This past Thursday evening (July 9, 2015) I went to a show-opening reception at a small North-Side gallery in Edmonton. The work, by a collective of artists, is a mixed bag of styles, subject matter, and media, but bright, summery tones of orange stand out around the four walls.
I bumped into (name dropping alert) David Janzen, one of Edmonton’s premier landscape painters, and his partner Sue. Dave and I seem to get talking when we bump into each other, sometimes about art, sometimes about cutting grass.
I pointed to a large work that occupied one corner of the gallery, a deceptively simple looking monochrome wood-cut print in black hung beside the actual block from with it was printed. A quirky aspect of the print is that rather than being rolled in a press, this piece was printed, once on paper and once on cloth, by driving a steam roller over the thing. The result is an extremely limited edition print titled “Roadwork” by Aaron Harvey.
“I like that,” I said. “It’s got a sort of Mexican Day of the Dead vibe going.”
Dave said “Oh yeah . . . (?)”
“Yeah. The two figures are sort of skeletal and those look like sombreros on their heads. And down at the bottom is the underworld, Xibalba, the Maya Land of the Dead. And the two figures are the Hero Twins, Hunapu and Xbalanque, or maybe they’re One and Seven Death, the highest of the Lords of Xibalba. . . . .”
“What about those twisted amoeba-like things at the top?”
“Those are clouds and they’re reflected in the similar shapes at the bottom, just as the underworld must reflect the upper. And the crosses in the buildings reference the remarkable syncretism of Mexican ‘Catholicism’ . . . .”
Dave had another chip. I nibbled baklava, hoping the nuts wouldn’t kill me.
“I like this one, too,” I said, pointing at Lora Pallister’s “Golden King of the Jungle.”
“What is it?” asked Sue. “A rabbit?”
“No, it’s a gorilla dressed sorta like Carmen Miranda. Or a lion.”
“And that’s a big joint in his mouth,” said Dave.
“Or a piece of red licorice,” I suggested.
Dale Badger’s three line-drawings after Crucifixions by Dürer, particularly “Angels Collecting Blood after Dürer”, are brilliant. Simply brilliant.
I spent a little time nibbling the snackies and then (name dropping alert) Rona Fraser (you may remember her as one of Avenue Magazines “Top 40 under 40” from a year or two ago) asked me if I knew of a good place to get beef ribs to barbecue (I don’t) which took us to the subject of black pudding and then Rona asked “Do you know a good place to get haggis?”
Well, obviously, I told her the best place in Edmonton for both black pudding and haggis (and meat pies) is (name dropping alert) Old Country Meats in Allendale across 106 Street from the Allendale School.
I suppose you’re wondering where this magical North Side gallery is, a place full of wicked good art, a place you can rub shoulders with top artists and hobnob with Top 40 under 40ers and talk with them about food and art and the Popol Vuh. I suppose you’re wondering.
Wonder no more.
(name dropping alert)
This gallery is at the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts. If you are in Edmonton you should know about The Nina, you should go to the Nina, and you should learn what it is and what it isn’t.
The Nina is a mentoring collective. It is not a sheltered workshop. The Nina is a studio for artists working with barriers, not “art therapy” for the “handicapped”. The art on display in the show I described above, Summer Republic III, has been created by Artists in a studio, not by disabled people in segregation. They have been mentored by some of the top artists in Edmonton such as (name dropping alert) Jill Stanton, Caroline Gingrich, Brenda Kim Christiansen, David Janzen, and Artistic Director Paul Freeman. The Nina Collective is made up of these and more mentoring Lead Artists as well as Apprentice Artists who are being themselves mentored in the art business (writing grant applications, etc.), volunteers, and the almost two hundred Artists with abilities, not disabilities, who are being mentored in art making.
The works in Summer Republic III have been chosen through a jurying process and represent the best of what the Artists of the Collective have produced over the last year.
The work is rich, it is evocative, it should be seen, it is Art.
Summer Republic III is on display at the Stollery Gallery at the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts, 9225 118 Ave, until August 14, 2015.
Go see it.
And drop into the busiest studios in the City while you’re there.