By Troy Hasselman, December 6 2019 —
The Glenbow Museum has announced their 2020 Winter exhibitions with renowned American outsider artist Vivian Maier as a highlight, along with legendary Calgary artists Maxwell Bates and Ron Moppett. The exhibitions are set to open on Feb. 8, 2020.
Vivian Maier: In Her Own Words is a travelling exhibition that details the photography of Vivian Maier, an American nanny that did photography in her spare time that captured the everyday life of people in American cities.
“Vivian Maier has this really unique story,” Glenbow Museum art curator Sarah Todd says. “She was a Chicago-based nanny who pursued photography in her spare time. This was in the 50s and 60s when photography, especially for women, was seen as a hobby. She did a lot of photography and a lot of stuff out in the world. The curator of this exhibition called her “The Godmother of Instagram” which is such a great way to frame it. She was shooting everyday life in a way that was aesthetically really compelling and beautiful.”
Maier’s work was not widely seen until 2007 and she only came to international notoriety in 2013, four years after her death in 2009, after being the subject of the Academy Award nominated documentary Finding Vivian Maier.
“During this time she shot over 2,000 rolls of film and made 3,000 prints,but it was totally unknown until 2007 when this guy John Maloof happened to discover it at an auction house in Chicago,” Todd explains. “Since then it’s been really widely exhibited. She had such an incredible, natural sense. She often took just one frame of her negatives. It wasn’t like she was shooting tons like we do now, because film was a precious resource, especially for someone working as a nanny. She passed away in 2009 but her work has gained a lot of notoriety, especially because there’s been a well-known documentary called Finding Vivan Maier which made her the kind of celebrity that we know today.”
Maxwell Bates: The In Crowd will highlight the work of Calgary artist Maxwell Bates, who operated as a modernist painter and an architect responsible for iconic Calgary structures such as the St. Mary’s Cathedral on 18 Ave S.W. The In Crowd focuses on Bates’ later work he created after moving to Victoria from Calgary in the 1960s, where he would remain until his death in 1980.
“Maxwell Bates is this really fascinating figure within Alberta art,” Todd says. “He was a leading Alberta modernist, and during his time here, he created a lot of work and paintings that were really quite boundary pushing and quite serious. Representing depression-era and post-World War Two Alberta in pretty unflinching lights. He has this prairie noir exhibition here called Rough Country. Maxwell Bates was an architect and did all of these things. In the 1960s, he had a stroke. After this, he quit his architecture practice and moved to Victoria with his wife. There he began painting really prolifically from the mid 60s to the mid 70s. The subject matter of these paintings was totally different from what he did before. He started painting cocktail parties and opening receptions — he painted the art world and his social life in Victoria, which, judging from the paintings, is pretty raucous.”
These paintings make use of brighter colours than much of Bates’ earlier work, which used muted colours influenced by the prairie landscape that he inhabited. These works put Bates in an observer’s position, with scenes depicting parties and the people surrounding him.
“It’s this massive series of paintings that are very colourful and very 1960s,” Todd says. “You can see him as an outsider in these social situations and painting people not always in the most flattering light. It was just a body of work that we found so fascinating because it is quite unlike the other things that he had done. It’s interesting for an artist at the end of their career to embark on this new body of work and doing it so prolifically, he must have been painting and painting away in Victoria. A lot of them are coming from public collections and others are coming from generous private collectors.”
Ron Moppett: Do You Remember/Snow and Stars is curated by Nancy Tousley as part of her acclaimed One New Work series. The exhibition will highlight the work of famed Calgary artist Ron Moppett.
“With this series, Nancy Tousley has been inviting artists from this region to present one new work as the title indicates,” Todd says. “Ron Moppett is a very important painter who has lived and worked in Calgary for a long time. He’s incredibly influential. It’s going to be one new work and a couple of other works he’s bringing in as well.”
There will be numerous programs happening at the Museum during the exhibitions to help further understand the works exhibited.
“There’s going to be lots of different programs going on,” Todd says. “There’s going to be talks going on about Maxwell Bates, there’s going to be one called Culture and Cocktails. With the Vivan Maier exhibition, we’ll be screening Finding Vivian Maier a lot. There’s going to be lots of ways to interact with the exhibits aside from just seeing them. There’s going to be a launch party, which is going to be a super fun pay-what-you-can kickoff to the season and it will be on Sat. Feb. 8. That goes from 7:30–10:30 p.m. It’s a great way to come see the shows too.
The exhibitions will run until May 24. For more information about the exhibitions and other programs happening at the Glenbow Museum visit their website.