Nicholas Galanin, UVic’s 2012 Audain Professor in Contemporary Arts of the Pacific Northwest, has won a $50,000 Rasmuson Fellowship from the United States Artists organization.
The Sitka-born Galanin is a multi-disciplinary Tlingit/Aleut artist who has struck an intriguing balance between his origins and exploration in new perceptual territory. His teaching term with UVic’s Department of Visual Arts ran throughout fall 2012—shorter than previous Audain Professors Rebecca Belmore and Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, but all the time his busy schedule would allow. Like Belmore and Yahgulanaas, however, Galanin will present an exhibit of new work in the Audain Gallery in September 2013.
Galanin’s famous “Inert”
United States Artists—a non-profit organization aimed at investing in “America’s finest artists”—has granted nearly $18 million to artists over the past seven years. Galanin is one of 54 artists who have each received an unrestricted grant of $50,000 this year. According to the USA news release, the artists were chosen for “reflecting the diversity of artistic practice in America” and include “cutting-edge thinkers and traditional practitioners from the fields of architecture and design, crafts and traditional arts, dance, literature, media, music, theater arts, and visual arts.”
Galanin’s “Things are Looking Native, Natives Looking Whiter”
As reported on the Canadian Art website, Galanin’s fellowship was in the Crafts and Traditional Arts category—although, as the USA news release states, “his work might also be described simply as contemporary art with Native themes.” Galanin is an artist who defies categorization, a visual artist and musician (who performs as Silver Jackson) whose multimedia pieces often involve computers, video, photo manipulation or sculpture in a variety of forms.
Speaking to the Anchorage Daily News, Galanin admits that some might see the “traditional arts” designation as a bit of a stretch. “But based on my contacts and the people on the panel, it was the right choice,” he told ADN. “A lot of my art comes from the traditional context. But I don’t care what they call it.”
‘s Leah Sandals notes that his work was recently featured in the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Beat Nation
, a survey of artists “who connect Aboriginal identity and urban youth culture . . . A touring version of the show will open at Toronto’s Power Plant on December 15. Galanin’s work was also featured in group shows at Vancouver’s Grunt Gallery
and Bill Reid Gallery
over the past year, while Trench Contemporary Art
(his Vancouver dealer) recently wrapped a solo show titled I LOOOOOVE YOUR CULTURE.
His work was also in Montreal gallery Art Mûr’s A Stake in the Ground
, curated by Nadia Myre, in January.”
When asked about his plans for the prize money, Galanin told ADN‘s Mike Dunham, “I’m saving it. Maybe it will go to buy a home or get my studio built.”
When Kwagiulth and Coast Salish artist Carey Newman’s Witness Blanket was unveiled at the University of Victoria in 2014, it was clear the large-scale installation would quickly become a national monument and spark reflection and conversation about residential schools, settler-Indigenous relations and reconciliation. Now, Newman will continue the conversation as the sixth Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest with UVic’s Department of Visual Arts.
Kwagiulth and Coast Salish artist Carey Newman installs the Witness Blanket at UVic ahead of its unveiling in 2014 at a global conference hosted by the university. Photo: Suzanne Ahearne
“This is breaking new ground for me,” says Newman. “I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to convert the experience of mentorship into a more formal educational setting.”
UVic promotes teaching that reflects the aspirations and calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including addressing issues most relevant to Indigenous people and working with Indigenous communities and organizations to understand, preserve and celebrate traditions, knowledge and cultures.
A former UVic School of Music student, Newman will be the first Audain professor to hold a new three-year position with the department. He will also play a role in the award-winning ACE program with UVic’s Gustavson School of Business, which supports the entrepreneurial practices of Indigenous artists.
“As a master carver, Carey Newman has extensive knowledge of traditions and teachings, as well as a keen interest in contemporary design and digital processes,” says visual arts chair Paul Walde. “Not only is he an extremely well-established artist, but he has strong connections in different mediums and disciplines, both nationally and internationally. With him in the department, we know we would all learn a lot—faculty and students alike—and we look forward to how we can be enriched by that dialogue.”
The artist in his studio in 2013/14, working on one of the cedar panels for the Witness Blanket. Photo: Media One.
The master carver for the Cowichan 2008 Spirit Pole, Newman had another piece, “Dancing Wind,” featured at the 2010 Olympic Games. For over 20 years, he owned Sooke’s recently closed Blue Raven Gallery. He is also an accomplished pianist and singer who has performed at the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards and with Pacific Opera Victoria, where he is currently a board member.
