Meet our new CEO Donna Raetsen-Kemp

Donna Raetsen-Kemp is the RMG’s new Chief Executive Officer. Prior to joining us, she was managing the Station Gallery in Whitby. Stop by and welcome Donna to the RMG!

The RMG: What were you up to before the RMG?

Donna Raetsen-Kemp: For the past ten years I spent my days leading the arts and culture charge at Station Gallery in Whitby. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work together with the community to transform the gallery to a thriving people place. We set our sights on creating a warm and welcoming cultural hub. A gathering place with opportunities for people to engage with art in ways that were meaningful to them – a place for everyone. I’m immensely proud of the work we did there.

RMG: What drew you to the museum sector?

DRK: There were fascinating local and global things at play. Globally, the museum sector was on the cusp of a sweeping change. I found that notion exciting. Locally, there was a small, once bustling art gallery that I took classes at as a kid that had become quiet. It had just undergone a significant renovation. The opportunity to breathe life back into Station Gallery was compelling.

RMG: What is your favourite museum?

DRK: In 2012 I was part of a Canadian delegation of arts leaders on an exchange to Venice and Florence. We visited more museums than I can count, but the museum that left its mark was the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. It’s one of those great museums that you’ve probably never heard of. Their approach is bold and innovative. They take a unapologetic stance about putting their community at the forefront of programming and redefining the museum experience. They invite the community to participate in simple and delightful ways. Palazzo Strozzi houses some of the most visited exhibitions — and has a reputation as the cool place to hang out. Their courtyard is open morning until evening with a wild array of activities that bring people together and connect them with artists and exhibitions. They bring stories to life. I still check in online regularly to see to what they’re up to.

RMG: What is your first memory of art?

DRK: It’s hard to pin down one defining moment. It’s a wonderful confluence of events and experiences.

RMG: What is one thing that you want to share with people about the RMG?

DRK: I simply want to invite everyone in. Our doors are wide open. Drop by for 5 minutes or stay for hours. Let’s get to know each other a little better. What would you like to see in your RMG? I can’t wait to get the conversation started.

 

Image: Donna poses a the RMG with Director of Finance and Administration, Olinda Casimiro.

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Father, dad, daddy-o. Whatever you call your old man, we know he is more special to you than words could ever express. For whatever type of dad he is, this Father’s Day we have that one-of-a-kind present at the RMG giftshop. Trust us, he doesn’t need another screwdriver set.

The Class Act

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Handmade cufflings – $40

The Brew Mister

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Bottle opener – $10

The Fisherman

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Hip flask – $36

Mister Mo’

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Shaving kit – $20

Funny Man

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Card – $5 or $6 each

Mr. Clean

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Beer soap – $6 each

Image at top: Handmade soap in various dude-friendly scents including black pepper, tobacco, happy camper, etc. $6 each.

Images and words by Raechel Bonomo

Vol ‘n’ Tell is an ongoing series of blog posts written by RMG Volunteers. Raechel Bonomo is an art enthusiast and writer from Oshawa, Ont.

Puppet Act: Manipulating the Voice

This month at the RMG, we are unveiling a new exhibit where the art will speak to you. Literally.

Popularized by the likes of the legendary Kermit and Miss Piggy from the gabbling crew, The Muppets, puppets have been a popular form of entertainment throughout history. This personification of an object dates back to Ancient Greece in 5th century BC where the oldest written documentation of puppets is in the works of historians Herodotus and Xenophon.  Puppetry ranges from different types of mediums and are used as a source of entertainment and education all around the world including the Bunraku puppet from Osaka, Japan (1684) to the common finger puppet style used today by children and adults everywhere.

Cantastoria, or puppet storytelling, is the theme of the latest exhibit at the RMG curated by Linda Jansma. Puppet Act: Manipulating the Voice features marionettes from the Peterborough Museum & Archives collection whose historic puppets, retired from the Peterborough Puppet Guild, present as disturbing caricatures waiting to come to life once more. The exhibition, set to open May 23, also includes contemporary work from six artists. These puppeteers convey humanistic motifs of fear, manipulation, irony, humour and the battle between good and evil.

