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Artist uncovers ethically dubious history of statue in MacKenzie Art Gallery collection – CBC.ca

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The MacKenzie Art Gallery and the University of Regina are taking on a quest to return a statue to its original home in India.

Winnipeg artist Divya Mehra sparked the investigation when she uncovered the story of how the small stone sculpture came to be in the Norman MacKenzie collection. 

“Norman McKenzie was known for taking trips across the world and collecting artifacts for his collection,” said John Hampton, interim executive director and CEO of the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina.

In 1913, on a trip down the Ganges River, he saw a sculpture near Benares, India, in a shrine that was actively being used by people in the area.

“He said, ‘I want a statue like that,'” Hampton told CBC’s The Morning Edition. “And he found someone that was willing to get it for him.”

Hampton said this was ethically suspect, but was a common practice at the time. 

“You’ll find many similar and maybe even more suspect stories across all [Western institutions], which just brings into question how these collections are built.”

The centerpiece of Divya Mehra’s exhibition at MacKenzie Art Gallery is an inflatable Taj Mahal. The exhibition explores the theme of reproduced, misclassified, staged and stolen cultural property. (Supplied by MacKenzie Art Gallery)

Hampton said Mehra’s findings “set a wave of motion into effect,” including conversations about whether the gallery had a right to show the artifact and who the artifact truly belonged to.

Norman MacKenzie’s collection technically still belongs to the University of Regina, so the MacKenzie Art Gallery started conversations with the university about repatriating the work.

“We’re going to make the offer to the Indian government to return this object,” Hampton said. “There’s no guarantee that they’ll accept that offer. But we’re all in agreement that it’s something that we should be doing.”

The gallery is also taking a closer look at the other 5,000 objects in its collection.

“It’s sparked our interest to make sure that we have a fulsome history of the provenance of all of these objects and to make sure that we know if there are any more,” Hampton said.

‘Dude, that’s a woman’

Divya Mehra has an exhibit at the MacKenzie until January 2021. It examines some of the themes from her research — including a piece inspired by Indiana Jones.

“It’s a sack of sand that weighs the same as the sculpture,” Hampton said. “She wants to swipe that piece from our collection and return it to the proper home and then replace it with a bag of sand as if there’s some booby traps, institutional booby traps that could prevent it.”

The object was previously identified as a statue of Vishnu, but Mehra noticed that didn’t seem right.

“I think her words were, ‘Dude, that’s a woman,'” Hampton said.

Dr. Siddhartha Shah with the Peabody Essex Museum of South Asian Art correctly identified it as an Annapurna, Hindu goddess of food and nourishment. 

“We’re a cultural institution and we want to represent those cultures accurately and ethically, and we have to make sure that we have buy-in from the people who produce this work and where it comes from,” Hampton said. 

“If we don’t have that right, then we don’t believe that we should be showing it in that light.”

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Saving the saints: St. Ninian's restoration reveals art history in Antigonish – CBC.ca

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Michelle Gallinger spends more than nine hours a day pressed against the grand walls of St. Ninian’s Cathedral.

She’s slowly revealing a piece of Canadian history that’s been hidden for decades.

Under the painted walls and columns of the Antigonish, N.S., church, is an extraordinary mural by Quebec painter Ozias Leduc.

Gallinger, a fine arts conservator based in Dartmouth, considers him the Michelangelo of Canada.

“It’s pretty exciting. You get to have your hands on somebody’s painting who nobody has seen in its entirety since 1937,” said Gallinger.

Leduc has been recognized by the federal government as a national historic person, a designation given to people who’ve made unique and enduring contributions to Canada’s history.

He painted 150 churches, mostly in his home province. Gallinger said St. Ninian’s is the only one in Eastern Canada.

Leduc and his team painted the church in 1902, 26 years after the cathedral opened.

His work covered the entire interior from floor to ceiling. But in 1937, the cathedral needed an update and the first layer of paint was added, covering up some of the murals.

For three months, Michelle Gallinger and her team have been standing on scaffolding at the top of St. Ninian’s Cathedral, restoring murals by hand. (Robert Short/CBC)

Over the years, as many as seven layers of paint covered up the masterpiece, leaving only some of the saints exposed. They became known as the “floating saints.” 

The rose medallions on the ceiling were filled in. They’re now blue circles, but their intricate designs can be seen peeking through the layers.

Most people have no idea what’s actually on St. Ninian’s walls.