Best known for his 12-metre-long Witness Blanket—created and assembled from 600 objects and artifacts including pieces of residential schools, an old drum and a shoe—Newman spent four years travelling across Canada with the installation that evokes the atrocities of Indian residential schools and a national journey toward reconciliation. Newman is excited to bring ideas of reconciliation into his classes at UVic.
“I’m interested in looking at how artists can take on the issue of reconciliation through their own relationship with Canada,” he says. “That way, it’s not limiting it to Indigenous people but is encouraging anyone, even international students, to relate to it.”
Established by a $2-million gift from philanthropist and UVic alumnus Michael Audain in 2010, the position has brought distinguished practicing artists Rande Cook, Nicholas Galanin, Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas, Jackson 2Bears, and Governor General’s Award-winner Rebecca Belmore to teach in the visual arts department.
Interested in contemporary Indigenous art practices? Excited by some of the dynamic and engaging work being created and exhibited both locally and nationally? Wondering how contemporary artists respond to important issues like Truth & Reconciliation, and Murdered & Missing Indigenous Women & Girls? Join the Visual Arts department for a special illustrated lunchtime lecture series featuring three prominent local Indigenous artists.
Tlehpik Hjalmer Wenstob: Friday, March 9 • room 103 of the Fine Arts building
Lindsay Delaronde: Monday, March 12 • room A146 of the Visual Arts building
Carey Newman: Friday, March 16 • room 103 of the Fine Arts building
All talks run noon to 1pm, and all are free.
About the artists:
From Tlehpik Hjalmer Wenstob’s “Transfigurations”
Visual Arts BFA/MFA alumnus Tlehpik Hjalmer Wenstob is a multidisciplinary artist from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Coming from a background of carving, Wenstob’s work has transformed and reformed many times over the years, working in many different mediums, with a focus on sculpture. He has three dialects of art practices, all from the same visual language: traditional work, community/engagement, and contemporary art. While heavily involved in youth engagement and politics, as the Assembly of First Nation’s youth representative for BC and Canada, Wenstob’s work has taken on a balance of history, education, humour, question, and politics.
Coming from a background of carving masks, totem poles and working predominantly in red cedar, Wenstob’s work has transformed through materials and subject matter. With an interest in public installation, curation, mentorship, and sculpture, Wenstob has had work displayed and installed nationally across Canada. His most recent installation—created while mentoring youth—was four Bighouses on the front lawn of the BC Legislature building, which then led to a show currently on view at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
Lindsay Delaronde running a corn doll workshop at Legacy Gallery in 2016 (photo: Corina Fischer)
Visual Arts MFA alumna Lindsay Delaronde is currently the City of Victoria’s Indigenous Artist in Residence and a strong advocate for Indigenous voices, stories, culture and history. Born and raised on the Kahnawake reservation, Delaronde has been living on the West Coast for the past 10 years. In addition to her Visual Arts MFA, she holds a BFA from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, and a Master’s degree in Indigenous Communities Counselling Psychology, also from UVic.
A professional multi-disciplinary visual artist who works in contemporary Indigenous performance and facilitator of traditional workshops, Delaronde has been consistently active and made significant commitments at the local and national level. Her areas of research are stemmed in Contemporary and Traditional First Nations art, expressive arts therapy and working with Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples within the arts and counseling. Her research focuses on land- based, collaborative practice, cultural resurgence and social/political activism through the arts.
Carey Newman or Hayalthkin’geme is a multi-disciplinary artist and master carver. Through his father he is Kwagiulth from the Kukwekum, Giiksam and WaWalaby’ie clans of Fort Rupert, and Sto:Lo from Cheam along the upper Fraser Valley; through his mother he is English, Irish, and Scottish. Through his work he strives to highlight either Indigenous, social, or environmental issues. He is also interested in engaging with community and incorporating socially innovative practice into his artistic process. Newman’s most recent major work — the Witness Blanket, made of items collected from residential schools, government buildings and churches across the Canada — deals with the subject of reconciliation. (Another prominent local public piece is the ornately carved ceiling of Pacific Opera Victoria’s Baumann Centre on Balmoral Road.)
