Emily Carr is best known for her wild, vivid paintings of the B.C. coast. But she wouldn’t be the artist we know today if it wasn’t for the time she spent immersed in the modernist and post-impressionist art movements in France in the early part of the last century, says the curator of a new exhibit at the Royal B.C. Museum.
Carr spent nearly a year and a half in France, studying at the Académie Colarossi in Paris, before returning to B.C. in 1911. Carr called what she learned in France “fresh seeing,” as it opened the door to new ways of working, altering the course of her career.
The new exhibit, Emily Carr: Fresh Seeing – French Modernism and the West Coast, chronicles her post-France mindset and follows the trajectory that would make the Victoria native one of the most important artists in Canadian history.
“[Carr] said at several times throughout her life that she could not have gone back to the old way [after studying in France],” said Kathryn Bridge, curator emerita with the Royal B.C. Museum. “It’s a chapter in her life that people gloss over. There hasn’t been a real study about it. But if she hadn’t gone to France, she would not have become the artist that we know of and think of today. She would have been a middling, competent, realist painter.”
Carr’s wild, bright colour palette, for which she has become instantly identifiable, was the main takeaway from her time at the Académie Colarossi, where she had three mentors whose paintings are included among the 67 artworks on display in Fresh Seeing. You can draw a direct line from that experience to the iconic West Coast imagery that followed, Bridge said.
“She went to France because she wanted to become a modern painter. She wanted to learn the latest techniques. I’m not sure if she understood exactly what she was getting into, in terms of post-impressionism, but that’s certainly what happened to her. She went from painting things the way she saw them to painting what she felt. And that was a huge transition.”
Fresh Seeing marks the first time since 1991 that an exhibit of this magnitude has been staged in the province. (Ian Thom, curator of the Vancouver Art Gallery, was the engine behind the previous Carr retrospective on the period, Emily Carr in France, which took from the Vancouver Art Gallery’s vast collection of Carr originals.)
Fresh Seeing is a partnership between co-curators Bridge and Kiriko Watanabe of Whistler’s Audain Art Museum, from whose permanent collection much of Fresh Seeing is drawn. The Royal B.C. Museum has included 22 Carr creations from its collection as well — including T’anuu, the signature Carr work from the museum’s permanent collection — for a micro-exhibition running alongside the feature exhibition.
In Fresh Seeing, visitors are shown several pairs of paintings that compare and contrast Carr’s pre- and post-France work. Two stages of one of her signature paintings, War Canoes, Alert Bay, provide a particularly apt example. “When you take a look at that painting and compare it to the 1908 watercolour beside it, that’s when you get it,” Bridge said. “That’s when you’ll have that a-ha moment, and see how radically she had changed.”
It’s a unique exhibit with respect to Carr’s work, Bridge added. “These paintings will never come together in this combination again.”
Upon her return to Vancouver, where she was living in 1911, Carr put the skills she acquired in France to immediate use, mixing French modernism with the raw-cut iconography of Vancouver Island and the surrounding area, depicting the totems and First Nation villages that would become her trademark.
Carr’s work during the two and a half year period after she returned to B.C. features heavily in Fresh Seeing — that’s the period Watanabe took on. Bridge, for her part, tackled Carr’s time in France, taking a three-week research trip to the country. While she has curated past Carr exhibits and written several books on the artist, even she struggled with Carr’s timeline in France.
“It is not known knowledge, which is the thing that made me decide to take on this project,” she said. “This was a grey area. Everyone knew she went to France, and they knew that she painted these paintings, and the vague, general parts of it. But no one had gone to France to walk in her footsteps.”
Bridge did just that to investigate Carr’s paintings from the time. “I used the clues in her writings, and a lot of Internet searching, to actually find the locations of some of these paintings.”
The names of landmarks Carr used as identifiers have changed over the decades, which made it difficult to build a chronology, she said. Postcards and letters helped Bridge develop a narrative, but this was new territory even for an expert such as herself. “That’s what fleshes out her time in France, and builds this quite complex picture of the 16 months that Emily Carr spent in France.”
Fresh Seeing – French Modernism and the West Coast runs until Jan. 24 at the Royal BC Museum. For more information, visit royalbcmuseum.bc.ca.
Just Art auction for Iranian refugee family an opportunity to give 'a gift with meaning' – TheSpec.com
A family of recently arrived refugees from Iran is learning that art is vitally important to any new home, not because something is needed to go on the walls but because, in their case, art in a sense “is” the walls.
