There’s been a lot of talk these last few weeks from people in Saskatoon, including our city council, expressing concern about Saskatoon not having an art gallery during the period of the Mendel closure and the Remai opening.
(The Mendel is closing its doors June 7th and the Remai is expected to open Summer/Fall 2016 http://www.thestarphoenix.com/entertainment/Move+Remai+Modern+more+than+year+away/10757291/story.html)
Now don’t get me wrong, I am definitely going to miss the Mendel Art Gallery and I am extremely excited about the Remai Modern Art Gallery; but Saskatoon has other art galleries…and they are awesome. There are currently some great exhibitions at AKA Artists Run Center, U of S College Galleries, and Wanuskewin Heritage Park that you shouldn’t miss.
Did you know that Wanuskewin has not only one, but two art galleries?
Wally Dion’s show “Polygon” is up in the smaller gallery. You might be familiar with Wally’s previous work “Star Blankets” where he fused technology with tradition by creating star blankets out of computer circuit boards. His new work in “Polygons” is exciting. Polygon can be separated into two areas of study both are sculptural paintings that explore colour and pattern. In one series he cuts and layers colored paper to create work that is fascinating to inspect. They remind me of Frank Stella’s early work but with a twist – loud colours and relief make them optically engaging to view.
His other work in Polygons are geometric wall sculptures that are a beautiful mix of raw and polished. The frames are raw plywood with a super glossy vibrant painted interior. The sculptures feel modern and fresh while still feeling like they carry references to tradition, Neo Tribal maybe.
The larger gallery at Wanuskewin is “Eco Indian” with art by Michael Belmore, Amy Malbeuf, Mary Longman, Tanya Harnett and David Garneau. Stepping into the great hall I was floored, with beautifully tall ceilings and excellent lighting the great hall is the nicest gallery room in Saskatoon. Eco-Indian is a contemporary exhibit challenging Aboriginal stereotypes examining Aboriginal worldviews and environmental relationship in a modern context.
I was captivated immediately by Amy Malbeuf’s huge sculpture. Using a massive apparatus she displays stretched animal skins pulled tight but floating across the far gallery wall 15 feet high by 40 feet long. The animals are native to the plains: beaver, coyote, muskrat, rabbit, fox but have safety vests sewn into them. What does it say? I’m not sure exactly, but I was rethinking our relationship with our natural wildlife. We exist in this place but rarely think about or encounter these animals whose land we have displaced. Yes, immediately I thought about road kill but I also thought about “safety culture” where we are sheltered from and ignorant about wilderness and wildlife.
David Garneau had a video playing of a native man dressed as a clown washed the oil from a dead owl. Clowns are creepy and circus music is even creepier, but this video was worth watching. An owl is symbolic of wisdom and guidance but has also represented Aboriginal people. The act of washing the slimy oil from an owl is uncomfortable to watch but timely considering Canada’s current political agenda. Oil centered economics and continued growth of the tar sands despite environmental warnings and upheaval about destroying indigenous lands fits into the dialogue of this clown film.
Michael Belmore has a sculpture of a fawn laying dead on the gallery floor. The fawn is a beautiful piece of work. The clay has a rusted patina on its surface with hints of glowing bronze in the interior. Upon inspection, the fawn is cut into strange segments. Could be about society’s disregard and rude attitude towards nature for hints of profit, I’m not sure. But it’s a piece of beauty.
There’s sculptures by Mary Longman and photos from Tanya Harnett but I need to leave something to be discovered.
Located just 5 minutes out of the north end of the city, Wanuskewin is totally worth the trip.