Calgary visual artist Billie Rae Busby has showcased her work across the country.
Her abstract paintings of the northern lights are now on display at the Leighton Art Centre in Millarville, about 50 kilometres southwest of Calgary. But, she admits, art galleries aren’t always the best spaces to engage with the public.
That’s why she and other artists are proud to be showcasing their work this month in the middle of CrossIron Mills, just outside the shopping centre’s food hall.
“If I can bring aspects of what my art looks like, or the other artists’ [works] look like, to where people are just doing everyday things, going to the mall … wandering around in their community, wherever it is, I think it’s really important,” she said.
“It also starts to break down that stigma of what public art is and that local artists can do some really fantastic, engaging things.”
Busby is one of the local artists behind Pumpkin-Finity, a display made up of interactive monster sculptures, creative seating and 350 hand-painted pumpkins. Those are showcased in a pumpkin patch and in a hut, where mirrors are installed to create the infinity effect.
The installation is part of an initiative between CrossIron Mills and PARK — which stands for Promoting Artists Reimagining Kulture — to celebrate the fall season and International Artists Day, which happens Oct. 25.
PARK works to connect clients in Western Canada with different artists to help them showcase their work. The installation at CrossIron Mills marks the first time the group has done a display in Rocky View County.
Busby was asked to design four benches, or “creative seating,” for the Halloween display.
“What I liked is the take wasn’t really the spooky side or the scarier side, they went more with pops of colour,” she said.
“I normally have an abstract landscape style.… I was inspired by the harvest moon and our October fields. So kind of the way the fields look after the farmers have gone through them. And then also, I always get inspired with trick-or-treating, how we always seem to find the moon as one of our landmarks.”
Calgary duo Cory Budgen, an illustrator and graphic designer, and Sarah Lamoureux, an information designer and painter, came together to create the monster sculptures. They’re known for their bright, colourful style.
“For me, it was a chance to stretch my character design skills, and also I love drawing like kid’s inspired stuff,” Budgen said.
Shoppers and kids can twist the three sculptures to give their monster different heads, bodies and legs.
Lamoureux says they opted for a playful take on the monsters, reimagining classic movie creatures and giving them a “bubblegum” vibe.
“We just like bringing smiles to people’s faces. We just love seeing people interact with these things and have a good time,” she said.
“I think that everybody needs a little silver lining to their day, and if that’s something that we’ve created, then I think that we’ve done our job.”
Mall staff are hoping the display gives Calgarians a chance to enjoy a unique experience, interacting with art while promoting local talent.
“We’re a little bit outside of the city, and so to collaborate with local Calgary artists who are connected to the culture and the vibrancy of the city is something we really wanted to hammer home with this initiative,” said Joel Tatlow, marketing manager at CrossIron Mills.
“It’s really special to be able to engage local talent and show off their work in a way that’s really public and really, really visible.”
The display will be up until Oct. 31, when mall staff will give away all of the pumpkins for free.
Tatlow says kids under 12 who visit the exhibit will receive treats from retailers from Oct. 28 to 31.
Busby says she’s optimistic the display will provide some joy to passersby.
“A lot of people enjoy Halloween, so hopefully this will be something that will bring a little bit of fun and playfulness to their day.”
Our Land, Our Art – Musée canadien de la nature
New exhibition reveals the beauty of Nunavik inspired by the collections of Avataq Cultural Institute
Ottawa, December 1, 2022— A new exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Nature reveals perspectives on Quebec’s Nunavik region through the works of Inuit artists—each inspired by their deep connection to nature and their home communities.
Our Land, Our Art was developed by the Avataq Cultural Institute, based in Inukjuak, Nunavik, and in Montreal, with the support of the museum. It opens to the public on December 2, 2022 and will remain on view until October 2024.
“We are honoured to present this latest exhibition in our Northern Voices Gallery, a space curated by northern communities that is dedicated to their art, culture and relationship to the land,” says Dr. Danika Goosney, museum President and CEO. “We look forward to sharing the rich heritage of Nunavik through the perspectives of the artists who were inspired by the Avataq Cultural Institute’s collections.”