Art will help put a roof over their heads and shelter around their sides and keep them warm through a cold Canadian winter.
The people in this city who paint and create and sculpt and so forth are artists because of the way they see and are they ever seeing this holiday season, seeing to the needs, those critical first-year needs, that refugee families find themselves facing as they adjust to a new life. Housing, health care, language classes to name a few.
So the Just Art online art auction that starts Friday, Dec. 4, could not come at a better time for an Iranian family of three — a mother and her two grown daughters who have arrived since September, after waiting five years in Turkey, and were among the first refugees allowed into Canada after a six-month suspension of immigration resulting from the pandemic.
The impetus for the auction was, interestingly, furnished by an artist, Rachel Hawkes Cameron, who was in the process of leaving Hamilton as the new family was arriving, almost as tough they were passing each other on opposite ways through the door.
Hawkes Cameron did not want to leave without contributing to the fundraising part of a larger effort she had wanted to help with, the sponsorship of the family by a team of volunteers connected with St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church on Locke Street (a team from the church had already sponsored a Syrian family earlier this decade).
But how do you fund-raise during a pandemic? This, says sponsorship committee volunteer Sarah Wayland, was the frustrating riddle.
“So many small businesses are tapped out,” she says. “We decided to focus on the art.”
It was Hawkes Cameron who donated an abstract painting of her in the absence of anything else she could give and that started a great momentum.
Now more than 40 Hamilton area artists, both established and emerging, have contributed almost 60 pieces, in a wide variety of price ranges, to the online auction that will run from Friday to Dec. 10.
Some of those featured are Sylvia Simpson, E. Robert Ross, Tom Wilson, Lee Munn, Sandee Ewasiuk and Gordon Leverton.
Once the call went out, especially through the Kirkendall neighbourhood hub Facebook page, the creators stepped up.
“Just Art resonated significantly with me, as my art subjects are homes, and I attempt to capture the beauty of the home in the community they serve. I’m proud to participate, knowing that all proceeds will support this refugee family of three women settle in our community,” said Hamilton painter Gordon Leverton.
The public is invited to bid on works between those dates, Dec. 4 and Dec. 10, by visiting justart.rockonlocke.ca.
Wayland says that the team conservatively estimates that the family’s first year costs will be $46,000.
“Rents alone — they’ve really gone up (in Hamilton),” says Wayland.
“This is an opportunity to give gifts with meaning.”
Pandemic blues? Online art therapy might help you work through your feelings – CBC.ca
It doesn’t matter where they are in the world. Most of Michelle Winkel’s patients are struggling with the exact same thing right now, and that’s anxiety.
“It was a significant problem before the pandemic,” says Winkel, clinical supervisor at the Virtual Art Therapy Clinic and co-founder of the Canadian Institute for Art Therapy (CIIT) in Victoria. (In fact, anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health issues period, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.) But recently, says Winkel, the problem “has absolutely magnified” at the clinic, and the reason should be as plain as the three-ply reusable mask on your face.
COVID’s impact on mental health is occasionally discussed as a sort of shadowy bonus pandemic, hitting everyone differently — but affecting everyone, just the same. In May, a crowdsourced study from Statistics Canada reported that 88 per cent of respondents had experienced anxiety symptoms — things like “feeling nervous, anxious or on edge” — sometime in the two weeks before they were polled. And nearly a quarter said they had “fair or poor mental health.” (Compare that to a similar survey from two years prior: back then, a mere 8 per cent were feeling similarly meh.)
“Obviously with COVID, life is pretty stressful,” says Winkel. Since April, her online clinic has provided support to patients working through their anxiety or depression or stress. And it’s one of several virtual resources that offers a space to heal through art.
So … art therapy? What does that mean exactly?
“I believe that art-making is therapeutic,” says Winkel. But there’s a distinction between chilling at home with pack of Crayolas and engaging in art therapy. Per the textbook definition on the Canadian Art Therapy Association (CATA) website, the practice mixes psychotherapy with art-making. (“Using imagery, colour and shape as part of this creative process,” they say, “thoughts and feelings can be expressed that would otherwise be difficult to articulate.”) And it’s facilitated by a certified art therapist, someone trained in the field at a graduate level.
“Usually clients come because of a pain point,” says Winkel. “We may use some art-making to explore that.”
Absolutely no experience is required. “They do not need to be artists or feel artistic at all,” says Winkel. And during a session, the art therapist might guide a creative exercise. It’s not always about making a picture or a painting, she explains. A common prompt might be something like: “Show me what you’re struggling with.”
