Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Textile Museum of Canada

Riff #4: Calm, Nancy Crow

Planning to be in Toronto this summer? Here's one reason to make the trip.

The Textile Museum of Canada will host Color Improvisations 2: An International Exhibition of Contemporary Quilts. Curated by Nancy Crow, it will run from May 30 to September 23, 2018.

The museum's site says,
Color Improvisations 2 is an exhibition of contemporary quilts curated by Nancy Crow (Baltimore, Ohio), one of North America’s most celebrated and influential quiltmakers and teachers. The exhibition includes 25 spectacular large-format quilts by 25 artists from Canada, Germany, Scotland, Switzerland and the United States – including a piece by Nancy Crow. The project grew out of Crow’s interest in celebrating the “…majesty, strength and energy of large textile works, specifically large quilts.” While the group’s collective use of rich solid colors, improvisational piecing, and intricate machine quilting are all at the service of pure abstract design, each artist maintains a strong individual identity.
The exhibition premiered at the Museum Tuch+Technik in Germany in 2016, and has subsequently been shown in Spain, Switzerland and France. In 2018, a select number will be presented at the Susquehanna Art Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This is the exhibition’s first North American, and only Canadian venue.

To see the list of participating artists, including Kit Vincent, a member of SAQA's Central Canada group, visit the museum website.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Text'art: a very special group

me, Dianne, Helena, Michele, Lauma, and Colleen,
outside the Chihuly exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts

Once again, I have been struck by how fortunate I am to belong to Text'art, our group of six textile artists, formed some ten years ago at Dianne's initiative.

a virtual reality experience at the Musée des maîtres et artisans du Québec

Last week we met for a quick coffee at a lakeside café, to talk about applying for a group residency. I threw out an invitation. "Who's interested in driving to Ottawa to see the new show of Impressionists at the National Gallery?" Everyone whipped out their cell phones, checked their calendars and within a minute we had agreed on a date. How special is that?

A walk through the woods, trilliums as far as the eye can see

Our current members are Lauma Cenne, Michele Meredith, Colleen PaulDianne RobinsonHelena Scheffer, and me. (Two past members, Pam Chasen and Linda Forey, left us when they moved away.) All of us are also members of other, larger groups (art, quilting, photography, weaving...), and each of us comes to the group with a unique skill set.

We meet once a month. Usually a lunch is involved. Sometimes we just meet in one of our homes, to catch up on each other's news and projects. Often we will experiment with a new technique or material. Gelatin plate printing? Collagraph printing? Ice dyeing? We've tried them all.

At other times we will visit a resource, like Papeterie St-Armand, or Au Papier Japonais, or C & M Textile and the other shops on St.-Hubert St. that sell threads, buttons and lace.

With an invited guest, we toured the Musée du costume et du textile du Québec.

Often our destination is a museum. Local favourites are the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the McCord Museum, and the Musée d'art contemporain.

on a tour of Habitat 67

At other times we will take in a show at a gallery, often chosen because one or more of us is showing our work there.

At least once a year we will take a road trip to Ottawa, Toronto or Quebec City. And then there is the retreat at Dianne's cottage, something we all look forward to every summer.

at the opening of our current group show

Most recently, we collaborated on a group show, De Musei Fabrica: Cloth and Stitch Inspired by the Maude Abbott Medical Museum, now on display at McGill University. This special challenge has brought us closer together. And who knows what the future holds?

Why am I writing this? Firstly, to express my gratitude and appreciation to the members of Text'art. I really cherish the support we are able to give to each other.

And perhaps to encourage you to pull together a small group of your own. Meeting with six or seven people with a common interest offers an intimacy, a flexibility and a mobility that's not available in a larger organization. It works for us!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Mother's Day Reflections

Mother's Day was just a few days ago, and I was reminded of a small art quilt I once made as my contribution to a group challenge. 12 by the Dozen, a group I belonged to at the time, had chosen "Connections" as the theme for that quarter.

Knitted. Together. 2010, 12" x 12"

I thought about how knitted stitches are "connections", and how knitting has connected at least four generations of women in my family. My grandmother taught me to knit, and she and my mother made me many knitted items: sweaters, slippers, and a spectacular (now long-gone) poncho. I've taught my daughter to knit too, and she makes the most remarkable things, like baby blankets made of tiny stuffed hexagons, stitched together.