“The columns are actually painted marble,” said Gallinger. “On the outside aisles, the Stations of the Cross are all painted by Ozias Leduc and there are stencils that go up the wall.”

Two angels on the walls hadn’t been seen since 1957, when they were completely painted over. Damage caused by a steam leak at the cathedral caused layers of paint to peel away. (Robert Short/CBC)

It’s Gallinger’s job to bring that work back to life, and she’s working against the clock to save Leduc’s masterpiece.

A few years ago, there was a steam leak inside the cathedral that travelled up the columns.

“That actually caused the paint and all the subsequent layers to flake off or come forward,” said Gallinger. Those curling pieces of paint are taking the original mural with them.

In 2012, the church decided to start a campaign to save the murals. It started fundraising and every time donations total $80,000, Gallinger comes in with her team to save two saints.

In all, it’s expected the work will cost more than half a million dollars.

“The best part of it is when you get to take the four layers of artist paint off the faces. They no longer look dead or tired — they come alive,” said Gallinger.

The restoration team is using stencils to fill in some missing pieces of Ozias Leduc’s original mural. (Robert Short/CBC)

In this phase of the project, Gallinger and two of her colleagues have been tasked with revealing two saints, Matthias and Peter, as well as two angels that have been completely covered since 1957.

It’s incredibly slow, detailed work that is done by hand.

“We actually have to glue it all back down using steam irons and adhesive and hot irons,” Gallinger said of the peeling paint.

“Then we have to use what’s called a poultice, which is basically a wad of cotton with a solvent on it, to remove the top layers down to the original layer.”

Ozias Leduc originally painted St. Ninian’s from floor to ceiling. The blue circles were filled with rose medallions. While some parts have been restored, other sections are now flaking away. (Robert Short/CBC)

Once the layers are removed, she can see the original brushstrokes and paint colours.

“Right now, the two angels are just standing on clouds and it’s just glorious to see them,” she said.

But the damage of time is clear: some parts of the walls have peeled in large chunks, leaving behind blank white sections. That’s where Gallinger and her team are trying to fill in the blanks with their own paint.

“We will put a fine art varnish on it,” she explained. “They could always take our overpaint off without ever affecting the original Leduc.”

Michelle Gallinger says they were fortunate to find a few old photos of St. Ninian’s that were stored in Quebec. She’s using those to fill in missing sections of Ozias Leduc’s original mural. (Robert Short/CBC)

Rev. Donald MacGillivray, rector of St. Ninian’s, has been watching the church walls transform.

“Beauty is important,” he said. “The artwork here was made beautiful, and to have it restored brings beauty back into the building.”

He said it is incredible that people have been willing to donate to the project over the years. Every dollar has been an anonymous contribution.

“People come up to me and say, ‘I want to give money to help with this, but I don’t want my name to be known.'”

St. Ninian’s still has to raise $280,000 to restore the remaining seven saints. The cathedral hopes to finish the project in three years. (Robert Short/CBC)

The church is filled with posters showing old photos that give hints of what’s hidden on the walls, and explaining the work that needs to go into each of the saints.

When this phase finishes up next week, St. Ninian’s still has seven saints to save.

MacGillivray’s goal is to have the money raised in the next two or three years.

And while he waits to bring Gallinger’s team back to Antigonish, MacGillivray takes the time to appreciate the section that they have almost completely transformed.

“It’s wonderful,” he said.

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GRT public art display misused to display hate symbol in Cambridge – KitchenerToday.com

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A quick response from the region’s transit provider after a hate symbol was briefly seen on Sunday on the Cambridge Centre Mall transit terminal’s public art display.

Peter Zinck is the Director of Transit Services for the Region of Waterloo – speaking with 570 NEWS, he said that the station’s pinboard had been manipulated to show a swastika and that the behaviour was promptly addressed by GRT staff in under an hour.

“We’ve turned the matter over to police, who will investigate. We will be fully supporting their investigation in any way that GRT can.”

Zinck said that the report came through from a media service on Sunday morning around 9:00 a.m. Staff members were sent to the Cambridge Centre station to re-arrange the board before forwarding the issue to regional police. He said that Grand River Transit places a high priority on these kinds of issues – whether it’s a public art display or a reported piece of graffiti.  

When asked about problematic behaviour with the pin-board display and whether a decision would be considered to remove it, Zinck said that this is the first reported circumstance of the public art piece being misused in this way.

“Hopefully this is just a one-off, and that people recognize this is there for public art and not for use of hate symbols.”