Among this work is a drawing by Coast Salish artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, graduate of the Emily Carr School of Art and Design. Threaded in his work are personal experiences and powerful socio-political messages used to document and promote change in Indigenous communities. Yuxweluptun sheds light on the diminution of the culture’s land and rights emulated through Native masks and imagery depicting environmental degradation.

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Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun. Untitled, 1996. Ink and graphite on paper.

 

Diana Lopez Soto is a performance artist based in Uxbridge, Ontario. In Puppet Act, she uses sheep-headed dancers to portray the relationship between man and animal. Lopez Soto’s performance catalyzes on human experimentation in animal cloning and the use of human genes to develop sheep that produce clotting protein in its milk.

Despite the lack of Chuckie-esque puppets in this exhibit, there are metaphors treading on the darker side riddled within the subjects they convey.

“Taken together, the work in this exhibition strives through the inanimate, to ignite discussions that help reflect who we, the animate, are,” says Jansma.

Toronto-based Suzy Lake was one of a pioneering group of artists in the ‘70s to implement performance, video and photography as a means of human expression. For Puppet Act, Lake personifies herself as the marionette in her mid-1970s performance piece depicting powerlessness. Infused in her work is politics of gender, the body and identity.

Spring Hurlbut is another artist who articulates social presence throughout her work. Born in Toronto, Hurlbut studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and in 1988 completed a Canadian Council-awarded residency in Barcelona to study architecture. In this exhibit, Hutlbut emulates the human condition through vintage ventriloquist dummies. Catherine Heard’s skeleton sculptures dance to the artist’s fascination with the “strangeness of the monstrous form”. Including scenes of torture and rural history, the fabric curtain made from a mixture of antique redwork embroidery and “fake” redwork imitates the style of the antiques.

Like Heard, Tim Whiten, born in Michigan and resides in Toronto, is a sculptor who expresses both the sacred and the profane within his work. His glass sculpture Saga-Ra-M references the human experience of reality using puppets and their shadows.

Tim Whiten, Saga-Ra-M, 2013. Handcrafted crystal clear glass, sandblasted mirror, aluminum rods, stainless steel LED lamps, MDF plinth.

Puppet Act: Manipulating the Voice is on May 23 until September 1 with a reception and Artist Talk on Sunday June 7. Come see the exhibit sure to get mouths moving.

 

By Raechel Bonomo

Vol ‘n’ Tell is an ongoing series of blog posts written by RMG Volunteers. Raechel Bonomo is an art enthusiast and writer from Oshawa, Ont.

 

Image at top: Spring Hurlbut, Dizzy, 2009-2010, installation of nine vintage amateur ventriloquist dummies circa 1930-1950. Photo by Toni Hafkenscheid.

 

An interview with outgoing CEO Gaby Peacock

“Hot Topics” blog posts come from the desk of Sam Mogelonsky, our Communications & Social Media Coordinator.

As our CEO Gaby Peacock departs from the RMG, Sam spoke with her about her great accomplishments over the last five years. We all thank Gaby for her enthusiasm and innovations at the RMG and wish her all the best for the future!

Gaby at RMG Fridays February 2015

Gaby at RMG Fridays February 2015

The RMG: Looking back on five years at the RMG, what would you say has been the biggest change to the gallery from then until now?

Gaby Peacock: Working to change perceptions about the gallery and our greater role in the community has been a real priority for me from the beginning. We have tried very hard to insure that our internal staff culture, and public persona are accessible, inviting and inclusive. We have also somewhat redefined the role of museum as it relates to the needs of our community. No one size fits all. It has required us to listen to what people want and think about our work in terms of audience-driven programming. I also felt like we could do more in terms of unconventional partnerships and supporting other not-for-profits.. We have tried to repositioned the RMG as a leader and collaborator within the region.

RMG: What do you feel will be your lasting contribution to the RMG community?

Gaby: It is so important to be responsive to the changing needs of your audience. For now, RMG Fridays has a tremendous following, and I am proud to have been a part of its creation. It has made a huge impact on our ability to welcome new people to the gallery each month, and rerally connected us with the growing population of Millenials in Durham.

Perhaps more tangible (and lasting) contributions will be the public sculpture projects we initiated. I loved working with Doug Coupland to realize “Group Portrait 1957”, and the Meadmore in front of City Hall is very near and dear to my heart. Noel Harding’s commission for the GM Centre will not be installed before I leave-but I will be back to see it unveiled!

