Saturday, January 3, 2015

Are we going backwards?

     I'm currently reading a book from "The Unheralded Artists of B.C." series on "The Life and Art of  Ina D.D. Uhthoff" - which is one of the reasons I was thinking about Emily Carr again as Ina was a contemporary of Emily Carr. In fact, it is fairly certain that Ina was the artist supporting two young children and an invalid husband mentioned in Emily's Journal. We also know that Ina took some painting classes from Mark Tobey at Emily's studio.
    Ina ran an art school and was also a main force in the establishment of the Art Gallery of Victoria.
In 1953, Ina agreed to write exhibition reviews for the Victoria Daily Times in order to promote the Gallery and its programs. There was a wide  variety of exhibits - 20th Century American paintings including Winslow Homer, Japanese Wood Block Prints, Northwest Coast Indian carvings, eastern Canadian painters (David Milne and Tom Thomson), and Latin American Paintings including Diego Rivera - were some. Interestingly however, there was strong support for B.C. artists- including Emily Carr, Bruno and Molly Lamb Bobak, Herbert Siebner and Myfanwy Pavelic.  "By featuring local artists, the Gallery built rapport with the community. One exhibition that limited the subject matter to Victoria's Inner Harbour drew 80 paintings from a variety of artists."..."Ina always gave attention to student art from the Gallery and the school; with the newly formed Studio Artists of B.C., she was truthful yet encouraging when she wrote, 'Some of the work is not up to exhibition standard, but it is a movement in the right direction, and we wish them success in their venture.' "  I wish that local art galleries still had this interest in supporting local artists and concern about rapport with the community. I wonder how many artists would have managed to establish careers - and that includes Emily Carr- if opportunities to enter shows and exhibits had not existed?  Even the fact that these shows were all reviewed would have added to the name-recognition of the artists. We seem to be going backwards with public galleries increasingly limited to a narrow group of artists who are working in what is currently "in". There is no recognition of a range of styles and approaches. One prime example is that Robert Bateman has never made it into a public gallery as his work has been deemed "commercial". If exhibits in the 1950's could show everything from realism through impressionism to abstraction, why are exhibits limited now? As in the past. some of the currently highly praised artists may fall into disregard in the future. A lot of the artists  currently snubbed by public galleries may well become popular.  Reading "The Unheralded Artists of B.C." is certainly food for thought.
    The painting is an early evening view of Steveston Landing with reflections in the Fraser.


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