Get to Know Us – Senior Curator, Linda Jansma

At the RMG, we often get asked about what we do each day, how we got into the crazy museum world and also what skills would be needed to do our jobs. With graduation looming for many college and university students, we will be profiling members of our team to shed some light on what it is we do behind the scenes!

Today we sat down with Senior Curator Linda Jansma to learn more about her daily routine and how she came to the gallery.

The RMG: What’s a typical day like for you?

Linda Jansma: A typical day – well, I’m in the gallery at 7 a.m. – I’m an early riser and it’s amazing just how much one can get done between 7-9am! I always think I’m going to get writing done in those early hours of the day, but that rarely materializes. Email tends to come first, and with that, answering a myriad of questions from artists, the public or institutional colleagues. How did we do our jobs before email!!

My days can include:

  • A studio visit
  • Writing grants
  • Researching or writing an essay
  • Working on the installation of an exhibition
  • Connecting with donors of works of art
  • Bringing new works into the collection through donation or purchase
  • Writing artist, curator or guest writer contracts
  • Giving tours of exhibitions
  • Jurying exhibitions at other institutions
  • Critiquing student works at colleges or universities
  • Reading current magazines, articles, books on contemporary art or museum practices
Linda

Linda Jansma poses for Museum Selfie Day 2015

RMG: How did you get into this field? What skills or training do you need for your job?

LJ: I have an honours BA and a MA, both in Art History. Being able to multi-task is an important part of being a Curator:  dropping what you’re doing to pick up something else (like writing this blog!), is key.

artist and artwork

The installation of Group Portrait 1957 with artist Douglas Coupland, Senior Curator Linda Jansma and former CEO Gaby Peacock

RMG: What’s your favourite part of your job?

LJ: The favourite part of my job is connecting with artists. It is wonderful to work with artists to assist in bringing their visions to fruition through exhibitions and to see the development of their work.

Linda Jansma speaks about Jock Macdonald.

Linda Jansma speaks about Jock Macdonald.

RMG: What are 5 things you couldn’t live without in your job?

LJ: The five things I couldn’t live without include:

  1. My amazing RMG colleagues
  2. My computer
  3. The combination to the vault
  4. Art websites, Art Books, Art magazines + the RMG library
  5. The internet

RMG: What do you get up to outside of the RMG?

LJ: This past weekend I took a road trip to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of Hamilton. A lot of my “down” time involves going to other galleries! I also love to go to the theatre, travel, hop on my bicycle or hang out in my gardens.

Louis de Niverville and Senior Curator Linda Jansma examine Sunset Farm #3

Louis de Niverville and Senior Curator Linda Jansma examine Sunset Farm #3

Curator’s Choice: Holly King

In 2012, the RMG was gifted Solitude by Holly King. I placed the work in the permanent collection exhibition Objects May Be Closer Than They Appear, the following year. Now, we have an opportunity to celebrate King’s work in a larger way with the mid-career retrospective Edging Towards the Mysterious.

Solitude is earlier than any of the work in the new exhibition. King practices mise en scène photography. Her process begins by staging her landscape settings in her studio using various props and materials. She then photographs the theatrical fabrications—the end result is the creation of “imaginary landscapes that hover between reality and fiction.”  In Solitude, a horizon line helps to differentiate the dominating sky and the water. Two small islands, made of found foliage, are surrounded by the immense, never ending blue sky and water, giving, as the title suggests, a sense of remoteness. The island’s remoteness prompts thoughts of untouched/unexplored nature—a welcomed retreat. However, the materiality of the staged setting in this photograph—the painterly quality of the sky and the foliage used to suggest land—reminds the viewer of the artificiality of the waterscape. King’s sharp focus photography does not allow the viewer to mistake the landscape as real, but encourages instilling their own personal experiences through their memories and imagination with both the objects used and the constructed environment. The tension between illusion and reality in King’s work becomes a journey for the viewer to explore.-

– Linda Jansma, Senior Curator

Linda Jansma’s Reflections on Today

I am not a particularly emotional person. Just ask my family, friends and colleagues who can attest to the fact that my stoic, Northern European roots run deep.

But this afternoon was different. Jason Dankel, the RMG Preparator, had installed the last work in the exhibition Moving Image. The lighting wasn’t done, nor the cards up, but the work was on the wall by mid-afternoon. I was in the space, on my own, and stood in front of Cuban-Canadian artist José Seoane’s Untitled oars that represented the experiences of those who risked their lives in small boats with handmade oars to make the treacherous trip across the open waters from Cuba to Miami. As I reflected on that work, the sound of avante-garde composer William Basinki’s video Disintegration Loop played behind me. Basinski had completed his composition on the morning of 9/11 and was playing it to a friend on the roof of his New York City apartment when the Twin Towers were hit. He set up a camera and recorded the waning hours of daylight with plumes of black smoke drifting across the sky as the sun set. He combined the music of the Disintegration Loops with the video to create an elegy to that unforgettable day.