Gaby at RMG Fridays February 2015

Gaby at RMG Fridays February 2015 with Dr. Tim McTiernan, UOIT, Leo Groarke, Trent University, Don Lovisa, Durham College, Mayor John Henry and Dr. Colin Carrie, MP Oshawa.

RMG: You have also contributed to the community at large. Please tell us why these initiatives have been important to you?

Gaby: Being a part of the Culture Counts team for Oshawa’s first culture and heritage plan was incredibly rewarding. It was a real exercise in grassroots democracy. People came together and collectively made something really significant happen. It is one thing to get a plan funded and approved, but another to see that it has legs to get things done. I think a lot of people felt that they have seen other plans come and go, without much progress. There is a real desire from City staff and Council to make things happen and see the plan executed. That is half the battle. It was also really important to me that I was part of project that would create a tangible roadmap in alignment with the work we were doing at the RMG. It is all about creating a critical mass of cultural initiatives. Gradually, perceptions begin to shift.

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Senior Curator Linda Jansma, artist Douglas Coupland and CEO Gaby Peacock in front of “Group Portrait 1957”

RMG: What will you miss most about the RMG?

Gaby: I am going to miss the incredible team of people I work with everyday. Staff, and volunteers that are committed to providing visitors with amazing interactions and experiences around art and art-making. I will also miss my community colleagues who are so invested in helping Oshawa promote its rich cultural assets and change negative stereotypes.

Toni Hamel’s new series, The land of Id

This post is by Heather Bulman, a public relations student at Durham College and the RMG’s current Communications Intern.

Toni Hamel was drawn to art very early in life. She remembers creating her first sculptures from the clay brought up from the ground after her parents added a well to the backyard of their Italian home. To this day, Hamel keeps the earliest evidence of her true passion – a photograph from kindergarten with a few drawings on the back.

In Italy, Hamel fought to pursue an education in the arts. Finally, in 1983, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the Academy of Fine Art in Lecce. However, after moving to Canada, she found it difficult to find a job with a degree in fine arts. Hamel took advantage of the dawn of technology by studying computer graphics at Sheridan College. As one of the few women working in technology at the time, she went on to have a very successful career as an interactive media developer and instructor at the University of Toronto. Despite her successes, Hamel grew tired of her career and, with the support of her husband, decided to return to her true passion. Since 2007, she has focused her creative efforts solely on her art. Although she incorporates many mediums into her pieces, she works mostly with graphite.

Toni Hamel painting in the Art Lab

Toni Hamel painting in the Art Lab

“I started as a painter, but then I got tired of colour. Colour distracts me,” says Hamel. “To me, it’s like decoration. In the work I have evolved to, there is no place for decoration – it’s about the essence. I extract everything else. In doing so, I arrived at drawings. Drawings don’t have contextual information, just the central message. I don’t produce images, I produce content.”

Beginning February 4, she will have the opportunity to create new content as the second artist in residency at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG) in Oshawa, Ont. In the galley’s Art Lab, attached to the recently opened Gallery A, Hamel will have the space to reflect on humans’ relationship with the environment in her new series, The land of Id. This subject matter will complement a current exhibition in the RMG, Running on Empty, while exploring different formats.

Hamel’s experiences in Italy have inspired her to explore powerful topics such as social and political issues. She believes artists have a responsibility to raise awareness about important topics and share their experiences.

“It is difficult for artists to get the general community interested in the arts,” explains Hamel. “When I was growing up in Italy, there were no galleries that offered art classes to a variety of generations, like the Station Gallery or the RMG. Gallery A gives the artists the opportunity to develop new pieces while sharing and engaging with the community.”

For this artist, it’s all about sharing a message. Hamel often uses humour and satire to explore controversial topics. While she admits that reality can be offensive sometimes, she also finds it challenging to find the right balance. As her work has evolved, Hamel has learned that sometimes she can say more with a whisper than a shout.

Toni Hamel’s exhibition The land of Id runs in Gallery A from March 3 to 29. Image by Toni Hamel.

RMG Friday March: Evolving Form

Our March event on 6 March from 7-10pm will engage with your senses! Both Graham Nicholas and Ryan Carr are acoustic roots singer-songwriters who will take us on a musical journey.

