The Curator’s View: Diverse Art Experiences

Curator Linda Jansma discusses some recent art experiences and how their diverse natures created three unique experiences.

I’ve had three distinct art experiences over the past four days. The first was this past Friday when I attended the 12th annual Toronto International Art Fair at the Metro Convention Centre.


Art fairs are primarily about selling art, its commoditization. From $600 8cm square paintings to large works closing in on $200,000 this is much more about business than what happens in a public gallery setting such as the RMG. Past art fairs are compared with this one; dealers woo both experienced and new collectors; lectures help the novice into the world of buying art for both pleasure and investment. Toronto-based artist, Kent Monkman’s installation maze spoke to the life of the artist: grants, dealers, curators, biennales, etc. Words were linked by four tableau rooms representing the artist, curator/museum director, collector, and galleriest, all with actors playing roles. Art imitating life right outside of the walls of the maze.



The second experience was the grand finale of the Office of Identity Collects on Saturday afternoon. Two Saskatoon-based artists, Heather Cline and Michele Sereda, spent a week at 16 King Street East, just east of Oshawa’s four corners. The 27 people who attended the “Citizenship Ceremony” were some of the people who had participated, earlier in the week, in Cline and Sereda’s art performance where they were photographed and interviewed as part of a piece that will result in an exhibition of Cline’s paintings and video work in September, 2012. Saturday’s group was sworn in and then asked to walk up and down King Street while Cline recorded the events from the opposite side of the street. As artists—for whom this was their first Oshawa visit—they revealed as much about Oshawa and those of us who live or work here, as they learned from us. I’m very much looking forward to September’s exhibition.


Monday morning’s experience was diametrically opposed to Friday afternoon’s. I came into work with my gardening gloves, tools and a tarp taken from my garage. And then I, along with other gallery staff and Sympathetic Hunting Magic’s curator, Gil McElroy, began to strike the exhibition. Striking usually implies wrapping and crating works of art to be returned to the artist or sent on to the next gallery. This was true in the case of Niall Donaghy’s sculpture, but Shelly Rahme’s work was disassembled and will be hauled to a landfill later this week. Shelly spent a week earlier in September assembling/creating three sculptures, primarily with twigs, roots, branches, and clay. They were powerful works that related to consumerism and longing. But they will never end up at Toronto’s Convention Centre, or in anyone’s collection. They are site specific work, meant to exist for the moment and only live on in the catalogue and installation photographs of the exhibition.

For three very different reasons, this has been a good four days.


The Curator’s View: September 11th.

The RMG is pleased to introduce a new feature to our blog, The Curator’s View. Our first post is from Linda Jansma, Curator at the RMG discussing her memory of working on September 11th, 2001.

The Curator’s View: September 11th

While I’m not old enough to recall where I was when JFK was shot—arguably one of the most haunting events of the 20th century, I do recall where I was during one of the greatest tragedies of the beginning of the 21st century: 9/11.

I was at the RMG and heard about the first plane’s strike from a gallery colleague who had received an urgent call from his brother, whose building was close to the World Trade Centre in Manhattan and who had fortunately escaped injury. From there, we listened to the CBC as the events began to unfold in the surreal fashion that they did. On that morning, our Preparator, Garfield Ferguson and I were re-installing the permanent collection in the Isabel McLaughlin Gallery surrounded by paintings that were to be hung in the coming days. Instead we sat in silence on the gallery bench listening to events that would come to define our world in such a myriad of ways. 

Choosing the works for the reinstalling of the permanent collection takes many hours of walking through the vault, looking, making notes, trying to come up with a theme both accessible and challenging. 2001’s reinstallation was to include a painting by Joyce Wieland entitled Double Crash, one of her series of works involving tragedies, in this case, two planes falling out of the sky. It didn’t take much thought to know that this work had to be returned to the vault. We waited three or four years before hanging this particular painting, and during the time it was up, numerous people commented that it must be a painting about 9/11, until they noticed its date—1966.

We will be opening two exhibitions on the 10th anniversary of September 11: Douglas Walker: Other Worlds and Sympathetic Hunting Magic: Niall Donaghy and Shelly Rahme. Niall’s work, Spitfire, occupies the gallery’s front foyer.


(Preparator Jason Dankel, who is 6’3″ tall, putting the finishing touches on the installation of Spitfire)

It looks, for all intents and purposes, like an enormous balsa wood model plane. At 4.9 meters, the plane has nose-dived directly into its base, a crash that has yet to crumble the delicate fuselage and wings.

This work, this symbol, instantly conjures the events of a decade ago (or even more recently the September 7th plane crash in Russia that killed 43 including a team of elite hockey players). Yet the artist hasn’t depicted a commercial carrier, but a World War II Spitfire, a plane that summon yet another global conflict.

We bring our individual experiences to works of art and what we see depicted—a 1966 painting or 2011 sculpture—become signs for what is closest to our individual lives and understanding. All this without words but rather through the power of visual cues in paint and wood.


Please join us at the joint opening reception for Douglas Walker: Hidden Worlds and Sympathetic Hunting Magic: Niall Donaghy and Shelly Rahme. Click here for the event details.