Articles Tagged ‘Paul Gessell’

THE ARTFUL BLOGGER: A long-forgotten star photographer is resurrected at the National Gallery

By Paul Gessell

Margaret Watkins, "Still life - Shower Hose, 1919." Gelatin silver print, 21.2 x 15.9 cm. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Purchased 1984 with the assistance of a grant from the Government of Canada under the terms of the Cultural Property Export and Import Act.

A long forgotten Canadian artist, Margaret Watkins, has been resurrected from obscurity with a large, impressive exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada of her early 20th century photographs.

You can be forgiven if you have not heard of Watkins before. She has largely been forgotten for almost a century. And she would have remained forgotten if not for the efforts of a friendly neighbour in the city of Glasgow, where Watkins died November 10, 1969. More on that later.

Watkins was born November 8, 1884, in Hamilton. As a young woman, she moved to the United States in 1908 to seek her fortune, eventually settling in New York City. By the 1920s she had become a celebrated photographer who exhibited extensively and was profiled glowingly in Vanity Fair magazine. She specialized in portraits, arty advertisements, and still life scenes that echoed the “cubist” and “modernist” styles popular in the 1920s.

She was also known for transforming mundane objects from the kitchen or bathroom into carefully constructed art objects. The title of the National Gallery exhibition of about 60 images is Domestic Symphonies. That’s a reference to the manner in which she could elevate the ordinary into the divine.

Her photograph “Still Life: Shower Hose 1919″ shows an old-fashioned shower hose looped around a towel rack. It is a perfect example of the way Watkins used light, lines, and geometric compositions to create the perfect picture.

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THE ARTFUL BLOGGER: Roadtrip – a Gatineau artist shows Montreal how to photograph evil

By Paul Gessell

Gessell describes Marie-Jeanne Musiol's images by saying "The black circles are like black holes in space that drain the life force from all those who pass."

Gatineau artist Marie-Jeanne Musiol has created an art installation that invokes the ghosts of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland where thousands of Jews were slaughtered during the Second World War.

Visitors walk into Pierre-Francois Ouellette Gallery in downtown Montreal and immediately see three dozen photographs, each of a round, black hole in a rough, deteriorating cement base. The recorded sound of an eerie whistling wind blows through the room.

The life-sized photographs are of holes, 13 inches in diameter, in large, communal latrines in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, as the desolate, uninhabited scene looks today. The photographs are arranged on the wall in a pattern similar to the repetitive latrine holes in the cement.

The black circles are like black holes in space that drain the life force from all those who pass. In reality, these were holes in a latrine designed to humiliate and to degrade all those forced to use them, up to 100 people at a time, sometimes both men and women together.

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THE ARTFUL BLOGGER: Seeing the world through the lens of childhood at Exposure Gallery

Eye Level at Exposure Gallery showcases photographs taken by children 10 and under. From left: "Cat" by Ada Novos, "Halloween" by Stuart Campbell, and "Pug" by Charlotte Watkins.

By Paul Gessell

So, what really fascinates your kids? How exactly do they see the world?

For some insight into the world inhabited by children, visit Eye Level, a new exhibition at Exposure Gallery of photographs taken by kids aged 10 and under.

Judging by the prints on the wall, food holds a great deal of interest. So do pets and shadows and bright colours. The perspectives are often unique, uncluttered by the aesthetic biases of adults who feel compelled to reproduce the style and content of professional photographers. Kids simply shoot what interests them.

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THE ARTFUL BLOGGER: Ceramic artist Lisa Creskey is in a class by herself — a look at her latest exhibitions

By Paul Gessell

The writer calls the effect in Characteristics of Maps and Measures "other-worldly and mesmerizing." Image by Lisa Creskey.

Usually, I just walk on by when it comes to ceramics, although I do know and admire some fine local masters of the medium: Jim Thomson and Maureen Marcotte come to mind.

So, it takes a great deal of skill and artistry to impress me when it comes to ceramics. And impressed I was when I visited the Outaouais studio of Lisa Creskey during the recent annual Chelsea-Wakefield Studio Tour. Compared to most other artists and craftspeople on the tour, she was definitely in a class by herself.

