Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Four small shows at the MNBAQ

The beauty of the arched brick walls inside the Charles-Baillairgé Pavilion of the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec belies the building's original purpose; it served as a prison until 1969. Several tiny cells are preserved on the first floor as evidence of its past.

The Ursulines, Jean Paul Lemieux, 1951
Four exhibitions of work by four of Quebec's preeminent artists are showing, indefinitely, in its four galleries. I recently had the opportunity to visit all of them: Jean-Paul Riopelle, Methamorphoses; Fernand Leduc, Painter of Light; Alfred Pellan, Wide-Awake Dreamer; and my favourite, Jean-Paul Lemieux, Silence and Space.

The Express Train, Jean Paul Lemieux, 1968
The paintings I photographed were mostly from his "classical" period, the style we think of when we think about his body of work. In fact his style varied a good deal over his long career. In its early years, he was influenced by the naive folk art of his native province.

Corpus Christi, Jean Paul Lemieux, 1944
And at the end of his career, his work was more expressionistic. But it is the iconic austerity of his classical period that most appeals to me: the monochromatic palette, the simplification of form almost to the point of abstraction, the solitary figures in a silent landscape.
The Ladies' Visit, Jean Paul Lemieux, 1971
The Summer of 1914, Jean Paul Lemieux, 1965

Snow-Covered City, Jean Paul Lemieux, 1963

If you have the chance, I would recommend that you treat yourself to a couple of hours exploring these four galleries, and decide for yourself which of the artists best speaks to you.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Matisse and Friends at the MNBAQ

Spent a few wonderful hours in the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec on the weekend.

Their major show, running until September 7, 2014, is titled "Morrice and Lyman in the Company of Matisse".  This exhibit "proposes to examine the seminal dialogue which took place between the founding painters of modern Canadian art ... with Henri Matisse."

Self Portrait, John Lyman, 1918

James Wilson Morrice (1865 - 1924) and John Lyman (1886 - 1967) were English Montrealers of the merchant class, who spent a good portion of their productive years in France, where they befriended Henri Matisse.

The exhibition includes a dozen paintings by Matisse, and about eighty by Morrice and Lyman. Many of the paintings were inspired by time spent in North Africa and the Caribbean.

As well, a number of Lyman's landscapes are based on his experiences in Quebec's Eastern Townships and Laurentians.

Seated Woman, Back Turned to the Open Window,
Henri Matisse, 1922

Several Odalisques (reclining female nudes posed in richly-patterned Oriental backgrounds) are featured among the Matisse paintings.

It is interesting to see how this theme and others were appropriated by the two Canadians, as they developed their own styles.

For those of us who enjoyed the recent Peter Doig exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, there are several very clear examples of how his work was influenced by Morrice, in particular.

The show will also be staged at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg, Ontario, October 10, 2014 to January 4, 2015.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cityscapes: A Feminist Perspective

Water Tower #1
I was very fortunate to have curator Shanna Steals assist me with my current show at the Arbor Gallery. The Gallery has done a great job of promoting the show, and arranged for a reporter with the local newspaper, Felicia Latour, to attend the vernissage last month.

Shanna, Felicia and I had an interesting conversation at the opening. We talked about the feminist aspect of artists working in fibre, and I was pleased that Felicia's article in The Review touched on this element of my work.

Here are some excerpts from the article, published on July 2, 2014.

"[The exhibition] features a collection of urban landscapes rendered in black thread, colourful dyed fabrics, and the undercurrents of feminist history."

"At the exhibition's opening..., the Review was able to speak with the artist and learn more about the larger statements in her work."

Water Tower #3
"For Dubreuil, the legacy of her craft comes from the context of women's culture and the generations of women who practiced needlework due to their enforced domestic lifestyles. The act of handling needle and fabric, according to Dubreuil, is one that provided solace to oppressed women for centuries and also afforded social opportunities commonly known as 'sewing circles.'"

"Shanna Steals, a University of Ottawa art graduate and curator of Cityscapes, describes Dubreuil's work as showing 'modern perspectives of repetitive architecture but through the lens of a long tradition of women's work, stitching.'"

