February 29th, 2024

Eye on the Esplanade: New exhibitions to experience

By Xanthe Isbister on February 8, 2024.

Jae Sterling, Fly Kick Merchant, 16 x 20 inches, oil painting, 2022

Our Galleries and Collections team started the year in full swing with an intense three weeks of exhibition changeovers. The nature of our work has our team planning these years in advance. We always look forward to the final stage when an exhibition has been installed and is available for our community to experience.

This winter, we have four diverse exhibitions on display in various spaces throughout the building. As you enter the Esplanade, you’ll encounter large-scale paintings by Edmonton- and Victoria-based artist Neil McClelland.

The dreamlike worlds within McClelland’s paintings draw upon a sense of place, permeating the canvas with dark forest moonscapes and dusty-pink twilights. Each of these works conjures a moment frozen in time. With quiet intensity, the paintings convey memories of days spent in backyard gardens or the family cottage.

As you move through the main foyer into our galleries, you’ll find three exhibitions waiting for you, and each explores vastly different lived experiences.

In the Heritage Gallery, you’ll encounter captivating photographs by Brandon-based artist Tim Smith. Smith has spent 14 years building relationships and documenting six Hutterite colonies across the Canadian Prairies.

Having captured thousands of images, he has intimately recorded the daily lives of communities whose culture has been preserved through deliberate separation from mainstream society and economic self-sufficiency.

As you make your way into the Art Gallery, you’ll discover solo exhibitions by renowned Canadian Indigenous artist George Littlechild and Jamaican-born, Calgary-based artist Jae Sterling. Sterling’s exhibition, Julian’s Dread, features a short film as well as oil and digital paintings.

Within the exhibition, the artist explores symbols of Jamaican youth, Christian fanaticism, magical realism and theosophy.

Sterling explains, “I ground my work in the unique realities of what it feels like to be a Jamaican in the Canadian Prairies, but I also explore what I could look like through different lenses, using art as a portal to travel through time and space.”

Sterling’s oil paintings channel a dark undercurrent masked by whimsical, impressionistic surrealism.

Here I am – can you see me?, an exhibition by George Littlechild, recognizes and honours First Nations children who perished while attending the residential school in Maskwacis, Alta.

The simultaneous depth of grief and strength presented in this exhibition is overwhelming. Through his own immense strength, Littlechild has created an opportunity for the viewer to remember and validate these children – an opportunity for our community to acknowledge them in our pursuit of truth and reconciliation.

See each of them on your next visit. We’re open Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m., and admission to the galleries is always pay what you will.

Xanthe Isbister is curator of Galleries and Collections for the Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre

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