Material Voices at the Textile Museum of Canada

Textile

Bas-Relief panel by Hicks for architectural project, currently on display at TMC.

The second museum I decided to visit while in Toronto was the Textile Museum of Canada (TMC).  If you’ve been following this blog for awhile you know I get really exited about seeing textile arts in mainstream museum spaces – so visiting the TMC seemed like a logical way to build on that love.  The TMC is the only museum in Canad that “explores ideas and builds cultural understanding through the universally relevant media of textiles.”  The Museum is also well known for its education and interactive programming.

Unfortunately during my visit they were just in the midst of changing out one of the main exhibit spaces so the amount of content on display was substantially smaller than normal.  The main exhibit that I was able to see was Sheila Hicks: Material Voices.  The exhibition focused on the work of artist Sheila Hicks whose practice ranges from weaving to found object sculptures to large scale architectural installations.

This was a wonderful exhibit that included a wide range of Hick’s work in different mediums.  The exhibition also included a number of audio-visual stations some of which included films focusing on Hick’s practice and others explaining works on display by the exhibition curator.  I found the videos showing Hicks process for some of her large scale installation projects particularly interesting. I also just generally loved her art and her ability to use textiles in so many different ways. The exhibition is open until February 5, 2017 and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in textiles, mixed media art, or installation art.

Closure of Smith Museum of Stained Glass

During the month of December I am participating in #reverb14 as a means of getting my writing habits back on track. I will be altering the prompts as needed to fit within the scope of this blog. Revised Prompt: What heritage sites have you discovered this year that you love? Tell us all about them, and why you love them. 

One of my favourite trips this year was to Chicago and included a number of heritage sites.  The built heritage in Chicago is beautiful and I enjoyed learning about how the city developed and the mixture of architecture styles that developed as a result of continuous development after devastating fires in the city.

One of the smallest heritage sites I visited this year was the Smith Museum of Strained Glass Windows in Chicago.  This unique site featured over 150 stained glass windows many of which were originally housed in buildings in Chicago.  I found the contrast of the beautiful old stained glass with the modern, tourist location on Navy Pier particularly striking.

When looking up the link for this post I discovered that in October 2014, two months after my visit, the Smith Museum closed and the stained glass was all boxed up and removed from Navy Pier.  The Pier is undergoing renovations and ‘needed’ the museum space for planned new attractions.  At this point the collection of stained glass does not have a home. There are tentative plans to have some of the works exhibited in public spaces, but no signs of a dedicated space for the entire collection.  The Smith Museum was unique in its location and was the largest exhibition of stained glass in North America, its closure is a huge loss to the heritage and stained glass art community.

Art and Wellness: Community Partnerships

The current issue of Muse includes an article by Shirley Madill focusing on the relationship of “Art and Wellness.” Madill’s piece focuses on the role of museums and art galleries in communities, the connection of arts and health, and the wellness benefits associated with public engagement in the arts.

She argues that “Investment in the arts produces important social benefits that have a strong positive impact on both individual and community health.”  Madill includes examples of numerous Canadian initiatives that highlight the collaborative partnerships between health organizations and art institutions.

For example, The Art for Healing Foundation aims to bring art into hospitals and other care facilities as a means of creating inspiring, peaceful, and beautiful environments for patients and healthcare workers.  Since 2002 the Foundation has been responsible for installing over 8000 works of art in institution across Canada.

The integration of artwork into hospital settings can also be seen at the St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg and their decision to to open the Buhler Gallery in 2007.  Located within the Hospital the Buhler Gallery has seen over 75,000 people visit the space with more than a third of the visitors being hospital patients. The Gallery has successfully created a welcoming reflective space for visitors and highlights the intersection of art and healing. 

In addition to hospital based art programs, Madill also highlights the benefits of programming created by community galleries that is geared toward people dealing with health issues.  The Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, where Madill works, partnered with the local Alzheimer Society to create a “Gather in the Gallery” program.  The programming focuses on engaging Alzheimer patients and their caregivers within the gallery space.  Current in it’s fourth year this program has been seen as a success by the gallery, Alzheimer Society and its participants.

Overall Madill’s work reminded me a lot of the Journey Women exhibit I was able to be part of in 2014 that focused on using art based healing to create ‘body maps’ which reflected personal healing experiences.  The article also made me think about the potential within in many museums and galleries to collaborate with health based organizations.  There are tremendous opportunities for engagement, public outreach, and the creation of new programming that is beneficial to both communities and galleries.

If you’re interested in the intersection of art and health I recommend checking out the September/October 2014 issue of Muse as it contains Madill’s excellent piece and others focusing on the role of museums and galleries in health.  