Abdullah M. I. Syed, Rug of Flying Drones, 2009

Abdullah M. I. Syed, Rug of Flying Drones, 2009

So I listened to it, while looking at José’s oars, knowing that Abdullah Syed’s Rug of Drones, an installation of 107 planes in the exhibition Beyond Measure, and constructed of blades from box cutters—and which also clearly referenced 9/11, was on the other end of the gallery. And the oars were no longer specific to fleeing Cubans, but to the thousands of refugees who are risking it all to seek a safer and better life away from their homes in Syria, Iraq, Libya …

And the picture of a three year old boy flashed in my mind.

And how could one not be moved.

 

Linda Jansma
Senior Curator
The Robert McLaughlin Gallery

 

Above Image: José Seoane’s, Untitled

Curator’s Choice: Moving Image

This blog post comes from the desk of Senior Curator, Linda Jansma.

Beyond Measure: Domesticating Distance is an exhibition initiated by emerging curator Ambereen Siddiqui and assisted by a Culturally Diverse Curatorial Project grant through the Ontario Arts Council.

Its theme of artists living in the context of the diaspora, segues with one of the sections in Moving Image, the RMG’s new permanent collection exhibition. Millions of people are on the move and displaced from their home countries, and that displacement leaves voids and longing for what once was.

A key work in Moving Image is a video by Vessna Perunovich entitled Unoccupied NY. It follows the artist through different parts of New York City as she carries a single mattress on her back. Her work addresses concepts of migration, longing and boundaries, as well as the diversity of New York’s populations along ethnic, social and economic lines. Perunovich, like four of the five artists in Beyond Measure, is an immigrant to Canada who relates to a sense of the dis-rootedness and yearning that comes with leaving one’s home country. This work, along with Surendra Lowatia, Tazeen Qayyum, Meera Margaret Singh, Asma Sultana, and Abdullah Syed challenges the viewer to look more deeply into the individual experience and the singular work and see its universal themes.

Image: Vessna Perunovich, Unoccupied NY, video still.

 

Collections Corner: Ray Mead

This blog post comes from the desk of Senior Curator, Megan White, Assistant Curator.

The number of works by members of Painters Eleven in the RMG’s permanent collection just got a fair bit larger. The curatorial team at the RMG have been working on processing 496 drawings by Painters 11 member Ray Mead, into the permanent collection. In 1999, this wonderful collection of drawings and sketches by Mead were donated to the RMG. The collection of drawings include 292 loose drawings and 4 sketchbooks including 204 drawings, mostly in pen/pencil, ink or mixed media. This treasure trove of artwork has been patiently waiting in the RMG Archives for a chance to formally enter the permanent collection. This year, with funding from a Collections Management grant through the Department of Canadian Heritage, the drawings have been catalogued, photographed, matted and re-housed in our vault’s brand new rolling storage system.

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When I think of Ray Mead, I immediately think of the work he produced as a member of Painters 11: striking abstract paintings in solid, bold colours.  Although many of the drawings (mostly untitled) are abstract in style, the collection also includes a number of portraits of both men and women, female nudes, animals, and several sketches that look like they could be blueprints for future paintings. It has been a lovely experience being able to go through each of Mead’s drawings.  Flipping through his drawings and pages of his sketchbooks can reveal part of his thought process, giving us a rare window into the mind of the artist. It is possible to track the development of a motif or design through five or six sketches, to see the different stages that Mead went through as he worked out his ideas.

Ray Mead (Canadian, b. England, 1921-1998); Untitled; 1986; charcoal on paper; Gift of the Estate of Ray Mead, 1999

Ray Mead (Canadian, b. England, 1921-1998); Untitled; 1986; charcoal on paper; Gift of the Estate of Ray Mead, 1999

Now that the artworks have been digitized and are available to search on our database, the drawings can be accessed in a much easier way by both RMG staff and the public. The drawings/sketches can be viewed digitally using our online database by searching “Ray Mead” in the Artist Name search bar.