In fact, my artist statement refers to this aspect of my work. It reads, in part,

"I see my work in cloth and stitch as a contemporary expression of the culture of women's needlework."

Water Tower #4
This conversation raises several interesting questions.

Is there a feminist element in all fibre art?

If so, does this apply to female fibre artists only, or also to those (rare) men working in the medium?

Or is the feminist perspective brought to the work by the viewer?

Would this perspective be welcomed by all those working in the medium? Or would some resent that label, and ask why a woman cannot make art in cloth (or any other medium) without having it identified as a feminist statement?

What do you think?

Water Tower #7
I will have another conversation with Felicia this evening, when she interviews me for a local radio program, and perhaps we will be able to explore these questions on air.

Something else to think about: If you were asked to choose a piece of music that would illuminate your work, what might you choose?

Felicia asked me this very question, because she plans a musical introduction to our radio interview.

I chose Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.

What would you choose?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Rona Shuster at the Hudson Medi-Centre

Rona Shuster will show her work at the Hudson Medi-Centre, 465 Main Road in Hudson, until September 13, 2014. Rona is a member of the Hudson Artists and has studied with Wolf Kahn, whose influence can be seen in her very accomplished pastels. 

I like her work so much that I actually bought one!

All five pieces may be viewed during regular clinic hours. Proceeds of all sales will go to NOVA. 

Please contact me through my website ( if you would like to have your work included in this showcase for local artists.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Advice for Artists

Artists working in all mediums will find something of value in this free e-book by Andrew Simonet.

In 200 very pithy pages, Simonet covers topics like The Role of the Artist, Planning, Mission, Money, Time and Principles. The guidance he gives in the Mission chapter about writing your artist statement is particularly helpful.

Andrew Simonet is a choreographer, writer, and founder of Artists U, a grassroots planning and professional development program for artists. He co-directed Headlong Dance Theater from 1993 to 2013. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Another fabulous text'art retreat

Thank you, Dianne, for hosting another retreat for our text'art group. This was our fifth annual get-together at Dianne's lovely cottage in the Eastern Townships.

In past years, we would agree on one or two common activities, like indigo dyeing or silkscreen printing or batik with soy wax or making our own stamps. This year, we pursued our own projects but came together several times a day for conversation, good food and a little wine. We shared ideas, recipes, and iPad tips, as well as our mutual interest in fibre and art.

I dyed about 12 meters of cotton, making low-immersion gradations from one colour to another, and some half-meter pieces for skies. At right you can see a gradation from cool yellow to fuchsia.

Helena, Colleen, Dianne, Lauma and I are shown after a swim, looking over the lake and enjoying a tea break.  Pamela and Michele were unable to join us this year, and they were sorely missed, but we are already looking forward to next time.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rue du Saint-Sacrement, take 2

On April 16, I posted an image of a newly-finished work, which I made for a show this coming November. The show, titled "Urbanité x 2", will be a collaboration between painter John Vazalinskas and me, comprising exclusively urban subjects. The focal point of the exhibition will be the two works we each produce of the same scene.

Rue du Saint-Sacrement 2, 24" x 24"
I wasn't completed satisfied with my first effort, and so I have made a second piece. Though not as lively as the first, I think it is more coherent, more unified. It looks better beside John's painting, and they will complement each other nicely on the promotional material. I like the way that the rose and turquoise in the sky are echoed elsewhere, in the buildings. I find that the colours and values suggest an evening light.
Rue de Saint-Sacrement, 24" x 24"
In the first version, the red wedge shape above the house seems too dominant to me, and this was glaringly apparent when I saw a mock-up of the poster for the show.

Original photo, taken in Old Montreal
And no, this is not the start of a new series!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Impressionists at the Shelburne Museum

"In a New Light: French Impressionism Comes to America" continues at Vermont's Shelburne Museum until September 1. It is housed in the beautiful new Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education, near the entrance to the extensive, park-like grounds of the museum. In the photo below, you can see one of the haystacks that have been created in homage to Monet's paintings.

