By Eula Mengullo, November 18 2022—
The university library is home to many resources, including the campus culture essential, the Nickle Galleries. The gallery features different exhibits every season, with the Prairie Interlace: Weaving, Modernisms and the Expanded Frame, 1960-2000 and Adrian Stimson: ANTHRO-OBSCENE (and Other Works) currently on display until Dec. 17.
Prairie Interlace is a collaborative, travelling exhibition across other institutions including the Nickle Galleries and the Mackenzie Art Gallery. On a tour, curator Michele Hardy gives an insight into the variety of works that challenged the traditional approaches to weaving by embracing new techniques, materials, forms and scale. With her background as a textile scholar, Hardy graciously acknowledged the opportunity to have these works featured in the gallery.
“Many of the artists that are represented in this exhibition were people that I was studying with or studying about, so to be able to bring them back and bring them into this space has been just a wonderful opportunity,” she said.
The exhibition is organized into four themes: beyond warp and weft, which pushed the boundaries of weaving and experimenting with free-form textiles created in sorts of different ways; elemental landscapes, featuring beautiful horizon lines and spaces reflective of the prairie landscape which were typically reflected in the works of artists who were recent immigrants; body politics, which depicted the awakening of feminist sensibilities, questioning women’s role in society as well as their rights; and soft power, which questioned the role of textiles — particularly women’s roles in creating them — pushing them into the public sphere and using them to humanize big, bold, often very cold, modernist interiors.
In speaking about the importance of this exhibition to today’s society, Hardy explained how art was used to champion many foreground issues including women’s rights and environmental concerns.
“This is an opportunity to gather some historic works and to introduce them to a younger generation, many of whom are so removed from textile processes and had no idea that possibly mothers — definitely grandmothers and great-grandmothers — were so radical and were fighting to champion women’s rights and to make the world a better place,” she said.
Given that this exhibition showcases works from different members of communities — immigrants, Indigenous peoples and Métis groups — Hardy sees this as an opportunity to be more inclusive than many similar exhibitions.
“So the exhibition focuses not just on the work of settlers, but also of immigrants, Indigenous and Métis artists — we don’t have a lot of textiles from these communities, but we do have some important examples. We’re really pleased to be able to include those, and show how modernism was being responded to by a variety of different communities in different ways,” she remarked.
At the centre of the gallery hangs a magnificent tapestry called Sun Ascending by Kaija Sanelma Harris. The original work features 24 panels, 12 of which are at the Nickle Galleries. All 24 panels will be on display at the Mackenzie Art Gallery.
Being commissioned for Mies van der Rohe’s Toronto-Dominion Centre allowed Harris to create this magnificent work. Hardy said she can imagine how this piece could “offer a moment of peace and tranquillity and warmth in an otherwise really cold and sterile space.”
While the ground floor captures the four themes of Prairie Interlace, the upper floor of the gallery hosts another, more intimate, exhibition of Adrian Stimson: ANTHRO-OBSCENE (and Other Works).
Described as a lovely and well-known Blackfoot artist, Stimson has visited the gallery a few times to talk about his exhibition. Hardy encourages visitors to tour this exhibition with him if they get the chance.
“It’s two different bodies of work. On the north side of the gallery, there are three large canvases documenting his experience with residential school. These are heavy, very personal works,” said Hardy.
In his work, Stimson depicts his conflicting relationship with residential schools as his parents worked for a series of them across Canada. The south end of the gallery features his more recent work that chronicles his ongoing thinking and relationship with the environment.
Aside from his featured works in the gallery, a few of Stimson’s artworks are also displayed on the ground floor, third floor and sixth floor of the Taylor Family Digital Library.
Nearing the end of the tour, Hardy remarks that she hopes students, faculty members and members of the community will find the Nickle Galleries to be a welcoming space. The gallery hosts tours, talks and performances throughout the semester. She encourages everyone to visit the Prairie Interlace and the Nickle Galleries website to learn more about the current and upcoming exhibits.
Their next exhibition will feature David Garneau’s Métissage. It will examine Garneau’s rich and prolific work dating back from his earliest pieces to his most recent paintings. The exhibition is being curated by Mary-Beth Laviolette and will be featured in the gallery come January.