the art gallery of nova scotia

Artist painting massive mural inside Confederation Centre of the Arts

Brooklyn, N.Y., based artist Eleanor King is on P.E.I. this month working on an original piece for the Confederation Centre Art Gallery.

The Nova Scotia native was commissioned by the Centre to produce a large-scale mural inspired by the landscapes of Prince Edward Island.

Since graduating from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, King has had her work displayed in art galleries across Canada and the United States, including the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton and the A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn. 

Now she is back in the Maritimes and using the Centre's entire entrance gallery space for her mural, which extends over two walls and is 23.5 m by 3 m. King's work will be unveiled to the public next week as part of a larger exhibition at the Centre called RE: Collection. King said her latest work will also become part of the gallery’s permanent collection. 

“That was an interesting conversation [with the gallery] because this is painted directly on the wall,” she said. “Once it’s up here, it’s there. It will be there in perpetuity." 

Inspired by satellite images and Google maps

King said as part of the creative process for her mural she spent some time examining land use on the Island.

"I am interested in how land is utilised,” King said. 

“I am inspired by looking at satellite images and Google Maps and things like that to kind of get a bird’s eye view of the landscape around us and then I interpret that and turn it into a painting." 

This isn’t the first time King’s work has been showcased at the Confederation Centre. One of her paintings was featured in an exhibition called Somewheres, which was staged at the gallery in 2014. She said she is excited to be partnering with the gallery once again.

"It’s just an absolute pleasure to be back on the Island,” King said. "The air smells literally like flowers, which I just absolutely love … it’s just a fabulous time to be here.“

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Jennifer Angus: Lookabout

May 7 - June 11, 2017, Annapolis Region Community Arts Council (ARCAC), Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia


Reviewed by Emma Lansdowne & Alana Traficante

Jennifer Angus, Lookabout (2017). Installation view at ARTsPLACE Gallery, Annapolis Region Community Arts Council.

I happened upon the multi-venue exhibition Lookabout purely by chance: my sister and I, on a drifting road trip through pre-season Nova Scotia, found our way by default to Annapolis Royal. The promise of teeming rain had deterred us from a plan to drive the Cabot Trail; instead, we wandered the sleepy streets of the tiny clapboard town, seeking out the ghosts of its colonial past. By the time we arrived, artist/researcher Jennifer Angus had been working in residence at ARTsPLACE, the artist-space run by the Annapolis Region Community Arts Council, for a few weeks. She had situated installations in various historic sites in town: dioramas of insect specimens under bell jars; pots of preserves lined up on windowpanes, beetle bodies suspended within. Through this odd assemblage of tiny exoskeletons, spread across unexpected sites (the town theatre, a coffee shop, the unattended historic garden gatehouse), Angus wove a haunting narrative, reimaging the mythos of two sisters, Anne and Victoria Oliver, who disappeared from the town without explanation in 1867.

Jennifer Angus, Lookabout (2017). Installation view at ARTsPLACE Gallery, Annapolis Region Community Arts Council.

Finally, after traversing the external sites, my sister and I witnessed Angus’s expansive, central installation at ARCAC. Already familiar with her practice, I knew to expect the installation of insects pinned directly to the wall in repeating patterns, evocative of wallpaper and textiles. Yet my immediate perception of this decorative, critical mass found it wanting. Angus’s promise to chronicle the Oliver sisters’ strange disappearance was played out in an odd aestheticization of insect bodies that only scratched the surface of the mystery, much less the complex layers of the region’s troubled past that are buried beneath it.

Returning home, with many questions left unanswered, I sought insight from my friend Emma Lansdowne, whose scholarly research interrogates the colonial legacy of taxonomical aesthetics. What follows is the result of our collaborative dialogue about the work and about the history of taxonomies and naturalist collections, as well as our joint questioning of perceived relationships among land and the people, plants and insects that inhabit it. — AT

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Jennifer Angus is an artist, designer and researcher who, for over ten years, has centred her practice around the collection and repurposing of insect specimens for intricate wall-based and sculptural installations, displayed in exhibitions such as A Terrible Beauty (Textile Museum of Canada, 2006), lauded for its dazzling, immersive patterns that evoke Victorian-era ornament. She has a particular interest in this period, which she describes as “the age of travel, exploration, [and] scientific discovery.” Angus takes inspiration from the practice of naturalist collecting in pursuit of new knowledge, and uses pattern-making as a means of contemporizing the curio aesthetic of nineteenth-century collections.

Jennifer Angus, Lookabout (2017). Installation view at Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens.  

For the exhibition Lookabout, Angus extends her practice by looking through the lens of an unsolved mystery, the unexplained disappearance of two female, budding amateur naturalists. The missing women become her subjects but are present in allusion only, save for one portrait photograph of the sisters mounted on the gallery wall. The show’s small publication and walking guide references an article published two years after the women’s disappearance (titled “The Affecting History Of Two Young Gentlewomen, Who Were Ruined By Their Excessive Attachment To The Amusements Of The Town”), indicating that their disappearance was surrounded in scandal, and that the women were vilified in their absence. Angus reveals that while the sisters were indeed adventurous, they explored the town and riverside with the intent of amassing an impressive collection of local flora and insects. She revisits and re-imagines the Oliver girls’ collection in an immersive wall-patterned installation, and in a small adjacent room that houses objects and furniture reminiscent of amateur taxonomical displays. She presents clues, but very few answers. There are whispers, but there is very little voice.