Ray Mead (Canadian, b. England, 1921-1998); Untitled (study); n.d.; charcoal on paper; Gift of the Estate of Ray Mead, 1999

Ray Mead (Canadian, b. England, 1921-1998); Untitled (study); n.d.; charcoal on paper; Gift of the Estate of Ray Mead, 1999

 

Ray Mead (Canadian, b. England, 1921-1998); Untitled (figure with hat); n.d.; felt pen on paper; Gift of the Estate of Ray Mead, 1999

Ray Mead (Canadian, b. England, 1921-1998); Untitled (figure with hat); n.d.; felt pen on paper; Gift of the Estate of Ray Mead, 1999

Reflections on the Thomas Bouckley Collection

Assistant Curator Megan White reflects on her year at the RMG and shared with us her favourite photos from the Thomas Bouckley Collection. For more photos from the collection, follow vintageoshawa.tumblr.com

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Town Clerk’s Office, 1912
I love the photographs in the Thomas Bouckley collection that strongly capture a single fleeting moment. Even though this photograph was taken over 100 years ago, the connection made between the subject and photographer in this split second is so striking.

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King’s Family Residence, 1890
There are so many great things about this photograph. The great outfits, the women posing with their bicycles, the beautiful house and plants on the porch, and of course the dog!

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R.S. Williams Piano Workers, 1910
Oshawa has an incredible history of industry. The photographs taken inside some of the old factories, such as this one, are simply remarkable.

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Looking East at Harmony Corners, 1909 
This is a photograph that I can look at again and again- it reminds me of a still from an old film. Like many photographs in the collection, I would love to know the story behind why this photo was taken!

Curator’s Choice – Puppet Act

On 23 May, the RMG will open Puppet Act: Manipulating the Voice. We asked Senior Curator Linda Jansma to share with us her inspirations behind this exciting and dynamic summer exhibition. Join us for the opening on Sunday, 7 June from 1-3pm.

An April 2010 article in the Walrus magazine, profiling internationally renowned Canadian puppeteer Ronnie Burkett, got me thinking. Then, a fall 2010 visit to Uxbridge artist Diana Lopez Soto sealed it. I had to curate a show on puppets. And now, five years later, here we finally are.

My “puppet” file is four centimeters thick and I can assure you that listening to my latest amazing puppet find has even tested the patience of some RMG staff. But the project kept being pushed back as other exhibitions came along that were more time-sensitive. I could as easily have kept putting it off—once the final selection of artists and works were made, I continue to be contacted about other possible inclusions.

Puppet Act: Manipulating the Voice is comprised of both historic and contemporary work including two works that are being created specifically for this exhibition by Diana Lopez Soto and Catherine Heard. Spring Hurlbut’s words, while specific to ventriloquism, are appropriate: “It is such a curious and complex relationship one has with the inanimate becoming animated.” Within this exhibition, the inanimate are given voice—complex and multi-layered ones that for me, were worth the wait.

– Linda Jansma, Senior Curator

Image: Diana Lopez Soto, Human Factor IX; threads and variations, 2015, Installation: video and mixed media

Curator’s View: Jack Bush and Jock Macdonald

This blog post comes from the desk of Senior Curator, Linda Jansma.

This is an unprecedented time in the history of Painters Eleven. Two of its members, Jack Bush and Jock Macdonald are simultaneously having major retrospective exhibitions. Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form, which debuted at the Vancouver Art Gallery last fall and has now just opened at the RMG runs concurrently with Jack Bush, an exhibition organized by and featured at the National Gallery of Canada.

Image Credit: Jock Macdonald in Nootka Sound, c. 1935-36, Vancouver Art Gallery Archives

Image Credit: Jock Macdonald in Nootka Sound, c. 1935-36, Vancouver Art Gallery Archives

As a co-curator of the Macdonald exhibition, I have been immersed in the project for three years and yesterday’s final touches on the installation were a satisfying experience. I’d seen the exhibition installation in Vancouver, and ours, because of the spaces we’re using, looks quite different. It’s interesting to see how work changes dependent on the height of galleries or the juxtaposition with different work—it’s the stuff that keeps curating fresh for me.

The experience I had with the Jack Bush exhibition was completely different. Two RMG works were included in the show and one of its principal curators, Sarah Stanners spent a good deal of time in our vault and with our archives. But that was extent of my knowledge of the exhibition.

The painting to greet visitors on entering the exhibition is a majestic sash painting—indeed, the entire first part of the exhibition concentrates on work that Bush did after 1961. These are paintings to which his international reputation is attributed. A room of his 1950s abstract expressionist work is one in which I felt particularly comfortable. He produced these paintings when he was a member of P11 and while they might not be considered as accomplished as his later work, I love the energy that spills from them. The majesty of these later works cannot however, be denied: expansive areas of colour, the brush strokes, unlike many other colour field painters, he allows his audience to see, as well as many of the works’ expansive sizes that envelope you when standing in front of them make for an incredible experience.

