The exhibition explores the intersecting histories of art, crafts, feminism and textiles | New

Prairie Interlace: weaving, modernisms and a larger frame, 1960 – 2000 is an ambitious exhibition project that opened September 9 in the Nickle Galleries, part of UCalgary’s Libraries and Cultural Resources. Prairie Tracery examines the explosion of innovative textile art on the Canadian prairies during the second half of the 20th century. Although largely ignored in the history of arts and crafts on the Prairies, it was a time of intense energy and creativity.

A cooperation between Nickle Galleries and MacKenzie Art Gallery from Regina, Prairie Tracery is a traveling exhibition based on public and private collections from across Canada, including 60 works by 48 artists. Working on the prairies, they challenged traditional approaches to weaving and embraced new techniques, materials, shapes and scales.

Looking back a generation, the transformation of weaving, crocheting and tapestry into contemporary forms of artistic expression is nothing short of breathtaking,” says Timothy Long, Chief Curator, MacKenzie Art Gallery and Co-curator of the exhibition.

What we appreciate about the land, culture, history, art and politics is beautifully woven into every fiber of these works.

The exhibition addresses several themes: new directions in weaving including experiences with and beyond the loom, the relationship between textiles and architecture, the influence of the prairie landscape, as well as the relationship between gender and textiles and the impact of feminism.

Inese Birstins, Mindscape, 1978, collection of the Surrey Art Gallery, gift of Bruce Ambrose.

Photo: Cameron Heryet, courtesy Surrey Art Gallery.

“One of the most important contributions of this project, beyond the striking exposition and significant scholarship, is the community we are building,” says Dr. Michele Hardy, PhD, curator, Nickle Galleries and co-curator of the exhibition. “We are grateful to connect generations of artists, artist groups and guilds, scholars and collectors by sharing their inspiring stories.

Featured are a number of monumental works created for architectural settings, including that of Kaija Sanelma Harris rising sun1985 (created for the TD Bank Tower designed by Mies van der Rohe in Toronto) and Marge Yuzicappi Untitled Tapestry1970 (created for the Dr. John Archer Library designed by Minoru Yamasaki at the University of Regina).

Other textiles featured include a life-size woven tree stump, textiles featured at Expo ’67, a series of Aboriginal hooked rugs and Metis artists, and an iconic feminist crochet sculpture that challenged the representation of women in art.

Prairie Tracery artists include settlers, immigrants, natives and Metis artists as well as influential visitors. These include Mariette Rousseau Vermette, a Quebec weaver renowned for her large-scale commissions, who taught at the Banff Centre, and American artist Ann Hamilton, who studied at Banff.

Other influential artists include Ann Newdigate, Pirkko Karvonen and Margaret Harrison. Hailing from South Africa, Newdigate’s fine painterly tapestries explore identity and relationships. Karvonen, who immigrated from Finland, was inspired by the prairie landscape, its colors and textures. Harrison is a M based in SaskatchewaneThis artist has transformed rug hooking into a vehicle for self-expression and advocacy.

The exhibition runs through December 17 at the Nickle Galleries, with additional programming including artist talks and exhibition tours. Details are available on the Nickle Galleries website.

Prairie Tracery is organized by Dr. Michele Hardy, PhD, of Nickle Galleries, Timothy Long of MacKenzie Art Gallery and Dr Julia Krueger, PhD, independent curator. The exhibition will show in three other galleries in Western Canada over the next few months: the Mann Art Gallery in Prince Albert, SK. (Spring 2023), Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba in Brandon, Man. (summer 2023) and MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Sask. (Fall 2023).

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