Zinck said that Grand River Transit remains committed to providing a safe environment for all riders and that they condemn symbols of hate or racial intolerance without reservation.

He added that if members of the public see anything like this on transit, they can report the behaviour on GRT’s website or through their call centre.

“… it’s just not acceptable on our services. We’ll deal with the matter quickly, and follow-up through the Waterloo Regional Police Services to ensure it’s investigated.”

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Squamish Art Walk on tap – Squamish Chief

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In a year where events of all types have been wiped out because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s comforting that a couple of cornerstones will be returning, albeit in a different form.

The Squamish Arts Council’s annual Art Walk is set to run from Nov. 1 to 28, with some pandemic adaptations, of course.

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Executive director Amy Liebenberg said that while the number of participating artists, at roughly 25, is consistent with past years, there are understandably fewer hosting venues in 2020.

“They’re either not open or not interested in encouraging excess clientele, especially if they’re just coming to look and not necessarily coming to patronize the business,” she said.

The venues taking part this year as Zephyr Café, Saha Eatery, Squamish Academy of Music, Northyards Cider, the Squamish Public Library, The Ledge Community Coffee House, Andy Anissimoff Gallery and Britannia Mine Museum.

While the event’s art-viewing element is similar to years past, the more radical change has to do with studio tours and other artist interaction, as many of the studios are small and not suited to welcoming the public for a peek behind the curtain at this time.

Instead, artists will share “the tools they use, the processes they use and how their wonderful, creative imaginations transform ordinary materials into the magic you see all around,” Liebenberg said. The tours will be available on Instagram by searching the hashtag #squamishartist.

“Enjoy the behind-the-scenes tours and enjoy what these incredible artists are making,” she said.

As well, the Anonymous Art Show will be back for a second go-around.

“We have some of the most amazing artists I’ve ever known who live and work in Squamish and so it’s going to be really fun to have them back again for some Anonymous Art Show pieces,” she said.

Artists will submit their pieces by early November, while the show is set for Nov. 26 at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

“You hope to be the first in line to grab a piece that most delights you,” she said.

Introducing our Zephyr Cafe location of collaborative art work that will be displayed for our Art Walk program launching…

Posted by
Squamish Arts Council on 
Friday, October 23, 2020

In terms of participants, Liebenberg said there are always a few surprises, as last year, there were several who hadn’t painted in many years if ever before, while there were some who work in a different medium, such as textiles, trying their hands at something new.

Liebenberg said that with many artists having had tough times this year, they would appreciate a purchase or, at the very least, a message of support for a job well done.

“Our creative community deserves all of our support and a big round of applause for continuing to do some pretty heavy emotional lifting on behalf of the community,” she said.

For more, visit squamishartscouncil.com.

The Foyer Gallery is in the lobby of the Squamish Public Library. – The Chief staff

Foyer Gallery set for fundraiser

One of the Art Walk participants, Foyer Gallery at the Squamish Public Library, will hold a fundraising event of its own in November.

The gallery was unable to host its traditional events, a May gala with an exhibit in the lead-up, where for a $50 sponsorship, patrons can take part in a “raffle for art” event.

This year, supporters are encouraged to take part in a pay-what-you-can campaign of sponsorship. Each supporter will be entered into a random draw for one of six pieces of artwork by a local artist or a one-on-one virtual art lesson from curator and painting instructor Toby Jaxon. To donate, head to squamishlibrary.ca.

“We formatted it and decided that we’d take a stab at getting some donations before 2020 ends,” she said with a chuckle.

Among the artists donating pieces are three volunteers, also known as the “hanging crew” for their work installing new exhibits monthly or, now during COVID, every six weeks: 20-plus-year veteran Fran Solar, 13-year helper Linda Wagner and, in her third year, relative newbie Karen Yaremkewich.

The three have not only diverse mediums, with Wagner being an oil painter, Yaremkewich being a fabric artist and Solar working with metal, but they also have distinct skills when installing the shows.

“Fran is a master at creating interesting vignettes. We’ve got these three beautiful display cases, so that’s her specialty. Linda, she’s super gifted at figuring out where all the wall art should go and coordinating the pieces based on size and style and colours. Karen, she’s really proactive at moving the inventory around, getting up on the ladder—and it doesn’t hurt that she’s super tall,” Jaxon said.

Jaxon added that she’s also been creating virtual versions of the galleries so visitors can decide if there’s a piece they’d like to see more closely or purchase before arriving, especially given the library’s limited hours.

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