Pizzagalli Center, Shelburne Museum,
with natural wood and stone throughout
The exhibit highlights the Impressionist paintings from the Shelburne's collection, and also includes works on loan from private collectors and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Of note is Monet's Le Pont, Amsterdam, the centrepiece of the show. It was the first painting by Monet acquired by an American collector, bought by the parents of the Shelburne Museum's founder, Electra Havemeyer Webb.

Le Pont - Amsterdam, Claude Monet, 1874
The title of the show, "In a New Light", refers to the fact that until the recent opening of the Pizzagalli Center, the fine paintings in the Shelburne collection were shown in historic homes, without gallery lighting.

With about two dozen paintings by Gustave Courbet, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt, the show is certainly worth a visit if you are in the area. Informative notes in English and French are posted beside each work.
Guided tours are available daily at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Nancy Crow at the Shelburne

Took in the Vermont Quilt Festival on Friday, and the next day spent a few hours at the Shelburne Museum, where Nancy Crow is having a solo show of her more recent work. Every year, the Shelburne hosts a solo show of a Big Name art quilter in its Hat and Fragrance Textile Gallery. Nancy Crow, Seeking Beauty: Riffs on Repetition is on view until October 31.
Markings #1: The Known and the Unknown , 77" x 72", Nancy Crow, 2006
100% cottons hand-screened by Nancy Crow
Hand-dyed and machine-pieced by Nancy Crow
Crow is best known for her free-form piecing, not unlike that found in the Gee's Bend quilts. She is a much-respected teacher who has influenced many with her breakthrough approach. I had not realized that she has been exploring mark-making and monoprinting for the last number of years.

The art quilt pictured above is the showpiece of the exhibit. A detail is shown below. It is tricky to do justice to the colour, but it is very beautiful and easily my favourite of the works on display. The quilting echoes the lozenge shapes of the marks. It is not clear whether Crow does the quilting herself or, more likely, outsources that work.

detail, Markings #1: The Known and the Unknown
A description of the technique of monoprinting is posted at the entrance to the exhibit:
A monoprint is essentially a printed painting. Although a monoprint, the artist manually removes or adds ink to a plate which is then printed using a printing press. In the subtractive method, a metal or plastic surface is covered entirely with ink or watercolor media which is partially or wholly removed to expose areas of the picture being made. This process can be carried out using brushes, cotton swabs, sponges, fingers, etc. In the additive method, layers of pigment are applied to a clean plate in various ways. Once the picture is completed, it is run through a press with dampened rag paper to form a unique one-of-a-kind print. Before cleaning the plate it is possible to add more ink or watercolor to the ghost image remaining to create a second image over the original matrix. In this way the artist can create a series of related works.
Artist Nancy Crow has adapted this process for cloth to create her fabric monoprints. 

Detail from one of the Mono-Prints above.
The machine-quilting follows the lines of the marks.
Self-Portrait: Focus Mono-Print #24a, 21.5" x 39.75" Nancy Crow, 2012
Marked & Printed by Nancy Crow
100% cotton/ Procion MX dyes, machine-quilted
Like some other art I have seen in the last few years, Crow's works are meditations, seeking transcendence in repetition. They are more about the process and less about the product. Here is what she writes about the experience of making these works:
I am walking the walk. Totally focused. Paying attention. To bed early. Up early. 10 - 12 hour days. Dedicated computer time reduced to 30 minutes per day. No phones in the studio. All necessary preparations predicated on efficiency. Wet studio organized. Using the fewest tools to facilitate mark-making and drawing. Stacks of fabrics prepared. Corralling black thoughts. Going forward. Making mistakes. Not looking back. Learning. Loosening up. Feeling the thrill. Day after day. Keeping the routine. Short ones. Long ones. Over and over. Riffing on repetition. Seeking beauty. Believing. Self-portraits of who I am. - Nancy Crow, February 19, 2014
Crow is an artist who, over a career of 40 years, has challenged convention and pushed herself to go beyond her own limitations.