Monthly Archives: April 2014

Emily Carr’s Wild Lilies

Wild Lilies

Whenever I visit the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria I always drop in to ‘see’ Emily Carr.  The AGGV has a small, semi-permanent exhibition of her work.  It’s a great introduction to Emily Carr, as the show describes Emily’s life through photographs and text. There are examples of art from the different stages of her life, beginning with her early student work.  I especially appreciate the inclusion of works by her contemporaries, such as Lawren Harris and Anne Savage.

One of my favourite Emily Carr paintings was not, I suspect, one of Emily’s favourites. Wild Lilies  is an early work, and very traditional….not at all like her later forest works, where she grappled with the challenges of capturing the spirituality and strength of the west coast landscape.

Wild Lillies is not only a beautiful floral still life, but has a beautiful history.  Emily donated it to the Sisters of St. Ann, in appreciation for their care of her sister, Lizzie, who died from breast cancer.  A few years ago, the Sisters  generously donated Wild Lilies to the AGGV.


Mowry Baden

Congratulations to Mowry Baden!  He was recently awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship.

This past February, I was fortunate to hear Mowry speak at a CARFAC panel on Public Art.  He  talked about his practice producing public sculptural installations.  His work involves the experience of the viewer interacting with the objects he creates.

Mr. Baden addressed the ideas of Institutional Vandalism, Public Outrage, Benign Neglect, Art as Amenity, and Self Financing Public Art.  He showed examples of his work in the U.S., as well as local art commissions in Victoria.

Mowry is speaking again this weekend, as part of Reclaim the Streets:  A Symposium on Art and Public Space at Open Space in downtown Victoria.



Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees

Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees is both a quote from Paul Valery, and the title of a book by Lawrence Weschler.  Weschler has written an extremely readable biography of the contemporary artist, Robert Irwin.

The book was first published in 1982,  In February 2009 it was re-issued with six more chapters, and 24 colour plates.

Weschler’s real strength as a writer is his ability to explain complex ideas in an engaging, entertaining fashion.  Robert Irwin’s art breaks boundaries, and challenges the traditional notions of the art world.  Weschler develops an organization for the book that clearly outlines the progression of ideas in Irwin’s art work.  He provides an intelligent analysis, and explains ideas simply, but not simplistically.

Weschler asks great questions, and allows Irwin to speak for himself. Irwin comes across as completely honest, and very articulate.  I love what he says to students:  “….they are responsible for their own activities, that they are really, in a sense, the question, that ultimately they are what it is they have to contribute.  The most critical part of that is for them to begin developing the ability to assign their own tasks and make their own criticism in direct relation to their own needs and not in light of some abstract criteria.”

Irwin (partially) supported himself by gambling at the racetrack.  I’m not a gambler, but I’d bet that after reading this book you’ll never look at another contemporary art installation in quite the same way.



Romare Bearden

In my last post, I mentioned the artist, Romare Bearden.  I first became aware of him on a long ago visit to the Baltimore Museum of Art.  The show of prints was stunning:  strong colours used in abstracted scenes, such as jazz musicians playing.

He was an incredible artist, working in a large variety of media.  His collage work is notable, and was used on the covers of Fortune and Time magazine in 1968.  His artist talent spread to many areas of the arts, including creation of set and costume design for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

He has been an inspiration for thousands of people.  Brad Marsalis released an album (with an all star line-up) titled Romare Bearden Revealed.

Currently, the Currier Museum of Art in New Hampshire, and the Jenkins Johnson Gallery in San Francisco are presenting shows of his works.

Federal Art Project

A few days ago The Writers’ Almanac highlighted the anniversary of the funding approval for the American  Federal Art Project .  The Works Progress Administration was part of F.D. Roosevelt’s New Deal initiatives to get unemployed Americans back to work during the Depression.

Just imagine–a government program to support artists in their work.  It’s reported that Roosevelt said that artists “….got to eat like other people.”


Romare Bearden, Mark Rothko and Jo Mora are a few of the thousands of artists who benefited from the seven year program.

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (La Jolla)

This is a short list* of reasons why I especially like the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla:

-Admission is free for ages 25 and under (bring the kids!)

-Admission ticket is good for a week (bring the kids once, and then go back again—by yourself)

-A compact, but very good, outdoor sculpture gallery

-It’s a beautiful space, with amazing views over the Pacific Ocean

-Enjoyable cafe, with a lovely patio

-Small gift shop filled with ‘good things’

Last, but not least…..

-Great art shows!

*(I just finished reading 1982 by Jian Ghomeshi, and was inspired by Jian’s  ‘short lists’ or ‘shortlists.’)

Crossroads (Border Tijuana-San Diego) by Marcos Ramirez ERRE