“Let’s say it’s a feeling of anxiety. Well, you could choose an animal that feels like that. Express it in some kind of image.”
By making art, and reflecting on the process, the patient is working to get a better handle on what they’re experiencing. “For a lot of folks these days, it’s about communicating with themselves first,” says Winkel. “How can I tolerate the anxiety of this scary, scary stuff that’s going on in a way that’s a little bit healthier for me?” Insight can change how they’re able to negotiate those feelings going forward. And the art therapist’s there to guide the process.
“Having someone there to facilitate, to develop a safe and trusting environment to be able to make art is the healing piece, we think.”
Is online therapy the right fit?
Art therapy has a variety of applications, but sticking to the example of what Winkel and her team are doing at the Virtual Art Therapy Clinic, she says most of their participants face she calls “daily challenges in living.” They aren’t arriving with a doctor’s diagnosis, but maybe they’ve been feeling anxious or low or isolated. (The website encourages folks in crisis to seek other treatment.) “It can be as simple and humble as that they’re feeling a bit stressed and they’d like a few sessions to explore stress management. And that would be a very suitable thing to deal with in art therapy.”
The clinic’s sessions are open to both adults and children, and they’re led over Zoom by senior students at CIIT. (So, special art materials aren’t required, but a working webcam is.) Before the first appointment’s booked, participants go through a free “meet and greet” assessment. They get to talk about their needs and ask any questions they might have. The sessions themselves are offered on a pay-what-you-can model, starting at $10. Continuing with further sessions is up to the participant. “We have many who just come for a handful, get what they need, and then stop,” says Winkel.
OK, so where else are people doing it?
The Virtual Art Therapy Clinic is, of course, just one option. To find an individual therapist offering virtual sessions, Winkel recommends searching directories like the one on the CATA website. Or, you could try something altogether different, like an online Art Hive.
An Art Hive?
Yep. They’re a network of community art studios that welcome folks of all ages and abilities. The concept originated at Concordia University in Montreal, which runs multiple Art Hives through its campus — and in the Before Times, these spaces would welcome anybody and everybody to gather and create (using a stash of free materials). Since March 20, the Concordia chapters have been hosting meet-ups on Zoom, and at least 21 Canadian Art Hives are currently active online. Some focus on visual art-making. At Concordia, they also run regular Art Hives for music and movement. And while these sessions aren’t necessarily presided over by a certified art therapist, Rachel Chainey, national network coordinator for Art Hives Network, says that the project’s guiding philosophy is “rooted in art therapy.”
Each session has a facilitator, she says, who’s there to make everyone feel welcome and free to create. “The Art Hive seeks to bring people together around a common idea, which is creativity and art-making,” she says. “Importantly, in terms of mental health, it creates a safety net. People often, you know — not everyone will go to therapy. And not everyone has access to individual therapy or even group therapy, whether for financial reasons, whether it’s for cultural reasons. The Art Hive forms a community around a person. […] There will be a community of people checking on them.”
What do people get out of it?
Marguerite Dorion, 76, is a recent Art Hive convert. Pre-pandemic, she was aware of the IRL locations in Montreal, but as a busy YMCA volunteer, she never really took part. Now? “My gosh, it’s nearly my whole day,” she says, and because the programming’s online, she’s been exploring Art Hives beyond the city. “It’s very casual, very welcoming,” she says, and of all the things she loves about the experience — including the joy of painting and learning new things — it’s the community aspect that’s most important to her. “In French we call it ‘en réseau,’ which means a link between many people.”
Making art with a group, albeit over Zoom, felt novel to Alexandra O. Carlsson when she joined her first Art Hive. But week over week, she says, “you start to recognize faces, and almost feel a kind of camaraderie.” A 33-year-old occupational therapist from Kingston, Ont., Carlsson takes part in a virtual session run through the Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen’s University. At first, she was there out of professional curiosity. “But I slowly realized that it was actually very therapeutic for myself,” says Carlsson. “Every time I finished Art Hive I was like, ‘Wow, that was something that I did today that I didn’t even know I needed.’ Self-care is such a trendy term, but it felt like such a wonderful creative outlet for myself. And it really helped me decompress after a busy day.”
“People there, they break their social isolation,” says Chainey of Art Hives. “They find a place of belonging. It helps them find meaning. Often creativity is connected to finding purpose, meaning, self worth, feeling proud of oneself. So these are all things that contribute to enhanced well-being.”
That last Art Hive … it’s run by a museum?
