A Tribute to Mountains and Masks
Oil on canvas - 71.0 x 90.8 cm
Jock Macdonald - The Black Tusk, Garibaldi Park, B.C., 1932
IMAGES JOERN ROHDE
Few travellers will have the chance to explore Canada from coast to coast to coast to witness the country’s raw beauty. This winter, however, locals and visitors have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the vastness of Canada’s landscapes — in particular, mountain landscapes — from the artist’s perspective. To celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary of confederation, the Audain Art Museum features Stone and Sky: Canada’s Mountain Landscape until Feb. 26, 2018. The collection of artworks is a special exhibition that explores Canada’s alpine landscapes through photographs, watercolours, drawings, paintings and prints.
With more than 100 works of art on display, produced over the past 150 years, the exhibition showcases remarkable diversity in perspective, both historically and in the alpine landscapes themselves. While developing the exhibition, Darrin Martens, Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky, chief curator, asked the question, “How have artists changed their perspectives, and how have they depicted this alpine landscape?” Martens traversed the country, seeking artworks that represent Canada’s myriad mountainous regions, from the Coast Mountains where Whistler is located to the famed Rockies of the West to the remote mountains in the north in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, and finally to the older, less dramatic mountains of eastern Canada.
The artworks of some of Canada’s most celebrated artists grace the gallery walls, including those by Lawren Harris and members of the Group of Seven, Emily Carr, Toni Onley, Edward Burtynsky, Kenojuak Ashevak, John Hartman, Takao Tanabe and Ann Kipling. Collectively, the pieces reflect an intriguing passage of time. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, artists essentially had two means by which to travel across Canada: along river routes by watercraft or by train. Martens notes that at the time, the mountains were perceived as “barriers, something to be feared and admired.”
A paradigm shift occurred in the artists’ perspectives, both literally and metaphorically, as travel by airplane became possible. Mountain regions were a resource to be used for forestry, mining and water, and this change is especially noticeable in the photographs by Edward Burtynsky, taken from high above in a plane. “One thing I’m particularly interested in is the hidden landscapes, or the hidden mountainscapes where people don’t necessarily travel,” says Martens, “where we’re given a distant view. For example, you’re flying over the Rockies, one notices clear cutting and forestry development and things like that, but when one drives through, people are often sheltered from seeing that kind of thing.” If there’s one perspective that is consistently represented throughout the 150-year period, it is the magnetic draw that mountain spaces have on artists, and their reverence in depicting them.
For visitors who intend to show their reverence to the mountains by skiing and riding Whistler and Blackcomb during the winter season, the Audain Art Museum has extended its hours on Thursdays and Fridays until 7 p.m., so that snow lovers can experience Stone and Sky: Canada’s Mountain Landscape after the mountains close.
From the end of March until early June 2018, a retrospective exhibition will feature artworks by Beau Dick, master carver and Kwakwaka’wakw hereditary chief, who died in March 2016. Known also as Walas Gwa’yam, (Big Whale), Beau Dick had a 40-plus-year career exploring the cultural history and life of the Kwakwaka’wakw people through his carvings, as well as respectfully creating regalia in the style of Haida, Tlingit, Heiltsuk, Nuu-chah-nulth and Nuxalk coastal First Nations.
The Beau Dick: Revolutionary Spirit exhibition will look at the arc of Dick’s career from early small carvings to some of the larger artworks he completed toward the end of his career, including a series of Dzunukwa masks. The Dzunukwa is a figure in Kwakwaka’wakw mythology, a giantess with a black face, red lips, bedraggled hair and pendulous breasts. While this highly respected creature brought wealth and good fortune, she was also terrifying, as she would steal disobedient children and take them home in her basket to eat.
Dick’s artistic practice evolved over time, and each of the masks is unique. “I think visitors will be able to see how he honed his skills,” says Martens, “and ways in which he sought to explore this theme in very different ways as time went on.” Martens is the co-curator of the retrospective exhibition, and will share the role with Beau Dick’s daughter Linnea Dick, who will provide insight into the late carver’s process and his creative craft.
Brianna Beacom, Audain acting director, describes the master carver as a revolutionary. “We are incredibly honoured to be able to celebrate the life of one of the most respected and prolific Kwakwaka’wakw artists of a generation.” Not only did Dick make remarkable contributions to the understanding of First Nations history and cultural heritage, but he also contributed to the community through his leadership and activism on Indigenous issues, by encouraging dialogue about the legacy of residential schools, protecting the environment, fishing rights and treaty rights and responsibilities.
While viewing the special exhibitions at the Audain, be sure to take in the permanent collection as well. It includes some of the finest artwork created in British Columbia from pre-European contact to contemporary times. Find out more about the Audain Art Museum’s special exhibitions, tours, classes and events by visiting audainartmuseum.com