley L. Thomson Gallery.

Isn’t it refreshing to have an arts advocate honoured, instead of the usual Mr. and Mrs. Millionaire/Billionaire Memorial Gallery?  For a bit of insight into Dr. Thomson’s leadership style and personality, this interview with Rob Labossiere provides some insight into this remarkable woman.  Our thanks to the generous donor for maintaining the Canadian Pavillon at the Venice Biennale and for bringing Dr. Shirley Thomson to our attention.

Dr. Shirley Thomson, Ottawa Citizen image

Dr. Shirley Thomson, Ottawa Citizen image

 

Ai Weiwei

Contemporary artist Ai Weiwei is having another moment right now – or maybe he’s emblematic of our time.  If you’ve been following The Art Caravan for awhile, you know that I think he’s a fantastic artist.  In an October 2014 post , I wrote This is one of the best exhibitions I have ever seen.  Seven years later, I don’t disagree.  Here’s a brief summary (with images and video) from For-Site Foundation, about Large, the installations I (fortunately) experienced at Alcatraz.

Pace Prints has a Weiwei exhibition running until May 29, 2021.  In conjunction with the show, they are releasing a silkscreen print edition of Year of the Ox, which references his 2018 Zodiac  and 2010 Zodiac Heads series.

Year of the Ox, 2021, Ai Weiwei, artsy.net image

Year of the Ox, 2021, Ai Weiwei, paceprints.com

Year of the Ox, 2021, Ai Weiwei, paceprints.com

Beginning May 15, and running to August 1, Skirball Cultural Center presents Ai Weiwei:  Trace.  Part of their programming includes this conversation with Skirball curator Yael Lipschutz.  It’s worth a listen to hear Weiwei’s political perspectives.  I found the discussion of his artistic process fascinating.  It’s a thought provoking interview.

Artnet news announced the November 2021 publication of an Ai Weiwei memoir 1000 Days of Joys and Sorrows.  In this very brief video, Weiwei explains the genesis of this book.  He ends with these bold words:  What is the cost for freedom?  If art cannot engage with life it has no future. No surprise that his father was a poet;  Selected Poems  by Ai Qing will be published in English and released the same day as 1000 Days of Joys and Sorrows.

The Art Caravan won’t, unfortunately,  be traveling to NYC or Los Angeles anytime soon. sigh  In the meantime, here’s another brief flashback to an Ai Weiwei installation I saw in Vancouver in 2015.

The F Grass, Ai Weiwei, Vancouver Biennale, image by T. Vatrt

The F Grass, Ai Weiwei, Vancouver Biennale, image by T. Vatrt

 

Not Going to Buenos Aires: Before, and After

The art show Not Going to Buenos Aires is over, but remains available online.  As one of the participating artists, I’ve come to realize the importance of this exhibition.  A visitor commented:  I came to the show with my friend; I don’t know any of the artists.   I didn’t think I’d want to have ‘pandemic art’ in my home.  But when I saw all of the artworks, together, I wanted to buy some work to mark this time.  (I’m happy to report she bought one of Janet Brooks’ Zoom Rooms, and five pieces from my wish you were here…. series.)

Zoom Room 3, Janet Brooks, acrylic and pencil on cradle board

wish you were here…. Terry Vatrt, mixed media

Whether or not we acknowledge and accept the reality of the pandemic, we are living in a significant historic moment.  Our daily lives and our corporate life have changed for a substantial and unknown period of time.   Our movements and interactions – everywhere! – are severely limited by the threat of illness and death. As artists we grappled with those limitations through the Not Going to Buenos Aires theme: inquire into the complexity of yearning to be anywhere other than the “here” of a pandemic shutdown.

As I wrote in a previous post six artists produce six very different responses.  Images and artist statements, available on our website, illustrate the variety of interpretations.

For some of the artists Not Going to Buenos Aires marks a significant change in their personal art practises.  Kate Scoones, with a laugh, refers to Before Not Going To Buenos Aires and After Not Going To Buenos Aires.

The spontaneity of the work I found to be just so rewarding and it kept me going.  I think that has made a huge shift in my art practise now.  I can forever say ‘Before Not Going to Buenos Aires’  I worked this way, and now I work this way – another way – a different way.

Among my Souvenirs, Kate Scoones, acrylic gouache on foamcore

Participating in Not Going to Buenos Aires was notable for Amy Marcus. (@amarcusx)  I was always a dabbler who made things.  I became somebody who could put something forward and feel that it was good enough to be accepted.  I could stand in that, and feel good about that.

My Monkey Mind, Amy Marcus, embroidery

At the very least, participating in NGTBA gave me a project for the covid winter we endured.  Less time on screens and more time in the studio is always a good thing.

