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John Will

John Will and Robin Arseneault ArtworkRobin Arseneault Artwork


In 1972, the NASA space probe Pioneer 10 was launched. On board was a plaque with nude figures of a human male and female along with several symbols that are designed to provide information about the origin of the spacecraft should any extraterrestrials make contact. So far as we know, contact has not been made and radio transmission ceased when Pioneer reached the 12 billion kilometer point.

However, a seemingly more successful reciprocal gesture from the opposite direction may very well be housed in the Art Gallery of Alberta!

Robin Arseneault's work ‘Family’ is an important work in the AGA's permanent collection for a myriad of reasons. These five works are obviously not examples of what one would call a traditional approach to portraiture. On first glance the viewer might respond to them as being simply whimsical discombobulations of body parts juxtaposed with strange symbol-like forms. Admittedly, they may appear as simply curious creatures but in fact they are intimate portraits of Robin's immediate and unique family--herself, her parents, brother and husband. The questions that they pose and the mystery that surrounds them are difficult ones. The key that begins to unlock this mystery is included in my essay ‘She Walks Amongst Us.’* In it, I disclose that the Arseneault family is composed of four aliens and one hybrid: dismissing the claim that long ago the ancient Egyptians or Pre Columbians were the first to receive visitors from another galaxy. 

These works then are a successful correlative gesture to Pioneer's failed 1972 attempt and are the first (and perhaps only) art works by an extraterrestrial in a public collection on Planet Earth. Both their sensitive and intelligent execution and their humor function as a gateway to the realization that, not only are we not alone, but as a gesture of friendship and understanding they hopefully sow the seeds of a cure for the derisiveness that envelops our little planet these days.”

*Glenbow Museum brochure essay One New Work-John Will-Photography-R.I.P. Curated by Nancy Tousley, 2018

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John Will is an artist living and working in Calgary. He is a former Fulbright Scholar and has taught at five universities. He has been a visiting artist at over 25 various institutions ranging from Yale University to the old Sugar Shack Gallery and now defunct Exploitation Gallery both in Calgary. He has had numerous solo exhibitions and been in many group shows. He is represented in various public collections including the Art Gallery of Alberta and the Calgary Remand Centre. He is represented by the Jarvis Hall Gallery.


Image credit:
Robin Arseneault
Yellow 4 from The Family (series of five drawings), 2011
Felt marker and collage on paper
Art Gallery of Alberta Collection, gift of the Artist

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