August 16th, 2018

Eye on the Esplanade: The land and landscape we know and love

By Medicine Hat News on May 19, 2017.

Last weekend was certainly hectic at the Art Gallery, with opening receptions for the exhibitions, Oh Ceramics! and Jenn Demke-Lange’s The Wild, both marking Canada’s 150th. Ten visiting ceramic artists came to town, the Downtown Art Walk was busy (perhaps we should have renamed it Art Wade, so much water came down on Friday night) and hundreds of people came for Pecha Kucha in the Esplanade Studio Theatre, featuring community members, four of the visiting ceramic artists and Xanthe Isbister, my co-curator for Oh Ceramics!

Now that the flurry of activity has subsided a little, it’s time to focus on the upcoming exhibitions and events, and at home, on the garden! The May long weekend is usually the time when gardeners make the joyful pivot from looking and planning, to hands in dirt and planting. Scented, moist air and the delicious green of new grass and leaves, the whites, purples and yellows of lilac and caragana, make anything seem possible.

And although my work as a curator is always indoors, my mind turns to the tradition of Canadian landscapes and the great artists who have conveyed so many aspects of it so movingly. Coming up in July at the Art Gallery is one such artist, Nicole Bauberger from Whitehorse, who has spent the last nine years crossing the country in her truck, painting what she sees from the side of the Trans-Canada and other highways every 50 kilometres. She has amassed hundreds of one foot square oil panels capturing stunning scenes and banal in-between places, the seemingly endless unfolding of Canadian landscape that we all are familiar with.

Nicole’s energetic brushwork, vibrant colour palette and devotion to Canadian landscape are direct descendants of Canada’s famous Group of Seven, whose own passion in depicting Canadian settings in a style they aimed to make their own took them deep into the forests of Algonquin Park in Ontario in the 1920s to 1950s — but also brought them to the prairies and mountains of Alberta. Here they met, and painted with, established and up and coming painters of the day: G. Glyde (Banff and Edmonton): Euphemia McNaught (Beaverlodge, Peace River); Annora Brown (Fort Macleod); Peter Whyte (Banff); Catherine Robb Whyte (Banff); Illingworth (Buck) Kerr (Calgary) and W.L. (Roy) Stevenson (Calgary). In Alberta and the Group of Seven: Teachers, Students & Colleagues, independent curator Mary-Beth Laviolette brings together works by these Alberta artists and Group of Seven painters A.Y. Jackson, Lawren Harris, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald and Frank H. (Franz) Johnston.

And while much remains to be done — organizing the loans of works from institutions and private collectors, shipping, and design and installation requirements — I’m excited to announce that the Esplanade will be hosting this made-in-Alberta exhibition in the summer of 2018. It will mark the first time that Hatters and our visitors will be able to see work by these renowned and treasured artists in our own public gallery, work that passionately depicts and celebrates the land and landscape we know and love.

Joanne Marion is director/curator of Art at the Esplanade.

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