Inspired by the many Alberta artists we are proud to feature this year at your AGA, in exhibitions such as The Scene, Black Every Day, Jude Griebel: Barn Skull and more, we are diving into the AGA Collection to look at scenes of Alberta. From the majestic Rocky Mountains to prairie grain elevators, Alberta’s landscapes and diverse communities have been a constant source of inspiration for artists both from here and from across the country.
Sandra Meigs, Across the Sea of Grassland, Dead Roads
Across the Sea of Grassland, Dead Roads is a recent acquisition to the collection by artist Sandra Meigs. The source for this work is McIntyre Ranch, a 55,000-acre span of land in the southern Alberta grasslands. Established in 1898, the Ranch has hosted many artists over the years and has been a site for artistic collaboration and research. Meigs visited the Ranch numerous times over a 28-year period, and this painting is her personal response to the spirit of the grasslands and the beauty she was witness to there.
Faye HeavyShield, calling stones: recalling
Faye HeavyShield, calling stones: recalling, 2017, acetate figures and laser print cutouts. Art Gallery of Alberta Collection, purchased with funds from the John and Maggie Mitchell Endowment Fund.
Faye HeavyShield’s practice is closely tied to the prairie landscape and her community of the Kainaiwa Nation. calling stones: recalling is an installation inspired by HeavyShield’s visits to Iiniskim Umaapi (the Majorville medicine wheel) in southern Alberta and the stories of her ancestors held there. An important site of traditional ceremony and worship, Iiniskim Umaapi has been continuously used for over 4,500 years, making it one of the oldest religious monuments in the world. The work is comprised of over 1,500 images of prairie grasses that form a hillside and a series of hand-drawn figures on acetate that appear to be climbing up or falling down the hill. In the artist’s words:
I read somewhere a long time ago that a way to remember dreams is to be as still as possible upon waking. In this vein, reaching for index cards to jot down words or images seems to be a more direct way of remembering.
What I wanted to remember is an image of a grassy hillside cutting the view diagonally. Dotting the hillside there are figures—men, women, children. As I spend time with this image, I understand that the figures aren’t climbing; neither are they falling. They are in various positions and coming or going in different directions. For the time being, it isn’t important to discern what exactly is happening. A few sketches here and there and then it’s left to be.
Stamap’asiiwa … life went on.
J.E.H. MacDonald, Rainbow, Lake O'Hara
J.E.H. MacDonald (1873 – 1932), Rainbow, Lake O'Hara, 1930, oil on canvas on board. Art Gallery of Alberta Collection. Gift of The Ernest E. Poole Foundation, 1975
In 1924, just three years after the formation of the Group of Seven, artist J.E.H MacDonald made his first trip to the Rocky Mountains. Greatly attracted to this monumental landscape, he visited the area annually for the next six years, often staying in Yoho National Park at Lake O’Hara. In 1928, MacDonald wrote of this landscape: “If it is possible to make reservations in Heaven, I am going to have an upper berth somewhere in the O’Hara ranges of Paradise.”
This painting was recently featured in the AGA exhibition 100 Years: the Group of Seven and Other Voices. Learn more about MacDonald and the legacy of the Group of Seven here.
Alana Bartol, reading wild lands
Alana Bartol, reading wild lands, (video still) 2018, HD video 22 minutes 32 seconds, ed. 2/5. This work was made with the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts and Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Special thank you to Jacqueline Bell. Art Gallery of Alberta Collection, gift of Viviane Mehr and Jay Mehr, 2020.
Alana Bartol’s work reimagines the divination practice of dowsing as a technology for environmental remediation. Bartol uses pendulums, dowsing rods and other materials to reveal hidden information at sites across Alberta. In the video Reading Wild Lands, readings were conducted using a pendulum at two contaminated sites: Inglewood Wildlands and Refinery Park in Mohkinstsis (Calgary). Both former oil refineries, these parks are under ongoing remediation and/or monitoring. Dowsing involves asking questions of the land and for answers to be revealed through the movement of objects or materials. In viewing Bartol’s work, we are asked to contemplate what the land is communicating back to us and how the practice of dowsing might shift our relationship with the earth.
Edward Burtynsky, Oil Fields #22, Cold Lake Production Project, Cold Lake, Alberta, 2001
Edward Burtynsky, ‘Oil Fields #22, Cold Lake Production Project, Cold Lake, Alberta, 2001,’ 2001, chromogenic print. Art Gallery of Alberta Collection, gift courtesy of Edward Burtynsky
Edward Burtynsky is known for his large-format photographs of natural environments altered by industry. This photograph taken in Cold Lake, Alberta is part of his ‘Oil’ series, which speaks to our contemporary dependence on the oil industry and the ways in which extraction and its infrastructure have shaped the natural world.