Community Conversations and Libraries

Earlier this week I attended a music night at my local public library.  The night featured a couple of local musicians as well as Tenpenny Bit a traditional music group from out of town.  The evening was free to attend (but a number of people did give small donations), included a couple of hours of good music, conversation, and snacks.  The event was well attended and made me think about the relationship between libraries, art, and communities.

When I first moved to Northern Ontario I remember being baffled by the fact that the library wasn’t open all the time.  The town I grew up in wasn’t huge but it had enough people and funding to support a large library with great hours.  The library in the community I live in now is only open 29 hours a week but still manages to offer a range of programming.

In the past year the library has hosted a handful of small art shows and music nights.  The art shows and displays have featured works by local artists and the music nights have highlighted both local and visiting talent. The events bring people into the library that might not normally visit and provide a needed creative venue within the community.

The most recent music night also highlighted the idea of libraries as community spaces and places of conversation.  Most businesses in our small town close at 6pm.  But the library is open from 7-9pm four nights a week. The library also has a visible presence in the local paper, community nights, and local events. This presence might be as simple as offering hot chocolate and cookies during the winter ‘midnight madness’ event to encourage people to step into library.  The local library is an integral part of the community and actively works to engage locals outside of traditional library programming. 

I like the idea of libraries as being flexible spaces of engagement where patrons can engage with knowledge, arts, and community.  Books bring people together.  But so do free cookies, music nights, and children’s programming.

Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows

I recently spent a few days in Chicago, Illinois.  This is the sixth post in a series about the museums, architecture, public gardens, and art I visited while there.  The first post can be viewed here.

Photo credit:

While exploring the waterfront on our first day in Chicago we ended up at Navy Pier.  The flashiness, cheesy feel, and crowded nature of the Pier didn’t appeal to me all that much.  But, there is a quiet hidden gem amongst all the children running around.

Autumn landscape, Tiffany Studio. Credit:

The Smith Museum of Stained Glass features over 180 stained glass windows in the lower level of Festival Hall.  The Museum opened in 2000 and is the first museum in the US dedicated to stained glass windows.  Many of the windows in the collection were originally installed in residential, commercial, and religious buildings in the Chicago area.  The windows range in age from 1870 to present and highlight a range of artistic styles. Some of the more modern pieces include a window created from pop bottles and a portrait of Michael Jordan. A PDF catalogue of the stained glass window collection can be found here

The Richard H. Driehaus Gallery of Stained Glass features prominently within the larger Smith Museum.  The Driehaus Gallery features 13 windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany.  The Tiffany windows are showcased in a dark portion of the Museum and are lit with artificial light.  The visual effect is well done and makes these windows standout amongst the rest of the of the Smith Museum collection.

The Smith Museum was an interesting surprise.  Typically stained class is preserved in religious building or privately owned homes.  Having the collection in such a public tourism place where visitors can walk right up to the glass is unique. I’ve never seen so much stained glass in one place.  The Museum has done a good job of contextualizing each window and preserving the windows in a way that is accessible.   

Ayumi Goto and Peter Morin Performances and Installation

Re-posted from the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre. 
 
As part of the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre’s ongoing critical and creative Healing and Reconciliation through Education programming, the SRSC is pleased to announce new, original performances and installations by visiting artists Peter Morin and Ayumi Goto.

Peter Morin is a 2014 Sobey Award-nominated Tahltan Nation artist, curator and writer. He will present an original performance called escape stories Friday, April 25 at the Art Gallery of Algoma at 3 pm in collaboration with Ayumi Goto. This performance is, in part, related to Morin’s 2012 visit to Algoma University and the site of the former Shingwauk Indian Residential School, as well as his participation in the SRSC-sponsored artist residency Reconsidering Reconciliation held at Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, Scewepemc Territory, in August 2013. He recently returned from London, UK, and a series of performances exploring the kidnapping of an Inuk baby and his mother from the land in 1547, which forms the foundation for escape stories. The performance will take place within the Education Gallery at the AGA, which currently houses Why the Caged Bird Sings: Here I Am by Cheryl L’Hirondelle, who similarly participated in visiting artist and residency events put on by the SRSC.

