The Curator's View

The Curator’s View: September 11th.

September 8th, 2011

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.


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