Presented in English, French and Inuktitut, Our Land, Our Art features original and varied forms of artworks, including photography, visual art, performance art, and throat singing. Each piece or installation reveals the artist’s strong relationship to the land.
Rhoda Kokiapik, Avataq Cultural Institute’s Executive Director, says: “This exhibition is an unprecedented opportunity for us to reach Canadian and international visitors at the Canadian Museum of Nature through this special project that shows the talent of our artists. Our relationship with the land is central to their creative process and it is something we can all relate to.”
The artists are Qumaq M. Iyaituk and Passa Mangiuk (drawings); Lucasi Kiatainaq (photography and video); Evie Mark and Akinisie Sivuarapik (throat singing); Taqralik Partridge (beadwork and visual art) and Tupiq A.C.T. (circus performers).
Qumaq M. Iyaituk and her sister, Passa Mangiuk, grew up in Ivujivik, and are inspired by the themes of family, community, and the land. Their three drawings depict a motorized canoe and a qamutiq (dog sled), which have traditionally been important means of transportation.
Photographs and a video (That Spring feeling) by Lucasi Kiatainaq from Kangiqsujuaq reveal moments in Inuit life. Inspired by Nunavik’s land and animals, Lucasi has spent many hours camping and hunting with his father, learning from his wealth of experience, and deepening his connection with nature.
Artwork by Taqralik Partridge, a visual and spoken-word artist from Kuujjuaq who now lives in Ottawa, features a large beaded amautik (woman’s parka). Inspired by themes of the environment and ancestral connections to the land, her work addresses life in the North as well as in southern urban centres.
In a special tupiq (tent) installation, a video introduces Nunavik’s first professional circus troupe: Tupiq A.C.T. Created in 2018, the troupe has members from across Nunavik, as well as the Greater Montreal Area. Their circus creations are inspired by oral stories from their ancestors, the land, and the language. The creation in Our Land, Our Art is inspired by the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
An installation featuring throat singers Evie Mark and Akinisie Sivuarapik honours women and their connection to the land. By standing within two hanging felt pods, visitors can enjoy the unique sounds of the duo’s throat singing. Embroidered on the felt are traditional tattoo patterns, or tunniit, designed by Evie. The two women have performed together for many years, contributing to the revitalization of the Nunavik style of katajjaniq (throat singing).
The exhibition also features 32 traditional objects, artworks, and artifacts from the Avataq Cultural Institute’s collections, which provided inspiration to the artists.
Among them are artifacts that were used by Early Inuit 800 to 350 years ago: a pana (snow-knife blade) and panak (knife handle), both made of walrus ivory; a cooking pot called an ukkusik, a qulliq (oil lamp) made of soapstone, and a wooden figure possibly used as a doll. Dating back 350 to 50 years ago is a selection of Inuit objects, such as igaak (snow goggles), a nariarsaq (fishing lure), an ajaqaq game of skill using a wooden rod and seal bone (similar to a cup-and-ball game), as well as contemporary carvings.
Our Land, Our Art will be on view until October 2024 and is included with museum admission. The Northern Voices Gallery is located within the museum’s Canada Goose Arctic Gallery. The Canadian Museum of Nature is located at 240 McLeod St., Ottawa. (at Metcalfe St.). Visit the Museum at nature.ca and follow it on these social media channels: Twitter.com/museumofnature, Instagram.com/museumofnature, facebook.com/canadianmuseumofnature and LinkedIn.
- More than12,000 Inuit live in Nunavik—60% of whom are younger than 30. Inuktitut is the main language spoken.
- Nunavik includes 14 villages along the coasts of northern Quebec. The region covers 507 000 sq. km and accounts for a third of Quebec’s total area.
- Ancestors of today’s Inuit, the Early Inuit (also called Thule Inuit), migrated to the Eastern Arctic around 800 years ago. Their culture emerged in the Bering Strait region of Alaska.