In 2008, Newman was selected as the master carver of the Cowichan 2008 Spirit Pole, a journey that saw him travel BC sharing the experience of carving a 20-foot totem with over 11,000 people. In 2009, he was selected from a national call to artists by VANOC and won the right to create a large installation: his piece “Dancing Wind” was featured during the 2010 Olympic Games, and consisted of 4 large panels, made from stainless steel, cedar and glass. He has done work for corporations, government agencies and museums around the world and is continually thankful for the opportunity to try new ideas.
These talks are in addition to the Visual Arts department’s proven commitment to Indigenous artists and their practices, as evidenced by their long-running Audain Professorship of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest—which has afforded Visual Arts students the opportunity to work with the likes of Governor General’s Award-winner Rebecca Belmore, Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas, Rande Cook, Nicholas Galanin and Jackson 2Bears. And the Faculty of Fine Arts supports the work of Indigenous artists and creative practitioners in a variety of ways, which you can read about here.
Rande Cook at UVic (Photo Services)
It has been a busy couple of years for Rande Cook. Beyond his duties as chief of Vancouver Island’s ’Namgis Nation and his commitments as an in-demand contemporary artist with an international practice, Cook just completed two back-to-back terms as the Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest with the Visual Arts department.
“Two years in the position allowed me to really reach students,” says Cook. “I was able to delve into the role art plays in politics, and got them to dive deep within themselves. I pushed my students a lot and they seemed to appreciate that — the feedback at the end of the year said it was one of the more profound classes they had ever taken, because it challenged them internally.”
More than just creating a challenging course, however, Cook found the Audain Professorship provided him with the chance to bring his own artistic training into play.
Viewers at Cook’s Audain Exhibition
“Having the opportunity to share what I do from a strong First Nations background was key,” he explains. “Bringing that knowledge into an institution where students don’t really understand traditional teaching gave me the chance to share the real foundation of what the art is: that it comes from a sacred place, that the teachings are sacred.”
Cook is the sixth artist to hold the Audain Professorship, following the likes of Jackson 2Bears, Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas, Nicholas Galanin and Governor General’s Award-winner Rebecca Belmore.
As he reflected in this interview following his first year in the position, “I wanted to design a course around the work I’m doing right now, which means looking at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the murdered and missing Indigenous women, Idle No More, the REDress project, the round dance movement . . . about healing and bridging.”
Rande Cook speaking at the art education conference
Now he feels two years in the position allowed him greater freedom to explore key concepts. “I could break down the art form into its elements and show them how to put it back together. It was like dissecting a symphony: a violin can play anything, once you learn it, but it’s up to you to decide the song and how it should be played.”
Beyond his time in the classroom, Cook was also frequently seen around UVic in his role as chief, participating in events at First Peoples House, drumming for ceremonial openings, speaking at educational conferences, and taking part in discussions about greater indigenization on campus.
Cook also presented a retrospective of his work in October 2016 as the annual Audain Exhibition. Held each fall in the Audain Gallery, Cook’s Accumulation was timed to coincide with Intersections, a combined conference by the BC Art Teachers Association and the Canadian Society for Education through Art. A highlight of the event, Accumulation also provided context for remarks by Cook, who led a workshop at the conference — which also featured a keynote address by Michael Nicoll Yahgulaanas, a former Audain Professor himself.
Collaboration Mask, seen at the Audain Exhibition
Among the pieces on display at Accumulation was a mask collaboratively created with local artist Carollyne Yardley. Aptly titled “/kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n / Collaboration Mask,” the piece is a good example of both Cook’s connections with Victoria’s greater arts community and his contemporary take on traditional art forms.
“in an era of reconciliation, art has once again become a node through which native and non-native engagement is flourishing through agendas of healing, understanding and respect . . . ‘/kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n / Collaboration Mask’ is an aesthetic response to this cultural resurgence in Canada,” writes Fine Arts alumna Dr. Andrea Walsh in this short essay about the piece.
And does he think an important part of the Audain Professorship is to have a presence both in the community and across campus? “I really do,” he says. “I don’t find there’s a lot of true Northwest Coast representation in Fine Arts — there are people who study and teach it, but authentic Northwest Coast artists like myself are rare. Having people in those positions who can speak to that is important.”
Cook also feels it’s important to transcend academia’s traditional definitions. “There are no walls within our culture. I sat in a lot of meetings where people were saying, ‘We want to indigenize the university, how can we incorporate more indigeneity?’ But we don’t have walls between history and music and practice . . . if someone in the Audain position could keep that idea alive, it would be very beneficial.”