We also celebrate Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form, the major retrospective of the abstract artist and Painters 11 member Jock Macdonald. Create an artwork using your senses, tour the collection and learn more about the symposium, Abstraction in Canada hosted by the RMG on Saturday 7 March.

For more information:
Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form – https://rmg.on.ca/jock-macdonald-evolving-form.php
Ryan Carr- http://www.reverbnation.com/ryancarr
Graham Nicholas – https://www.facebook.com/grahamnicholasmusic

On the first Friday of the month, join the RMG in celebrating local talent. The gallery buzzes with live musical performances, interactive art experiences, open gallery spaces, social mingling and more. Suitable for music lovers, youth, families, date nights, and culture-vultures.

Free to attend | 7-10pm | Cash Bar | All ages welcome.

Follow the twitter feed at #RMGFridays!

The RMG is grateful to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for their support of RMG Fridays.

Image credits:
Left: Graham Nicholas. Photo by Laura Proctor Photography
Middle: Jock Macdonald, Rim of the Sky, 1958; oil on canvas; Collection of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery
Right: Ryan Carr

Meet Evin Lachance, Gallery A Co-ordinator and Technician

“Hot Topics” blog posts come from the desk of Sam Mogelonsky, our Communications & Social Media Coordinator.

The RMG caught up with Evin Lachance, Gallery A Co-ordinator and Technician to discuss his new role at the gallery.

 

The RMG: Hi Evin. We are thrilled to have you as a member of the RMG team. Can you tell us briefly about who you are and how you got involved with the RMG?

Evin Lachance: I am a fairly recent grad from Ryerson University. I started my RMG journey after my graduation back in May 2014. Being raised in Oshawa I wanted to inject myself into it  Arts community so naturally I became a volunteer here at the Gallery. After 5 months or so of volunteering  I was approached by Elizabeth Sweeney and asked if I would like to work with Gallery A as a coordinator and technician. It was dream come true and an opportunity I could not pass up.

RMG: What drew you to the museum sector?

Evin: When I did my undergrad in New Media at Ryerson University I learned a lot about myself and my practice which ultimately lead me to the museum sector. In the program I learned a lot about user interaction with art and how people respond to what they see/touch/hear and it got me interested in how we as a community experience art. I suppose it ignited a spark to begin to facilitate community art in order to explore it. The best place for me was the museum sector because it was a central hub for all of these things.

RMG: How has Gallery A evolved since you began working on the project? What are you most looking forward to in the coming months?

Evin: Since I was brand new to the museum the guidelines had already been established for Gallery A. However, since it is new too I have a chance to help it grow into something special. I will say that it has evolved into this weird sibling I have to take care for:  I have to clean it, make sure it looks nice to the public, feed art into, and correct any problems it may cause. Sometimes it can be stubborn but over all its totally worth it and I strongly believe in its existence!

Overall, I am the most excited to have the space constantly being in a state of flux. We went from Painted abstract walls with Pete Smith to etchings of plant life and mixed media from Ruth Greenlaw. Every time there is a new artist in Gallery A and in the ArtLab the atmosphere becomes new and electric. I am also looking forward to the new work being created within the ArtLab and seeing Gallery A being  moulded into something new for each individual artist or group.

RMG: What is your favourite museum?

Evin: Can I say The RMG? I mean I am a little biased but it is an important establishment for art in the Oshawa community and also in my own life. I enjoy the work being done by the staff and the spectrum of artist we show here.

Other notable places that I enjoy to attend is 401 Richmond in Toronto. Though not a specific museum it houses a ton of amazing Gallery Spaces like The Red Head Gallery, A Space, Vtape, etc. I can spend hours within the building walking through all the spaces seeing all the art and become inspired by the use of space.

(I’m a little bit of a fixture junkie. I love seeing how art work is presented.)

RMG: What is the one thing you most want to share with people about the RMG?

Evin: One thing would have to be the new instalment of Gallery A and the Art lab within the RMG. We finally have a space that will properly showcase Durham Reign artists. I want people to be excited about coming and seeing new works by people they potentially live down the street from.

RMG: What is your first memory of art?

