June 22nd, 2024

New exhibits opening at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery

By Lethbridge Herald on February 17, 2022.

Herald photo by Dale Woodard Artist Emily Neufeld stands in front of her display Prairie Invasions: A Hymn - this particular display designed after a house in Hay Lakes - at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery Thursday morning.

Dale Woodard – Lethbridge Herald

Art lovers will have the chance to not only see some new works, but also meet the artists themselves as the Southern Alberta Art Gallery Maansiksikaitsitapiitsinikssin presents three new exhibitions on display starting today until April 24.

The public is welcome to attend tonight’s opening reception from 7-9 p.m.

Opening remarks will take place at 7:30 p.m. and guests will have an opportunity to view the exhibitions and meet the artists. 

On display is Prairie Invasions: A Hymn by Emily Neufeld, Excitation Station by Les Ramsay and Gifts by Nicholas Wade.

Southern Alberta scenery through the eyes of youth is also prominently displayed in Cultivating Community: Exploring Youth Perspectives Through Rural Photography. 

In 2018, Neufeld traveled through the Prairies to investigate abandoned farmhouses built by settler migrants in the 19th century. Once onsite, she worked with natural and human-made materials she found in and around the houses to create sculptures. Before leaving, she documented her actions in photographs.

“I’ve been working on different homes that are at the end of their lifecycle for quite a long time,” said Neufeld. “So whether that’s a home slated for demolition in the lower mainland or abandoned farmhouses across the prairies. I’ve also done some abandoned fishing shacks on the east coast.

“I go into these different buildings that are going to be demolished or they’re in the process of falling down and I look for the stories I can see or the people’s lives who have lived there and have a moment of pause and empathy for their lives before their homes are destroyed. I think objects and homes are a repository for our memories and certain smells and things will bring back vivid memories.”

In her travels, Neufeld said she would chat with community members and farmers to get as many stories as possible about the history of the house.

“There’s a change in the way of life in farming and a lot of people are resistant to change and that makes sense, but these lands have seen a lot of change before farming was a thing here as well and it’s interesting to think about ways of life coming and going and how the western settler colonizers here aren’t part of the natural story of this place, either,” she said. “When we harken back to the good old days, there are many layers of good old days and it kind of depends on the person’s perspective as to which good old days they’re pining after. So I’m looking to introduce species and invasive species and think about our farmers and our colonizers introducing species who come in and find a way to make a life with what’s already there. Or are we an invasive species that totally takes over and wipes the life that was here ahead of us? That’s why I’m using a lot of things like brown eyed Susans and prairie grasses as well as barn swallows.”

Ramsay is a Vancouver-based Métis artist whose embroideries, paintings, and sculptures begin with the oddities, knick-knacks and discards of domestic craft and outsider artists.

In Excitation Station, his depictions of marine scenes, forest life, and knick-knacks cloaks a pointed awareness of the material surplus contributing to Canada’s worsening climate disasters.

Wade is a retired University of Lethbridge art professor who continues his artistic practice while living part-time in Lethbridge. Wade’s installation reflects on his many years of service as a teacher and creative practitioner, displaying presents received from students, friends, and fellow artists, accumulated over 40 years.

Cultivating Community: Exploring Youth Perspectives Through Rural Photography explores youth perspectives through rural photography, said Adam Whitford: interim curator of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

The initiative is partnered with Family & Community Support Services’ youth initiative, Kaleidoscope Inclusive Youth Programming and the Town of Taber – Arts, Culture, and Recreation Department. 

“This exhibition is by nine high school-aged students out of Taber,” said Whitford. “They had a photographer come in and work with the students and once they had their photos developed I did a workshop with the students talking about how you arrange an exhibition and what is curating and how you display your photos and tell a story through the objects.”

Each student, aged 13-18, was given a disposable camera.

“Some students took them on trips across borders and got a large variety of photos,” said Whitford. “We got them printed in January and just about a month ago I had my workshop with them and worked with them to pick what were their best photos.”

Whitford said the SAAG was approached because of the ‘Southern’ in their name.

“We’re not just the art gallery of Lethbridge, we’re an art gallery of all across southern Alberta. I think this is signaling we’re opening up to some community initiatives and sometimes if people approach us with projects like this we’re happy to showcase the emerging artists of southern Alberta.”

Following its showing at the Gallery, the exhibit will travel through the MD of Taber, making stops in the town of Taber, the Vauxhall Library, and the Barnwell Library, which will allow the art to be more accessible to the contributing photographers and the communities they live in. 

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