Cook (centre) at the opening of UVic’s Michael Williams building
Much like the bridges he builds with his art, Cook feels reaching new communities is an important part of his role as chief and educator.
“Overall, the Audain position gave me the opportunity to share a deeper, profound understanding with everyone — not just the art form, but where it comes from and what it’s about. You can see native art all over the place now, but there’s a deeper meaning to it . . . especially when you’re wanting to learn, to develop the skills.”
Early 2017 is a busy time for our Department of Visual Arts professors, many of whom currently have exhibits both in and out of town at the moment. All too often, professors are only seen in the classroom, but these exhibits offer an invaluable opportunity to see their contemporary creative practice in action — while also demonstrating the important role UVic artists play in Victoria’s cultural community.
From Megan Dickie’s “One Way or Another”
One Way or Another is the latest sculptural exhibit by professor Megan Dickie. Focused on the failure involved in the quest for excellence, the project originated with a trilogy of videos that use classic video games as a platform to investigate human struggle; within this trilogy, a character blunders through a series of obstacles that constantly defy her.
These impediments are indicative of forms and concepts that drive Dickie’s artistic practice: logic inspired, insurmountable forms that are turned into absurd objects of physical comedy. The structures from the videos have been brought to life through sculptures that focus on endless patterns, and together, the sculptures and videos create an immersive environment of humorous persistence that question the value of human progress, and highlight the struggle for bigger, better, more.
Read more about Dickie’s exhibit on the Art Openings cultural blog, written by Art History & Visual studies alumnus Kate Cino. “I am an observer of human behaviour,” Dickie tells Cino, “and find our patterns both fascinating and puzzling.”
One Way or Another runs to February 20 at Open Space, 510 Fort. Dickie will also host an artist talk and exhibition catalogue launch at 1:30pm Saturday, Feb 11.
Cedric Bomford (in black toque) amidst his AGGV installation (Photo: Corina Fischer)
Visual Arts professor Cedric Bomford is one of the artists participating in the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria group exhibit It’s in the Making, curated by Haema Sivanesan and Nicole Stanbridge. The artists in this exhibition use the act of making as a process of thinking. They investigate relationships between ideas, materials and things, take familiar materials and ways of making things and present us with new kinds of objects.
Whether it is crocheting with paint, building structures that destabilize our preconceptions of space, or transforming found images to create a new idea through collage, these artists challenge set ideas of how things should be. Working with Cedric on this site-specific piece are his longtime artistic collaborators, brother and father Nathan and Jim Bomford; the exhibit also features new works by west coast artists Angela Teng, Shelley Penfold and Jess Willa Wheaton, and former Visual Arts Audain Professor Nicholas Galanin.
“I am really drawn to the everyday structures we have around us that we don’t really see very much—the things that become scenery on your commute,” Bomford explains in this Canadian Art interview. “That’s a pretty productive territory to mine: the overlooked dynamics within everyday life. I’m also interested in the power structures that exist in architecture, and these are often overlooked too . . . . Putting viewers on different elevations establishes a different kind of relationship for a gallery. Normally in a gallery everyone walks on the floor and looks at objects. Very rarely are you to forced to acknowledge your relationship to other people in the space or other objects in the space.”
It’s In The Making continues to February 12 at 1040 Moss Street, with an exhibit tour at 2pm Sunday, January 29.
“En Trance” by Sandra Meigs (Photo: Winchester Galleries)
En Trance is the latest exhibit by Visual Arts professor Sandra Meigs. For over 35 years, Meigs has created vivid, enigmatic paintings that combine dense narratives with comic elements; her works gradually reveal layers of meaning, giving viewers insight into psychological spaces and philosophical ideas. In 2015, Meigs was doubly honoured to win both a Governor General’s Award and the $50,000 Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Meigs says her paintings come from meditations that give entry to unlimited force, energy, love, being and presence. This allows a radical intervention into the practice of painting. The outcome of the intervention is exuberant visual energy coming forth through the work. Her work utters a call to pay attention, to wake up.
Each canvas permits an unfolding encounter. We can never really know the “experiencer”, she reminds us; we can only really know the experience. As such the paintings are talismans to elevate the soul, to get the small “egoic self” out of the way and to allow space for living in the moment.
All these paintings were completed during the summer of 2016, and En Trance offers a preview featuring 15 of the 30 paintings that will be exhibited in September 2017 at the Art Gallery of Ontario, as part of her Iskowitz Prize.