Yes, some museums host virtual Art Hives, too. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, for example, is developing its own online version, and Stephen Legari, the museum’s program officer for art therapy, says it should be live in the next few weeks. It’ll be the closest facsimile to dropping in on the MMFA’s real-life Art Hive — the only one of its kind in a museum. It is, of course, closed due to COVID-19, but pre-pandemic, people were free to make arts and crafts with support from on-site educators and art therapists. Legari says 2,500-3,000 visitors made use of the studio each year.
And beyond plans for that aforementioned virtual meet-up, there are other resources available on the MMFA’s website. In the spring, Legari produced a bunch of short videos that lead the viewer through different art-therapy exercises inspired by pieces from the museum’s collection. More are in the works, he says, and they should arrive in the New Year.
But are any of these online options a substitute for the IRL thing?
Both have their pros and cons. There are the obvious practical challenges: technology opens these services to people living anywhere, but there are still folks who get left behind. Some people struggle with computer literacy. Others can’t afford the right hardware. And beyond all that, maybe Zoom just isn’t your thing.
Since May, Winkel’s been studying the effectiveness of online art therapy, specifically as it pertains to treating anxiety. Nine therapists have been following 36 clients at the Virtual Art Therapy Clinic. At the beginning and end of each session, these patients are asked to rate their anxiety on a scale of zero to 10, and going off her findings so far, virtual sessions have merit. “What we’re noticing is about a 38 per cent improvement from the beginning of the session to the end,” she says. “So, it’s a very sizeable improvement, meaning that the clients feel a lot less anxious at the end, even if they spend one hour working with someone.” The research, however, is still ongoing.
Chainey acknowledges there are some things that are missing from the virtual experience, especially when it comes to her real-life Art Hive venues — community hubs that are crammed with craft materials and artwork. “It’s such a rich environment, so nourishing for people’s creativity,” she says. “You cannot replicate that online, however hard you try.” But the fundamental spirit is still there.
“I notice that often people attend an Art Hive because they want to feel seen by others. That’s why they choose to come instead of creating in isolation,” she says.
“I think that this sense of feeling connected, supported, seen […] that happens online.”
ARTS AROUND: Rollin Art Centre lights up for Christmas – Alberni Valley News
Christmas at the Rollin Art Centre is happening now until Dec. 23.
Come and stroll the magically lit gardens, then pop upstairs to the gallery (with COVID-19 safety protocols in place) and visit Mistletoe Market, where you will find hundreds of gift items for all your shopping needs.
The number of guests will be limited to four people. Guests must wear a mask and hand sanitize at the entrance.
All locally made, the market is a showcase of local artists, artisans and crafters. You will find something for everyone on your list: pottery, jewellery, scarves, photographs, original paintings, glass works, quilted stockings, holiday cards, ornaments and much more!
We are open late every Friday (11 a.m. to 8 p.m.). The gallery is located at the corner of Argyle Street and Eighth Avennue. We are also wheelchair accessible.
MEMBERSHIP APPRECIATION DAYS
The Community Arts Council is holding its annual members appreciation days with two days of savings! If you are a current member, join us in the gallery on Friday, Dec. 4 (open late from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.) and Saturday, Dec. 5 (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) to receive 20 percent off all items in the gift shop and gallery, excluding ticket sales.
This is also a great time to renew your 2021 membership—don’t forget!
MYSTERY BAG OF BOOKS
Surprise! For just $20 you will get 10 books in one bag, all in the same genre!
By purchasing a bag of books, you will also be helping the Rollin Art Centre during this difficult time! Choose from Christmas novels, crafts, DIY books, fiction, travel, gardening, cooking, home improvements, art, spiritual, romance, fantasy, mystery, pre-teen chapter books (e.g. Nancy Drew), children’s books and so much more.
These make great Christmas gifts! Bags are now available at the Rollin Art Centre. Get yours now because they sell out fast! Your support for the Rollin Art Centre is greatly needed and much appreciated.
ARTIST AND STUDIO GUIDE
The Community Arts Council is designing a new Alberni Valley artist and studio guide. If you are interested in being included in this brochure/guide, please call the Rollin Art Centre for more information at 250-724-3412.
The guide will include local artists and a map. Five thousand guides will be printed and distributed to the tourist information centre and local hot spots. The extended deadline is Jan. 31, 2021.
Melissa Martin is the Arts Administrator for the Community Arts Council, at the Rollin Art Centre and writes for the Alberni Valley News. Call 250-724-3412. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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