- Early Inuit were specialized in hunting large whales. They travelled across long distances by umiaq (large skin boat), qajaq (kayak) and qamutik (dog sled).
- In summer, Early Inuit lived in tupiit (skin tents) and in winter, qarmait (semi-subterranean sod houses) or igluit (snow houses).
- Katajjaniq is the Nunavik style of throat singing. An old Inuit tradition, throat singing is mostly a women’s practice. It often refers to familiar sounds (from animals, nature elements, or women’s tools) that provide a connection to the land.
About Avataq Cultural Institute
Avataq Cultural Institute provides a strong foundation for the living culture of today’s Inuit. Since its inception in 1980, Avataq has built a solid reputation as the cultural leader for Nunavik Inuit and as an important resource for Inuit culture in Canada and beyond. Our goal is to ensure that Inuit culture and language continue to thrive into the future, so that our descendants can benefit from the rich heritage passed down to us through the wisdom of our ancestors.
About the Canadian Museum of Nature
Saving the world through evidence, knowledge and inspiration! The Canadian Museum of Nature provides evidence-based insights, inspiring experiences and meaningful engagement with nature’s past, present and future. It achieves this through scientific research, a collection of 14.6 million specimens and artifacts, education programs, signature and travelling exhibitions, and a dynamic web site, nature.ca.
Inuvik Drum Community Art Showcase: Hydroponic Garden Tower Poster, by Rita Garaba
Can art actually help improve Saudi Arabia’s abject human rights record?
Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi just can’t stay out of the news. Just when it seemed it had all gone quiet, Martin Kemp, the Oxford University-based Leonardo scholar, mentioned in a talk at the recent Cheltenham Literary Festival that, according to his “best information”, the Salvator Mundi is in Saudi Arabia and the country is building an art gallery, due to be completed in 2024. “There have been moves to get me out to look at it, but I’m slightly reluctant to go to Saudi Arabia for fairly obvious reasons,” Kemp says, referring to the country’s deeply problematic human rights record. The scholar later clarified to The Art Newspaper that he “still [had] no incontrovertible evidence about the ownership or location of the painting”.
If Saudi Arabia does plan to publicly display the world’s most expensive—and contentious—artwork, it will need reputable museum curators and art historians to give the project credibility. Those with the expertise to make it happen will make plenty of money, but what will it do to their reputations?
Saudi Arabia’s proposed 100 mile-long megacity in the Neom region promises to be a lucrative “architecturewash” for the designers and engineers involved. The city is supposedly “dedicated to the sanctity of all life on Earth”, but the Saudi authorities have sentenced to death three members of the local Huwaitat tribe for protesting against the development. Art, like sport and architecture, is being used by Saudi Arabia to project an image of a state that, according to its culture ministry, “enriches lives, celebrates national identity and builds understanding between people”, rather than one that imprisons and executes those who criticise or disagree with it.
Back in June, Iwona Blazwick, the former director of London’s Whitechapel Gallery, became chair of the Royal Commission overseeing five new permanent works for the Wadi AlFann area of Saudi Arabia. When asked to defend her new position, given the country’s abject human rights record, Blazwick said she would “rather be involved where I can help contribute to freedom of expression”, because she believes “art changes society”. But, in the case of Saudi Arabia, is it the other way round? Is a society—and its money—what changes people involved in art?
“In Britain we can hardly complain about art going where the money is,” Kemp says. “We used our imperial powers to hoover up so much of world heritage.” But how would he feel about working for a monarchy whose crown prince not only reportedly bought the Salvator Mundi for $450.3m in 2017 (or soon after), but the following year also authorised the horrific murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to US intelligence agencies?
“Khashoggi haunts any decision I might have to make,” Kemp says.
Attempts to confirm that the Salvator Mundi will be publicly exhibited and to identify the museum in which it will be exhibited were redirected by Saudi Arabia’s ministry of culture to its official social media sites. They make no mention of the painting.
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