Like Kate I also learned to be open to new ways of working.  I created highly personal pieces.  I believed the assumption that being too personal in my work would seem pedestrian – not interesting to others, and only appeal to a limited audience.  I discovered the opposite is true.  The most personal artworks elicited the strongest positive responses.

bred in the bone, T. Vatrt, 2021, mixed media

bred in the bone, T. Vatrt, 2021, mixed media

In a Not Going to Buenos Aires debriefing meeting (on Zoom, of course!) Kate expanded on my observation.  You have to let things happen. They sit with you.  They come out.  The truer you are to that feeling, the truer the work will be.  And in spite of it feeling so personal – like it really comes out of you – it resonates with people. That’s what the person who purchased your work is going… ‘Oh!  This is coming from a place inside myself that I recognize.’

Participating in Not Going to Buenos Aires forced me to clarify my thoughts about the reality of living, and loss, during pandemic times.  Joanne Hewko agrees.  This project – having a framework to think about – and to do a deep dive intellectually into my thinking – was super useful.  I liked having something to really sink my teeth into.

Let’s end with Amy’s summary of  participating in Not Going to Buenos Aires :

I loved working with all of you.  I felt like it was a group effort.   I know everyone goes away and does what the do and that’s always one of the things that amazes me about a project – when everyone has the same topic and they create something that’s completely different. It’s just amazing, and  fascinating, and so soul satisfying to see what other people do.

Don’t be surprised to see Soul Satisfying  t-shirts this summer.  I suspect they could be very popular with artists.

 

Not Going to Buenos Aires – yet

Not Going to Buenos Aires opened  (in person visits!) last weekend at the Errant Art Space in Victoria, B.C.  The previous  Art Caravan post explained the genesis of the art show’s theme –  six artists inquire into the complexity of yearning to be anywhere other than the ‘here’ of a pandemic shutdown.

Not Going to Buenos Aires group art show postcard

As you can imagine, six artists interpret one theme in vastly different ways.  The website for NGTBA provides each artist’s statement and artwork images. The diversity of media is remarkable – you will see embroidery, collage, printmaking, paper sculpture and  painting.

Annus Horribilis, Amy Marcus, embroidery on cotton

Jardín di Los Sueños 1, (detail) Joanne Hewko, acrylic on canvas

As I noted in the last post, overlapping ideas, like climate change and environmental degradation, emerged from the works.  Other commonalities are evident.  It’s interesting to see Janet Brooks and Kate Scoones both reference the ubiquitous Zoom calls we are all enduring.  Janet created a series of Zoom Room paintings which mimic the fractured Zoom experience in an emphasized horizontal perspective.

Zoom Room 3, Janet Brooks, acrylic and pencil on cradle board

About her works Among my Souvenirs, Kate says: Each subject is alone and motionless on a colourful background, with no specific landscape or environment. They are intimate yet aloof (not unlike a Zoom call when private space is shared with strangers).

Among my souvenirs, Kate Scoones, acrylic gouache on foamcore

Among my souvenirs, Kate Scoones, acrylic gouache on foamcore

My series wish you were here….. echoes Kate’s observation about uniqueness within a relationship. The presentation of the artwork also reinforces the grid inherent in a Zoom call.

wish you were here…. Terry Vatrt, mixed media

Almost all of the artists commented that the pandemic, while forcing us to slow down, resulted in new discoveries in our art practises.  Trish Shwart says she’s been able to… work more slowly, and at a much larger scale than I have worked in the past few years.  The continuous day to day practice has allowed me to develop a kind of resilience in terms of how I approach and modify the paintings over the course of their development.

The Air was Still and the Sun was Out (detail) Trish Shwart, acrylic on wood panel

Kate writes I wouldn’t have delved so deeply into a mundane subject and found it so compelling had I not been confined.

In my own studio, I  was surprised by the long lengths of time I spent working on the larger pieces.  It felt like an extraordinarily contemplative process.  Standing on their Shoulders took me several iterations, and months, to complete.

Not surprisingly, Amy humorously summed up her experience working at home.

 I have a short attention span so for NGTBA, as a challenge, I took on a v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-w-w project. My Monkey Mind was hand embroidered with single strands of thread and that extended the work time into just short of forever. And that was supposed to be the point.
At times i experienced it as a meditation as intended, and at other times it felt like a drawn out trial. In those times, if ‘trial’ is a metaphor, I found myself guilty of monkeying around.
In the end, fast, s-l-o-w, meditative, drawn out, guilty, or not, it was all part of the dance.

My Monkey Mind, Amy Marcus, embroidery

The show is open one more weekend, (April 17-18, 2021) with covid protocols in place.  We’ve provided a website with plenty of visuals,  links to a CBC radio interview, and a visual walk through ‘tour.’  Please visit as you are able, and see if any of our responses to these strange days resonate with you.