Angus’s exhibition exudes an infectious intrigue, pulling viewers in through a complex layering of historical mystery, the romance of the unknown, and an aestheticized take on taxonomical science. The artist’s allusion to the contemporaneous account of the girls’ disappearance — an account riddled with presumably unjust implications about their extracurricular activities — prompts viewers to briefly consider the inaccessibility of science to 19th-century women and the potential risks those women ran in defying the societal norms of their day. However, the greater part of Angus’s work — rather than provoking such consideration — seems to use the story of the girls as a convenient narrative framework upon which Angus builds her highly aestheticized insect displays. Rather than further exploring the gendered tensions between the girls’ nature-focused pastimes and their sudden disappearance, Angus draws on their intersecting love of nature and belief in fairies to build a whimsical series of installations modelled on Victorian curiosity cabinets. This whimsicality is a key component of Angus’s work, helping to create an environment of nostalgia for a time when much of the world was still “unexplored,” and when naturalists were to be found at the boundaries between known and unknown.

Jennifer Angus, Lookabout (2017). Installation view at ARTsPLACE Gallery, Annapolis Region Community Arts Council.

There is a danger to such nostalgia, however. The collection and classification of flora and fauna, the display of which led to the foundation of the modern museum, carries the heavy weight of colonial legacy. The process of collecting and naming natural history specimens consolidated a European scientific knowledge system that was both extractive and homogenizing, while specimen displays such as those emulated by Angus were and are carefully curated representational regimes based on scientifically-justified exclusion. Plucked from their natural environments to be pinned onto boards or mounted on blank pages, organic specimens such as insects or plants were forcefully relieved of their environmental, historical, and cultural contexts and, renamed in scientific terms, were given new identities divorced from their own ecology. Based on an assumption of both the availability of “undiscovered” lands and the universalizing correctness of Linnaean taxonomy, natural history collection resulted in an aesthetic, symbolic, and ultimately political erasure of indigenous presence on colonized and to-be-colonized lands.

Although Dr. Laurie Dalton, in her essay about the exhibition, acknowledges a link between such collections and European colonial expansion, commentary by the artist on this fraught connection is largely absent; instead, her installations glorify natural history collection through their highly decorative construction and placement, emulating the reductionist visual structuring of the natural world for which taxonomical science is responsible. As we stand on the verge of a whirlwind summer of national celebration for Canada’s 150 years of confederation, Angus’s failure to unpack the problematic relationship between exploration, science, and colonialism seems especially stark. — EL & AT

Emma Lansdowne is a writer specializing in horticultural history and critical theory. She is currently an MA candidate in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Emma is also a professional gardener who hopes that the deer haven’t eaten all her plants in her home city of Victoria, BC.

Alana Traficante is an art writer and curator based in her home city of Hamilton, Ontario. She is a recent MFA graduate of OCAD University’s Criticism and Curatorial Practice program, where she researched sensory criticism, feminist theory, installation, and moving image artworks. Alana is currently Acting Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of Hamilton.  

Colourful views of Ottawa by Anya Camille

Okay, so I haven’t posted in a while and I still have a bunch of Nova Scotia pics to upload but this whole moving to Ottawa thing has been really time consuming! Here’s a pic I snapped tonight on our way home from the frozen yogurt place. Yeah, frozen yogurt was the highlight of my day. And it was amazing.

Hope you all had a fun long weekend.

xo

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It’s October 1st 2014, and my new homemade DeeBeeCaster™ in “surf green” seems incongruous with impending wet and chill of autumn.

Oh, and I have been running around telling everyone it weighs 5 pounds 3 ounces…but I was mistaken.  I must have measured it before it had strap buttons and stings or something because the ACTUAL final weight is 5 pounds, 14 ounces.  I am extremely happy when a guitar weighs between 6 and 7 pounds, so anything under 6 lbs makes me happy!

PS:  The other photos were taken in Sydney, Nova Scotia a couple of weeks ago during my holiday on Canada’s East Coast.  They were done from inside my car…the camera is focused on the rain on the car windows rather than the scenery behind it.

PPS: the book in the guitar photos is about American painters of the 20th Century, published by Time/Life Books in 1969 - so the book itself is “vintage”!  It is showing one of my favourite paintings of all time by Jasper Johns called “Numbers in Colour” (1959).  I have actually seen this painting in person because it hangs in the Albright-Knox gallery in Buffalo NY, which is under two hours drive from Toronto.  Jasper Johns also did one of the coolest Simpson guest spots ever.  :D

I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art, 1971

John Baldessari 

From Wiki:  He created his first print – I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art (1971) - as an edition to raise funds for the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax. The lithograph was created in conjunction with the now renowned exhibition for which – at Baldessari’s request – students endlessly wrote the phrase “I will not make any more boring art” on the gallery walls.“

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Dashboard:  click box below for video.  A Brief History of John Baldessari narrated by Tom Waits   (via:  youtube | HENRYandREL Supermarche) 

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Description and credits via:  youtube | HENRYandREL Supermarche "The epic life of a world-class artist, jammed into six minutes. 

Narrated by Tom Waits

Commissioned by LACMA for their first annual "Art + Film Gala” honoring John Baldessari and Clint Eastwood.

directed by Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman (gosupermarche.com/)

edited by Max Joseph (maxjoseph.com/)

written by Gabriel Nussbaum  (bankstreetfilms.com)

cinematography by Magdalena Gorka (magdalenagorka.com/)

& Henry Joost

produced by Mandy Yaeger & Erin Wright

Thank you to John Baldessari and his studio. (baldessari.org/)“