Evin: It is kind of sappy but when I was incredibly young  I remember going into my basement and searching in old boxes to find “artifacts” from my parents past. In one of the boxes with my Mother’s name on it I came across a couple of  8.5″ x 11″ acrylic animal caricatures she had done when she was a teenager.  Among them was one of a fish was blow a heart bubble to another fish. I can recall trying to recreate it about a hundred times. Even though my mom claims to never have had any talent her work is a fond memory and inspiration that I will take with me throughout my life.

RMG FRIDAYS… 4 Years Later

As we approach a milestone, Norah O’Donnell, the Manager of Community and Volunteer Development finds herself reflecting on the past 4 years of RMG Fridays programming. What a whirlwind experience! Our Communication Coordinator, Sam Mogelonsky asked her a few questions – here is the result.

Norah at the mic

Norah at the mic

 

Sam: For those who are not aware, what is RMG Fridays?

Norah: RMG Fridays is a free, community-focused series held at the RMG on the first Friday of each month. It is a fun night where we meet as a community to take in 2 musical performances, exhibition openings, community collaborations, a cash bar and interactive art projects! We are very grateful to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for supporting this program.

 

Sam: You mentioned community collaborations. Who has partnered with RMG Fridays?

Norah: The partnerships that have developed through the program are vast and varied. They continue to diversify programming and our audience base. Over the past 4 years, we have collaborated with Durham College, Trent University, UOIT, Spark Centre for Innovation, City of Oshawa, Oshawa Public Library, Rotary Club of Oshawa, AIDS Committee of Durham, Girls Inc., Core 21, Durham Tourism, Oshawa Community Museum, Empty Cup Media, Cinefest Durham, Pride Durham, Oshawa Space Invaders, Broken Arts and Next Winter Festival.

 

 

Sam: How many participants have been involved?

Norah: I have made many friends at RMG Fridays! I love seeing new and familiar faces each month.  Since 2011, our staff and volunteers have welcomed over 8400 guests!

 

RMG Fridays July 4, 2014. Photo by Licianny Matos

Sam: Could you talk a bit about the planning process of RMG Fridays?

Norah: RMG Fridays is a collaborative effort amongst staff. We plan 4 months at a time to coincide with our newsletter production. The project scope has increased over the years to now include Nutshell Tours, exhibition openings and more. We have a great team of RMG Fridays volunteers who help run the event each month. A special thanks to all those who are currently involved and those who have helped over the past 4 years. We could not do it without their support. In addition, each month I am grateful to Nate and Jacob at JMS Audio for making us sound so specular!

 

Sam: What has been your favourite RMG Fridays moment?

Norah: It is almost impossible for me to choose just one. I would say my top 5 in no particular order has been:

  • Forest City Lovers performing to a record number of attendees
  • Launching the Gig Poster Show with the Marvelous Beauhunks and Viva Mars
  • Celebrating the eve of International Women’s Day with Girls Inc. Durham, the barbershop quartet Surround Sound, Jenny Berkel, and Heather Luckhart and her Colbalt Babies.
  • Dave Stathem swinging us into the holidays!
  • The GeekFreaks breakdancing in the Isabel McLauglin Gallery

 

Sam: Who would be your dream band to perform at RMG Fridays?

Norah: Uptown Funk is currently stuck in my head on repeat. Bruno Mars is my current pick!

 

 

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?

Interview with artist Margaret Rodgers

“Hot Topics” blog posts come from the desk of Sam Mogelonsky, our Communications & Social Media Coordinator.

The RMG caught up with artist Margaret Rodgers to discuss her new exhibition Closeups.

The RMG: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Margaret Rodgers: As an Oshawa-based artist I am especially interested in local history but my work ranges across subject and medium quite extensively. Recent exhibition activity includes No Man’s Land (Erring on the Mount festival, Peterborough), The Tree Museum: Easy Come, Easy Go (AGP), WhiteOut, TAC Art/Work Gallery, Toronto, and  OshawaSpaceInvaders, 2013-14. Earlier works relative to the Closeups exhibition include Out of Time at Oshawa City Hall, Money etc. (installation in a bank vault at 20 Simcoe N Oshawa), and (site/cite/cité/city) SPECIFIC: “The Shwa” a downtown Oshawa project exhibited as RENEWAL at Red Head Gallery Toronto.

I founded the IRIS Group, a collective of women artists, taught at Durham and Centennial Colleges, and was Director/Curator at VAC Clarington. My writing includes Locating Alexandra (Toronto: ECW, 1995) about Painters Eleven artist Alexandra Luke, and various reviews and essays for catalogues, journals and blogs.