Creskey is not new to the scene. It’s just that I am new to Creskey, having walked by too many pottery shows over the years without taking a look. Creskey creates ceramics that are really complex sculptures with intriguing narratives. Her work is truly unique.

She has an exhibition, Images I Inhabit, that has just opened at Atrium Gallery at Centrepointe and continues until Oct. 24. She also has a show, Our Enfolding Junctures, from Oct. 19 to Nov. 8 at her dealer’s, L.A. Pai Gallery in the ByWard Market. And she is also participating in the annual 260 Fingers pottery extravaganza at the Glebe Community Centre, Nov. 9 to 11. Creskey was supposed to have an exhibition at Karsh-Masson Gallery in the market last spring. But a leaky roof postponed that exhibition until May 2013. This is one busy artist.

The Atrium show is dominated by an installation of real twigs inhabited by families of life-sized ceramic blue herons or, to be more precise, fragments of blue herons. These are the herons that nest in marshy areas near rural stretches of the Rideau Canal.

The show also has jagged-edged bowls depicting marshy areas and a spectacular ceramic scene on a wall called “Characteristics of Maps and Measures – York Boat.” That latter piece shows several identical, red-faced characters in a open boat, dramatically battling waves. The effect is other-worldly and mesmerizing.

“My primary drive as a visual artist has been that of storytelling from a personal point of departure or connection,” Creskey said in an email to me. “Through my work I attempt to question and destabilize my own understanding of personal and collective identity. I am drawn to historical documents and artifacts as a place to initiate visual exploration. These images that are, or were, commonly found in Canadian school textbooks play a role in our formative internal visual foundation. The shared nature of these artifacts gives me a point of departure from which to question and explore my own understanding of personal and collective identity.”

THE ARTFUL BLOGGER: Come June 2013, the city-run Karsh-Masson Gallery will close the doors at its current location

By Paul Gessell

A look inside Karsh-Masson Gallery during Maria Lezon's 2010 exhibition "The Lounging Soap Opera." Maria Lezon @ KM, 2009-2010.

The Karsh-Masson Gallery will cease operations, at least at its current ByWard Market location, in June next year.

The gallery, which is run by the City of Ottawa, moved to 136 St. Patrick St. in 2003 after initially operating for 10 years in the former City Hall on Sussex Drive. That building now houses offices of the Foreign Affairs Department.

Karsh-Masson may re-open somewhere else after leaving the market but the city’s top cultural officials, including Debbie Hill and Nicole Zuger, aren’t answering questions. Queries to them were forwarded to the city’s corporate communications office.

“The five-year lease at 136 St-Patrick will expire in June 2013 and the City won’t be renewing at that location,” city spokesman Michael Fitzpatrick said in an email. “The City is now investigating options for an alternate location.”

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THE ARTFUL BLOGGER: The National Gallery acquires Casting Jesus, a “brilliant and hilarious” film-within-a-film

By Paul Gessell

Christian Jankowski, "Casting Jesus," 2011. Performance at Santo Spirito, Rome. © Luise Müller-Hofstede, courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery.

What did Jesus really look like?

This is a question that has bedevilled artists for the past 2,000 years. Generally, he is depicted as a man of average height, with a beard and a bearing varying from gaunt to beatific. But maybe he was short. Or chubby. Or preferred a close shave. And just how big was his nose?

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and other apostles tell us, in the Bible, what Jesus said and did. But they don’t really provide a physical description. So, artists have had to use their imagination.

This brings us to the brilliant and hilarious film, Casting Jesus, by German artist Christian Jankowski that has recently been acquired by the National Gallery of Canada and is currently on exhibition until the new year.

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THE ARTFUL BLOGGER: Jonathan Hobin is being eyed by Time Magazine — and debuts his latest exhibit at the Shenkman Arts Centre

By Paul Gessell

"The Ring" has never been displayed in Ottawa. Photo by Jonathan Hobin.

I have to admit that Orleans is not my favourite destination, especially when road crews are repairing a car-swallowing sinkhole on Highway 174 and motorists are sent on perplexing detours badly in need of proper signage.

