Monday, April 23, 2018

Calgary Showcase pt3: The Black Gold Tapestry, Frida Kahlo: Her Photos, and The Artist's Mirror: Self portraits- A Review

So I was planning for this to be the last set of pictures from Calgary. But... well, I started writing about the exhibits I was not allowed to take pictures in. And before I knew it, I had 3 mini reviews on my hands! So we'll save the other exhibits for another post. 

The Black Gold Tapestry
by Sandra Sawatzky

Sandra Sawatzky- a sample of The Black Gold Tapestry
So you know the Bayeux Tapestry? Well, Sawatzky embroidered a more modern version, showing the history of oil, from it's creation by the death of the dinosaurs, to the creation of Greek fire, to our modern ideas on the future of Oil. 


67 meters huge. The Glenbow needed over 5 walls to show the whole tapestry and I wish I could have spent more time going over every detail. I'm not an embroiderer in any sense, but HO---LY CRAP was this amazing to look at. It gives you the sense that you're looking at some ancient piece of history, much like the Bayeux Tapestry. With so many details and colors, I probably could have spent hours there, slowly going over every little detail. Oh, how I wish I could have a miniature version for my room, to go over in my leisure.

Mythical creatures that framed the Bayeux Tapestry were replaced with the very real dinosaurs that created oil in the first place. And each one stuck a different pose or interacted with each other, or even the tapestry itself. Invisible gods and angels watched over, blowing winds and watching the mortals below. And the simplistic human figures made it easy to understand what was going on, even without reading the captions embroidered throughout the tapestry. Sawatzky wanted to create something that people hundreds of years from now could understand, and I believe she succeeded.

This exhibit runs until May 21

Frida Kahlo: Her Photos 
Lola Alvarex Bravo, Frida Kahlo
If you've never heard of Frida Kahlo, check out a little history video right here
 Also, some of you may recognize her from Pixar's Coco.


I love Frida's work for their surrealist look, the taboo symbolism, and her unique and instantly recognizable self-portraits. But I love her most for her overwhelming passion.

It's no secret that when physical or mental emergencies happen to me, I tend to disappear for a while and have trouble doing any kind of art, something I've never been proud of.

But Frida, through all she suffered, she never stopped painting. Painting was her friend; her way of expressing her pain and her passion. Even at the point of being so bedridden, she could not even sit up---she never stopped. Her paintings are surreal, dark, gory, sometimes political, but always blunt in their honesty. Be warned, her paintings are not for the faint of heart.

For me, the mere image of her painting with her custom easel is not only upsetting, as you see how injured she was, but has become a sort of motivational poster for me.

Frida painting in her bed, Anonymous

Which brings us to the Exhibit.

The Glenbow's Exhibit shows another, lesser known side of Frida's work: Photography. Pictures she had taken, and pictures of her taken by others. Her father was a photographer and would bring young Frida with him on assignments. The photos not only showed Frida's life, from child to adult, but also explained how she learned about composition and framing. Ones from later in her life have little anecdotes on the back, or a lipstick kiss mark on the front, something she was known to do to some photos. 

It's not very often we get to see so many photos related to a painter. Especially ones that are so thorough about showing an artist's life. And Frida had a very interesting, though very pain-filled life.

 It's on until May 21st! Seriously, check her out!

The Artist's Mirror: Self Portraits
James Hill, Self-Portrait as a Snail
Whoo boy. Where to start here?

The Artist's mirror is a selection of various self-portraits done by older or modern Canadian artists. It featured sketches, paintings, photographs, sculptures, and even one video.

And it's probably the least interesting exhibit. 

The photo above is by James Hill and was used to advertise the exhibit. One look at this strange, surreal portrait made me excited to see everything else! But then I went into the exhibit and... wasn't very impressed.

That's not to say the exhibit is bad. There were a few pieces that caught my eye for the use of color, or composition. James Hill's portrait is related to a funny in-joke from his peers. I loved Floyd Kuptana's sculptures and Alma Duncan's Self-Portrait With Braids caught my eye for reasons I'm still trying to understand.
Alma Duncan- Self-Portrait With Braids
Maybe it's the childlike outfit versus the blank expression. Maybe it's the bright red of the bows contrasting the rest of the pallet. I'm not too sure. 

 But most of the works were just... faces. I didn't think they really said anything about the artist or grab my attention. 

But that could just be my taste. I believe a self-portrait should be more than just a replica of a face, no matter how masterfully done. Heck, I just finished talking about how I love Frida's work, which is 99 percent self-portraits. But every self-portrait says something about Frida. About her pain, her loves, and her interests.

But there is one potrait in paticular that I need to talk about. This self-portrait of Emily Carr, that you see as soon as you walk in:
Emily Carr, Self-Portrait
I can appreciate the fine detail of light and shadow in the picture... but overall? It's incredibly dull. 

Unlike this Emily Carr self-portrait, which was not in the exhibit:

The artist Emiily Carr is as much a part of Canadian history as wars and battles, says writer Clive Doucet.
Emily Carr, Self-Portrait
It's more interesting and stimulating to look at. There's variety of color and brush strokes. It makes me wonder about Carr's expression and why she decided to use white to highlight her face the way she did. It's better insight into Carr and her style.

And now that I'm done talking about portraits, there's something ELSE that the sketch above brought up for me: The over-reliance on famous established artists.

I might go deeper into this another day but I almost groaned in frustration when I read the statement beside the drawing: The statement was not a quote from Carr about the portrait, but the thoughts of art historians. APPARENTLY, it is suspected that a) the image was a simple school assignment, 2) it's Carr's head on someone else's body because Carr never posed nude in any other piece. or 3) that it's not ACTUALLY Emily Carr or was even drawn by her!

In other words, this portrait may have NOTHING to do with Carr, and if it did, it might not even be important to her. So it really has no business even being in the exhibit. Which makes me suspect that the drawing made it in because "it's Emily Carr, and she's famous, so there."

This is something I see a lot in Canada. I admit that I get tired of hearing about established artists like Emily Carr and, especially, the Group of Seven. It has nothing to do with their work. If I grew up in Italy, I'd probably get sick of hearing about Michelangelo's David really fast.

Maybe it's because all I have to do is take one walk down Kensington in Calgary or Whyte Avenue here in Edmonton, and I am instantly struck with all the variety of art that is out there TODAY. Again, I'm not dissing our famous artists. Many modern artists today were inspired by our past masters. But I notice the problem comes mainly from the audience, (or a few certain stubborn artists), that do not even bother to attempt an interest in today's artists because it's not like "enter famous artist from 100 years ago here"

I guess my point is that it's okay to have pride in one's past, but just don't be so focused on it that you miss the future art masters directly in front of you.

Okay, that's it for now. Next time, photos from the rest of the exhibits.

The SlugLady aka Tegan Dumpleton

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