I began the piece by knitting a 14" square with big needles and string. I stretched it out onto a stiff cardboard, dabbed it with paint, and made a monoprint of the texture onto hand-dyed cotton.  This became the background for the composition. Also included was a Beehive pattern for a child's sweater, and the accompanying illustration. The little sweaters were originally printed in black and white, so I tinted them with paint. Buttons and a corded yarn edging finished the piece.

Four generations, knitted together. And lots of tiny baby sweaters, lovingly tucked away in tissue paper.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Habitat Interiors

Last summer, our Text'art group visited Habitat 67, the iconic harbourfront building designed by Moshe Safdie. Tours were made available as part of Montreal's 375th anniversary, and we took advantage of this rare opportunity to explore the residential complex. You can read about our experience here.

Colleen Paul, one of our Text'art members, has kindly sent me a link to an item about a current show of photographs by Montreal-based James Brittain that expose the "interior life" of Habitat. His large-scale colour photos are currently on view as part of Toronto's CONTACT Photography Festival,  continuing until July 31, 2018.

Brittain has photographed nine units to date. His images show how residents have created livable spaces in this experimental housing complex.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

"The Paper Garden", by Molly Peacock

A Globe and Mail Best Book, The Paper Garden is subtitled Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life's Work at 72. I am finding this book compelling and, at the same time, a tough slog. The unusual typeface doesn't help. 

The author, a poet, has managed to braid together a book of biography, memoir, and art criticism. Her language is rich, and her insights intriguing.

Her subject, Mary Delany, was born into the English upper classes in 1700, and was an accomplished needlewoman. She also invented a new art form, botanical collage, using papers that she painted with watercolour and deftly cut into tiny shapes, gluing them onto a black background. Almost 1000 of these collages are in the holdings of the British Museum. Her life is undisputedly fascinating, and her triumphant achievement is a tribute to an irrepressible creativity. 

Being a modernist, I find the book's focus on the complicated social constraints of Delany's times difficult to penetrate. However, fans of Jane Austin should have no trouble with this. If you'd like a taste of this book, you can sample the first chapters on the Amazon page.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

From Africa to the Americas: Face-to-face Picasso, Past and Present

A new exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts promises to explore the place of so-called "primitive" art in our understanding of art. Much of the exhibit will look at how African art influenced Picasso and other icons of Modernism.

"Over the last century, the relationship between the West and the arts referred to as 'primitive,' – artificially grouping together the arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas – has undergone a profound upheaval. No longer viewed as ethnographic curiosities, these objects are now valued as fine art, encompassing a range of styles, histories and cultures. How have ethnographic objects come to be viewed as art? How do we reconcile these two approaches today? From Africa to the Americas: Face-to-Face Picasso, Past and Present explores these questions by unfurling the chronological threads of the life of Picasso (1881-1973) in parallel with art history, increasing the points of view on the history of Modernism. 

The show runs May 12 - September 16, 2018, with May 10 and 11 available to VIP visitors only.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Impressionist Treasures in Ottawa, Summer 2018

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, The Bridge at Mantes (detail), c. 1850-1854, oil on canvas

Exciting news! This summer's blockbuster exhibition at Ottawa's National Gallery is Impressionist Treasures, paintings from Copenhagen's Ordrupgaard Museum.

The show runs from May 18 to September 9, 2018. The item on the Gallery's website reads, in part,
"Enjoy a spectacular selection of artworks from a collection regarded as one of the most beautiful in Europe....
"Visitors to the National Gallery of Canada will be treated to a survey of art by the great masters of Impressionism, Post-impressionism and the major trends of French painting that preceded them, such as the Barbizon School and Realism. 
"In one compelling presentation, the luminous landscapes of Corot, Monet, Sisley and Pissarro rub shoulders with the naturalism of Courbet, the still-lifes of Manet and Matisse, the intimate portraits of Renoir and Morisot, and the imagination of Gauguin. This exhibition of 76 paintings is also a unique opportunity to discover unparalleled works from the Danish Golden Age, including those by C. W. Eckersberg and Vilhelm Hammershøi."