Taking the Practical out of Sweaters and Quilts

Kerry James Marshall, "Better Homes, Better Gardens," 1994

I started 2011 with a trip to the Vancouver Art Gallery. It was the second to last day of the Kerry James Marshall exhibit, I was over my post-Christmas flu and had no commitments for the day – the perfect day to validate the membership my mom gave me. While it was Marshall that brought me to the VAG I was pleasantly surprised by other exhibits.

The Vancouver Art Gallery has a large collection of local contemporary art as well as some international gems. Everything Everyday pulls items from their collection that explore everyday actions, items and encounters. The press release states “Despite the presupposed banal nature of the subject matter, the artists in this exhibition manage to provoke surprising and poetic interpretations of the everyday in their work.” I would have to agree, the mundane are give a chance to shine here. The textile freak that I am, I was immediately drawn to Aganetha Dyck‘s Eaton triplets.  As with the triplets included in the exhibit, Dyck’s items often reflect domestic activity. Not only do the items refer to domesticity but the process itself does – they are shrunken, very shrunken.

Liz Magor, Hollow

The top floor of the Vancouver Art Gallery is always reserved for Emily Carr. After numerous school field trips and countless visits I have come to dread the top floor. It is not that I don’t appreciate her work, just that I have seen it so many times the joy is gone. Well, I suspect I’m not alone here because they have mixed things up. While the top floor is still an homage to the West Coast painter the current show “In Dialogue with Carr” brings in four contemporary BC artists and pairs their works with items from the gallery’s extensive Carr collection. Much to my delight not all of the pairings were paintings. Sculptor Liz Magor responds more to Carr’s life than her work so her installation is surrounded by photographs of Carr’s life and studio. One of my favorite local celebrities, Douglas Coupland couples five excentric Canadian quilts with ceramic chachkis that Emily Carr modeled after first nations carvings. The author of Generation X has also scripted a mock radio interview between himself and the recluse painter which plays as you pass through the gallery. Never have I been so happy to make the journey to the Carr floor. Thank you Daina Augaitis for making me re-apreciate  the life of this odd painter.

Emily Carr with friends and caravan “Elephant” on sketching trip, 1934

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