But enough about my problems. Despite the detours and despite the fact Orleans is not a frequent destination for art lovers, there is a good reason to head east to the Shenkman Centre and see the latest exhibition by Ottawa’s photo-artist extraordinaire, Jonathan Hobin.

The Hobin exhibition, Attic Urchins, at the Shenkman Centre is in the gallery run by the Ottawa School of Art. There you will find about a dozen of Hobin’s craftily staged photos.

Some of these images will be familiar to Hobin’s fans. Some are from his Mother Goose series in which costumed children acted out various nursery rhymes. Some of these rhymes veer into the dark side. In Jack and Jill, young Jill seems to have had a very bad fall, indeed. Her knees are skinned and she appears to be crying tears of blood.

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THE ARTFUL BLOGGER: Sneak peek! How Quebec’s Revolution Sexuelle will infiltrate Ottawa’s Nuit Blanche

By Paul Gessell

This mischievous image of Thauvette’s work will appear in her Festival X-Nuit Blanche exhibition. The beauties pictured are all saucy shots of Thauvette. By Genevieve Thauvette.

Back in 2008 when I first met Ottawa artist Genevieve Thauvette, I wrote a column naming her as the most interesting discovery of the year, based largely on her debut exhibition of photographic self-portraits at the Dale Smith Gallery.

Thauvette was soon making headlines by winning a gold medal for artistic photography at the cultural competition at The Francophone Games in Beirut and from her devilishly dark staged photos of The Dionne Quintuplets, with Thauvette simultaneously appearing as all five girls. Prints from that series can be found in some of the best art collections in the area, including the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Then Thauvette moved to Toronto and dropped out of sight. So did Dale Smith Gallery. So Gallery St-Laurent+Hill corralled Thauvette and became her dealer. Her first show there is called Les Filles du Roy and is set to run Sept. 18 t0 26, overlapping with both the citywide photography extravaganza Festival X and the city’s first ever Nuit Blanche Sept. 22.

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THE ARTFUL BLOGGER: How to pose nude while fully clothed — Carleton University Art Gallery’s latest exhibit

By Paul Gessell

"Wall Street" by Cara Tierney.

Cara Tierney seems to take the Bible, or at least one passage, to heart: Go Forth and Multiply.

That is exactly what this emerging artist has done. She has created a series of staged photographs in which she plays all the parts in the narrative. Sometimes Tierney poses alone. In other images, there are several versions of Tierney interacting with each other like a group of remarkably similar looking best friends.

The result is an intriguing exhibition at Carleton University Art Gallery titled Go Forth and Multiply.

Some of the photographs have a vaguely familiar look. That is because Tierney has recreated poses by such artists as Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli and Canada’s Edwin Holgate from the Group of Seven. The models in the originals were nude. Tierney tends to pose clothed, wearing a T-shirt that says Nude.

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THE ARTFUL BLOGGER: Canadian photographer David Trattles goes to the German rodeo — and he’s got a book to prove it!

By Paul Gessell

Local photographer David Trattles hopes to crowd-fund German Rodeo, a book of photos about Germans living out their dreams of being cowboys. Photo by David Trattles

Globe-trotting Canadian photographer David Trattles walked into a German bar one day and encountered a man pretending to be an Apache brave named Listening Twice. The Toronto-based, Ottawa-raised Trattles soon found himself immersed in the world of German rodeos.

Naturally, Trattles had to record that German fantasy-cowboy lifestyle. The result is a crowd-funded project to produce a book, German Rodeo, of photographs about the world of Germans living out their dreams of being cowboys.

Trattles was recently interviewed by The Artful Blogger.

How did you become interested in German rodeos and why the enduring interest?
I walked into a saloon in eastern Germany one day and there, leaning on the bar, was a perfectly kitted out native North American Indian. He said that on weekends he smoked the peace pipe, built teepees, and knew the tomahawk dance, which he performed for me. I asked him where he lived, and he replied in heavy Saxon: “About 100 metres away.”

“You mean you’re not a native Indian?”

“No,” he said. Then he pointed to his heart. “In here, I am so.”

That sealed my interest. I am not a rodeo cowboy and I don’t listen to western music, but essentially that’s my kind of story: those who live with their hearts. They live out a difficult and noble process.

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