Ayumi Goto is a performance artist based in Kelowna, Okanagan Nation territory. Born in Canada, she draws upon her Japanese heritage to trouble sedimented notions of nation-building, cultural belonging, and structural racism in her creative work. Like Morin and L’Hirondelle, Goto has been engaged with the SRSC and other partners in explorations of the role of art and artist in healing and reconciliation. Over a course of 105 days in 2013, Goto ran 1568.5 km around communities in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario to recognize and pay homage to the Journey of Nishiyuu, in which six young Cree men led by guide Isaac Kawapit, walked from Whapmagoostui, Northern Quebec to Ottawa to raise awareness of Aboriginal issues. She reinforced the walkers’ laborious efforts to bring attention to the Idle No More movement, as well as attempting to transform her own relationship to the land. Her installation at the SRSC, which will open Saturday, April 26 at 7 pm explores this experience through the daily poetic and visual responses she created.

Both Morin’s performance at the AGA and Goto’s installation at the SRSC are open to the public and free for all to attend. Refreshments will be served and the artists will be available for conversations after each event.

Slow Art Day

April 12th 2014 is Slow Art Day.  A day dedicated to encouraging people to discover art and the joy of looking at art.  The day also emphasizes the idea that people can see and experience art without an expert. 

Art galleries and museums internationally are hosting Slow Art Day events.  Most events are structured to allow participants to look at art slowly, by having people look at five works of art for ten minutes each.  Participants then discuss their experience of looking at art. The simple structure makes it easy for galleries to participate.

Started in 2009 with 16 museums and galleries in North America and Europe Slow Art Day has expended to have over 210 venues on every continent in 2014. The list of this year’s participating venues can be seen here

Locally, the Art Gallery of Algoma will be participating in Slow Art Day with art viewing from 12:00-1:00pm and Slow Food Lunch in the Cafe from 1:00-2:00pm.

Google’s Art Project

There has been a lot of discussion in social media and by news outlets recently of Google’s newly launched Art Project. The Project uses street view technology to allow users to explore the collections of museum and art galleries. It includes the ability to create an ‘individual art collection’ of pieces you like. Art Project features 385 rooms in 17 well known cultural institutions, and over 1,000 works by 486 artists. Each participating organization has also selected a work to be classified as “gigapixel artwork.” These selected pieces have a dramatically increased zoom feature which allows users to look at minute details. Additionally, Google maps is linked to the Art Project, allowing users to ‘jump’ to exploring institutions using Google maps.

Despite the some of the benefits and potential of this initiative there has been a number of complaints regarding how information was gathered and how it is being displayed. A number of images are blurred out in galleries due to copyright issues. Similarly, only a handful of images are currently available in high resolution. The low resolution images leave out a vast amount of detail in intricate works. Only a select number of institutions are currently part of the Project and there has yet to be an indication of if or when the project will expand.

The Art Project is an interesting idea. However, in its current form it merely exposes some of the world’s most well known art work. It does little for smaller institutions, lesser known artists, and the preservation of a wide range of artistic material.

The Intersection of Art and Technology


I was recently reminded of the impact which technology has upon art. Art like many things has been drastically impacted by evolving technologies. Since the impact of technology on art is diverse, to begin with I’m only going to attempt to discuss technology and art history.

The work of Dr Maurizio Seracini is one of the most well known examples of the profound impact technology can have upon art history. For over 25 years Seracini has been using technology to learn more about the works of Da Vinci. Seracini adapted technology from medical and military fields to allow for nondestructive analysis of art. One of the more notable efforts by Seracini is the possible discovery “The Battle of Anghiari” mural by da Vinci. Using radar and tomographic imagery Seracini was able to analyze the hall in which the mural was painted, without damaging any of it’s current contents. The use of technology to examine original architecture and art has immense possibilities, and could allow for scholars to learn a great deal more about supposedly lost architectural and aesthetic features.

Additionally, technology has also been used to assign dates to pieces of art. For example, a relatively new technology has allowed for the dating of early pictographs. This technology uses a type of carbon dating, previously only used on pottery, bones, and other physical artifacts. This carbon dating was previously not possible due to the lack of high levels of organic materials in most pictographs. As technology has advanced more information has been gained about early rock paintings. This is a triumph for anyone interested in early art history, archeology, and the history of many ancient societies.

As technology has increased so has the ease of creating art forgeries. That being said technology has also allowed for the development of technologies which can easily detect forgeries. For example, laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) has been used to examine paints, and materials used in art. This technology has allowed for unique analysis of art, and for a “chemical fingerprint” to be created for original works of art. By knowing the exact chemical the materials used by artists, exposing forgeries has become much easier. Additionally, knowing more about the materials used by artists allows for the expansion of another dimension of art history.

Technology has allowed for art history to become increasingly scientific. Technology can assist in taking a lot of the ‘guess work’ out of art history. By combining science and art, a more in depth history of society and culture can be developed.