Portrait of Jack Bush at Park Gallery, 1958, The New Studio Photography, Gift of the Feheley Family, 2013

Portrait of Jack Bush at Park Gallery, 1958, The New Studio Photography, Gift of the Feheley Family, 2013

There are interesting similarities to the Bush and Macdonald stories. The NGC retrospective highlights the importance of Bush’s relationship with New York critic Clement Greenberg (although puts to rest the myth that Greenberg all but guided Bush’s brush), while the Macdonald exhibition shines a light on the relationship he had with British Surrealists Dr. Grace Pailthorpe and Reuben Mednikoff. The Bush family gave unprecedented access to their father’s diaries giving a personal voice to the project. The Macdonald project saw the inclusion of both a previously unknown diary that he kept while roughing it with his family in Nootka Sound, as well as close to forty letters that he’d written to his mentors Pailthorpe and Mednikoff. These primary sources have enriched both projects.

As a curator who has worked with a collection by members of Painters Eleven for many years, seeing both of these exhibitions is particularly satisfying for me. It also makes me realize how much has yet to be done: as a start, Ray Mead or Walter Yarwood retrospectives anyone?

Curator’s View – Jock Macdonald

This blog post comes from the desk of Senior Curator, Linda Jansma.

It has been an exciting journey to be involved in the development of Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form. As the “spiritual home” of Painters Eleven, it was natural for the RMG to be part of this collaboration with the Vancouver Art Gallery and Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Many of the 26 works by Macdonald in the RMG’s permanent collection are featured in both the exhibition and publication, as are other paintings from major public holdings across the country, as well as from private collections.

The exhibition presents important new research: a previously unknown diary that Macdonald kept while he and his family lived in Nootka, a remote community on Vancouver Island, correspondence from Jock to British Surrealists Dr. Grace Pailthorpe and Reuben Mednikoff, and a selection of 86 previously unknown works housed in the archives of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. The latter represents a link between Macdonald’s early forays into abstraction, and his fully realized automatic works and a number are included in the exhibition.

This wonderful photograph of Macdonald, taken at the opening of a Jack Bush exhibition in 1958 at Toronto’s Park Gallery, is also a recent discovery and a 2014 addition to the RMG’s important P11 archives. We are grateful to the Feheley family for their generous gift of this material.

Image – Jock Macdonald, 1958 Park Gallery Opening, Gift of the Feheley Family, 2014

The Curator’s View: Louis de Niverville visits the RMG

This blog post comes from the desk of Senior Curator, Linda Jansma.

To say that I was remiss in not taking a notebook and pencil along is an understatement.

Louis de Niverville looking at his work Madame Takes a Bath #1

Louis de Niverville looking at his work Madame Takes a Bath #1

The artist Louis de Niverville came to visit the RMG a couple of weeks ago with friends. Jason, our Preparator, and I had taken some time in the morning to open the vault racks and pull out solander boxes that housed some of his works on paper in order to make viewing the fourteen works from our collection as easy as possible. Louis was absolutely charming, examining each work like it was a long lost relative—and his memory was remarkable. We stood in front of Mother and Child, a painting of what I’d always thought of as an imposing woman holding a crying baby. I knew the child was a two-month old Louis and knew that he had painted the work from a 1933 photograph. I’d always assumed that the woman was quite stern as she sat so monumentally within the picture frame. Not at all. In fact, Louis’s mother was a gentle woman with many children who constantly worked to keep the family organized. Louis’ reminiscences made me re-think a painting I’ve known for many years.

Louis de Niverville  Mother and Child 1970

Louis de Niverville Mother and Child 1970
oil on canvas 183.1 x 91.5 cm Purchase, 1977

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Louis recalled the technique he used for his multi-media works and let us know that the beautiful and delicate Untitled print from 1979 was the first print he’d ever produced and how he used a spray gun to develop his technique. There were other notes to add tohis files: Still Life with Abundance #2 was one of four large collage works representing the seasons, and Mother and Child from 1970 was the last oil on canvas painting that he completed; he also gave us more detailed comments on the medium he used forhis collage works. All of this information is not only useful for RMG staff, but also for researchers who come to access our collection.

Louis de Niverville Untitled 1979 lithograph on paper 46.1 x 55.0 cm Gift of Peter and Susan Swann, 1994

Louis de Niverville Untitled 1979
lithograph on paper
46.1 x 55.0 cm
Gift of Peter and Susan Swann, 1994

 

While Louis was incredibly grateful for the tour of his work, in reality, the pleasure was all ours. What a privilege to a have such a respected Canadian artist tour us through our collection of his work!

Louis de Niverville and Senior Curator Linda Jansma examine Sunset Farm #3

Louis de Niverville and Senior Curator Linda Jansma examine Sunset Farm #3