In 2008 I organized IRIS in the North Country at BluSeed Studios and Hotel Saranac, Saranac Lake, NY, and showed there again in 2010 and 2013. For 2015, I am Guest Curator of Crossing Borders, an exhibition exchange with BluSeed for VAC Clarington. International exhibition activity includes Deviant Detours, Kunsthaus Gallery, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and the Beijing World Art Museum, with seven Durham artists.

As a member of Heritage Oshawa I worked on DOORS OPEN and organized Heritage Week events at the Oshawa Centre.

Margaret Rodgers’ studio

RMG: Where did you get the idea for Closeups?

MR: I have always found it interesting that our photos are peopled with strangers who happen to be there in the background and to speculate on where our own images have ended up incidentally. In the IRIS at Bola show and later in Out of Time at City Hall I drew from images that included the 20 Simcoe N. environs–once a bank, then Burns Jewellers, Tribal Voices, and Bola. There was also a photo of a pub that existed there before the bank, and in all of the pictures there are people on the street, rarely posing but caught anyway, tiny and frequently blurred images that I found fascinating to contemplate.

In 2011 I installed Money, etc in the vault there. Subsequently we held an IRIS at Bola show in the store, and the following year The IRIS Group rented the space to create our own work and hold a series of workshops. Through exploring the building I found these old battered jewellery trays that had been used when Burns Jewellers was the owner. It was IRIS member Jan Prebble who suggested hanging them by their handles, and with permission from the manager we used a few in the workshops. When I was asked to make art relating to the Bouckley collection I thought that the trays would make perfect bases for the historic subject matter and got permission from the owner John Aquilina to take them.

RMG: What other artists have influenced your career/artistic practice?

MR: I am a huge Joyce Wieland fan for her gutsy exuberance and her use of any medium that fit her purpose. Also Gerhard Richter, but who isn’t? I studied with Krzysztof Wodiczko in a tiny Trent class that he called The Crown Donut School of Cultural Studies . His projected interventions were just becoming famous, and his brilliance was obvious. I think the idea of using unconventional methods and media probably comes mostly from him.

RMG: What is your favourite image from the Thomas Bouckley Collection?

MR: I loved all of the ones I worked with, since I pored over the collection trying to make choices, the images of children are particularly appealing but the entire collection is engrossing.

Margaret Rodgers, Fireman and Fan, Prospect Park 1900, 2014

Margaret Rodgers, Fireman and Fan, Prospect Park 1900, 2014

RMG: What draws you to using historical photographs in your work?

MR: I think it comes from looking at similar photographs in my family collection, trying to see into the past and think about those long gone relatives, who they were and what they were like. I have inherited albums from a dear aunt who was born in 1890 and who told me many stories about her early life. In the 1980s I did a series based on this personal history, and have been thinking about it again.

Also my son and I visited Thomas Bouckley one time when he lived in Bond Towers. I remember his apartment being crowded with photo equipment and his stories about bribing the garbage collectors to watch for any discarded photographs. We were thrilled to meet him since we loved his books.

Working on Heritage Oshawa also brought home the great loss that the city has suffered in the destruction of its earlier architecture. While there is definitely something about sentiment and nostalgia, both frowned upon in the art world, incidentally, there is also this desire to reach into the past and establish a connection to what once was.

RMG: What do you hope visitors will take away from seeing the exhibition?

MR: In terms of the photographic work of art, consideration is also given to point of view, to the photographer’s choices, to the overall cultural construct in play. It’s always interesting to contemplate the unseen, the undocumented. We are given images that show a busy prosperous city, or families at leisure. I tried to find that person off to the side, or engulfed in a crowd. I would like people to think about the images within the context of a comfortable middle class, but to understand that this would have been only a part of society.

Aside from simply appreciating the artworks of themselves, I hope they will have fun with it, make a game out of trying to match the Bouckley pieces with the figures I have pulled from them, and enjoy a bit of our local history.

 

Closeups: Margaret Rodgers
Selections from the Thomas Bouckley Collection

23 January – 7 May, 2015
Opening: RMG Fridays, 6 February, 7-10pm
Artist talk with Margaret Rodgers: Sunday 22 February, 1-3pm