En Trance runs to to February 11 at Winchester Galleries, 2260 Oak Bay Ave, with a celebratory reception running from 7- 9 pm Saturday, January 28.
A scene from Paul Walde’s “Alaska Variations”
Visual Arts chair Paul Walde‘s 2014 Requiem for a Glacier installation and sound performance work continues to attract attention both nationally and internationally. Requiem for a Glacier memorializes BC’s Jumbo Glacier area, an ancient feature of the landscape leftover from the last ice age, now under immediate threat from global warming and resort development.
Requiem received mention in the December 2016 issue of Canadian Art magazine as part of the fall 2016 group exhibit “The Edge of the Earth” at Ryerson’s Image Centre in Toronto, and it’s now on view at the WKP Kennedy Gallery in North Bay, Ontario, until February 10.
And after a successful summer 2016 run at the Anchorage Museum, Walde’s most recent piece — Alaska Variations, another installation and sound performance — is currently touring with the museum exhibit The View from Here: The Arctic At The Centre of the World, curated by Julie Decker. The contributors explore the ideas of “wilderness” and “remoteness,” the lessons to be learned from cold places and indigenous knowledge, and how the Arctic is a signal for global change.
The View from Here was also part of the Tromsø International Film Festival in January 2017, and the exhibit itself continues to February 28 at the Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum in Tromsø, Norway — the northernmost art museum in the world.
Visual Arts MFA alumni and current sessional instructors Jeroen Witvliet and Neil McClelland both have concurrent exhibits as part of the Comox Valley Art Gallery show Extracting Narratives, an artistic program bringing together new work by these contemporary painters in an exhibition that draws attention to shifting relations found in daily life and varied stories told through the painted image.
“Our paintings create fictive, could-be landscapes addressing notions of what is familiar but strange, and suggests a sense of unease and difficult relationships between culture and nature,” Witvliet and McCelland say in the show’s statement. “We allow a relinquishing of control of ideas, but also of the painting’s surface through loose working of materials. The works are always alluding to something perhaps mythological, historical, or some possible future, but in ways that are purposefully ambiguous about what that something is. The images evoke a narrative, an aftermath or a beginning, but each painting is not about its separate elements.”
Witvliet’s exhibit is All Tomorrow’s Parties, while McClelland presents The Perfect Nowhere. “Our work invites viewers to construct meaning, to explore the in-between space between the separate elements within the paintings, and between the paintings in the gallery space.” Extracting Narratives runs to Feb 25 in Courtenary BC, with a community artist talk at noon on February 7 at North Island College’s Stan Hagen Theatre.
Neil McClelland also has his own solo exhibit: Everything is Being Perfected, running Feb 3 to March 4 at Deluge Contemporary, 636 Yates. McClelland’s body of paintings in this exhibit explores tensions between utopic and dystopic visions. His work is inquiring into notions of human happiness and perfectibility, the creation of Edenic paradises, disruption and dissolution of society, alienation and consumption, nature and culture, the monstrous and the beautiful, myth-making and storytelling. Taking imagery and inspiration from literature and film — along with art historical, historical, contemporary and personal sources — McLelland creates combinations and layers of digitally edited compositions that form the basis for beginning a painting in oil.
And in other Visual Arts news, MFA alumna Althea Thauberger will be the 2017 recipient for the Faculty of Fine Arts at UVic’s 10th annual Distinguished Alumni Awards. Currently Artist in Residence in Photography at Concordia University in Montreal, Thauberger’s practice involves performative and collaborative processes in the production of social documents, as well as lasting engagements with the communities and sites they are produced within.
Her exhibitions and screenings have included the National Gallery of Canada, the Power Plant in Toronto, the Overgaden Institute of Contemporary Art in Copenhagen, the 2012 Liverpool Biennale, the occupied Kino Zvezda in Belgrade and the Guangong Museum of Art in China, among many others.
Thauberger will receive her award at a special event on February 8; while back at UVic, she will also share her experiences with current students in the Visual Arts department.
Finally, Visual Arts is hosting a number of guest artists in the coming months as part of their long-running Visiting Artists series. Watch for free talks by Vancouver-based sculptor and set designer Alan Storey (January 25), curator and director of Calgary’s Esker Foundation Naomi Potter (February 8), Vancouver painter Ben Reeves (February 22) and artist and educator Barbara Cole (March 1). All happen at 7:30pm in room A150 of UVic’s Visual Arts building, and all are welcome.