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Megan Morman, "Wayne," 2007, needlepoint.
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Donna Wawzonek, "Art-O-Retts," 2007, reworked cigarette machine with various artists' packages and poster.
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Megan Morman, "Jason," 2007, needlepoint.
Mendel Gallery, Saskatoon
Jan 19 – March 25, 2007
By Cathryn Miller
Conex-Us is the first of three exhibitions at Saskatoon’s Mendel Gallery organized by Adrian A. Stimson under the umbrella title Articulation. The project explores different meanings and contexts for the word “articulation”, andConex-Us is an examination of the interconnectedness of artists, curators, and the wider cultural community. A show of work by 12 artists, it is also an exploration of the curatorial process.
Stimson talks about the evolution of the show. “I chose César, Wes, Dany, and Thirza” he says. “César chose Rick who chose David. Wes chose Robert who chose Lorna. Dany chose Dane who chose Norm. Thirza chose Megan who chose Donna.”
By having the artists themselves participate in curating the show, Stimson opened up the process, giving him access to artists he may not have previously known about. He has also brought the artists in on the constraints, obligations, and decisions a curator faces. Stimson had discussions with each participant, then asked them to choose another artist, helping them through the process but not influencing their final selection, though artists had to be working within the “creative economy” of Saskatoon. Stimson found the experience liberating: “(It) allowed me to let go of preconceived ideas, be creative in aesthetic relationships, and allow for a more organic process to emerge.”
An exhibition chosen by so many artists could have become disparate and incoherent. But the central theme of community – a sense of a place and the people who live there – ties the exhibition together. Although arranged according to the chain of selection, there is still an interchange of ideas and forms between groupings.
The works in Conex-Us can be divided into many sub-categories: painting, photography, installation, needlepoint – but they also have two main focuses, the human figure and the landscape.
Landscapes range from the near-realist, as in Dany Rousseau’s large black and white photograph Trois-Riviéres by night and his Polaroid series Saskatoon by night, and Lorna Russell’s Bird Island in Flight, a vivid portrayal of the light and colour of Saskatchewan autumn, through Thickwood Hills, Norm Dallin’s spare and elegant semi-abstract, to Wes Fyck’s large digital print, Lake Effects, a large monochromatic abstract.
The other works can be viewed as portraits. César (Ale) Romero has contributed a diptych of a nude male torso and a stallion’s head. A self-portrait, it’s titled Dos cuerpos dentro de uno mismo (Two bodies inside oneself). Other portraits range from Rick Pilling’s stunning painting (untitled) with its life-size figure, to The Chief, a head of John G, Diefenbaker in full eagle feather headdress, to the three needlepoint portraits Wayne, Jason, and Velveeta by Megan Morman. There is also David Folk’s large untitled canvas of a young nude male leaving a rocking horse surrounded by puppies and flowers. It is a portrait of that transitional stage in life between childhood and adulthood. And Thirza Cuthand’s video installation piece “ ” is a portrait as well, of misunderstanding and past use of violent and painful therapy for mental illness.
Finally, there is Donna Wawzonek’s installation Art-O-Retts, a cigarette vending machine given a new lease on life as an art vending machine. Wawzonek has extended the curatorial process by inviting 100 artists to contribute works to be sold. Thirty-three have contributed so far, and more works may be added during the run of the exhibition. This piece functions as a portrait of a cultural community – a convenient mode of “dispensing” art. Don’t forget to bring loonies and toonies for Art-O-Retts – you can be a direct patron of the arts and make your own curatorial choices at the same time.