“CARROTS FOR BREAKFAST” IN JACK CHAMBERS – LIGHT, SPIRIT, TIME, PLACE AND LIFE

In Jack Chambers – Light, Spirit, Time, Place and Life. Ed. Dennis Reid. Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions & Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 2011.

"To Jack, the equation was simple: artists were providing a service and not being paid for it. What irked was the failure of the Gallery to approach them as professionals, or to recognize their right, by law, to remuneration when their work is reproduced."

Carrots for Breakfast was one of four essays curator Dennis Reid asked friends of painter Jack Chambers to write for the catalogue to Jack Chambers – Light, Spirit, Time, Place and Life, an exhibition he mounted at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2011/12. Jack died of leukemia at the age of forty-seven in 1978.

Introducing the section “My Jack Chambers” Dennis wrote ‘Jack Chambers has exerted a remarkably broad influence through both his work and the example of his life To give some sense of this surprising scope of his impact, we have asked four people, each prominent in his or her field, to relate briefly a meaningful experience of the artist and/or his art. Each has responded with a profoundly personal account.’ The other three were Michael Ondaatje, John Scott and Eric Fischl.

I write about my work with Jack in the last ten years of his life, when, knowing he was dying, he nevertheless devoted a huge amount of energy to political work as national representative of the newly founded visual artists union Canadian Artists’ Representation, CAR/FAC.

Download a PDF version (130Kb) of “Carrots for Breakfast.”

“N’TOW’WIK’HEGAT (SHE WHO KNOWS HOW TO MAKE IMAGES)”

In Net wikuhpon ehit — Once there lived a woman, The Painting, Poetry and Politics of Shirley Bear, Curator, Terry Graff. Fredericton: Beaverbrook Art Gallery, 2009.

"To know Shirley Bear is to experience her language, the Wabanaki language spoken by the First Peoples living in the valley of Wulustook (the Saint John River) and the community known as Negootkook (Tobique First Nation) where Bear was born and raised."

In 2009 the Beaverbrook Gallery in Fredericton honoured visual artist and writer Shirley Bear with a retrospective exhibition called Net wikuhpon ehit — Once there lived a woman, The Painting, Poetry and Politics of Shirley Bear. It was curated by Terry Graff who asked me to write this essay. I met Shirley when the PEN International Congress was held at Harbourfront in Toronto in 1989 and I was chair of the Writers in Prison of PEN Canada.  As we had access to the York Quay Gallery at Harbourfont along with other rooms, the WIP Committee invited Shirley to open Changers: A Spiritual Renaissance there. Changers was a touring exhibition of contemporary Indigenous women’s art organized by the National Indian Arts and Crafts Corporation and curated by Shurley. The artists were Rebecca Baird, Shirley Bear, Rebecca Belmore, Ruth Cuthand, Freda Diesing, Faye HeavyShield, Glenna Matoush, Shelley Niro, Alanis Obomsawin, Jane Ash Poitras, Joane Cardinal-Schubert.

Download a PDF version (897Kb) of “N’tow’wik’hegat (She who knows how to make images).”

THE PRESENTATION OF SELF IN EMILY CARR’S WRITINGS

In Emily Carr: New Perspectives on a Canadian Icon. Curators, Charles C. Hill, et al. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 2006.

"Sophie Frank was an artist and a thinker and, in spite of her life circumstances, she continued to create many beautiful weavings. She maintained a long friendship with Emily Carr. A thirty year relationship between women is never devoid of personal thoughts and conversations about love,work,and tragedies. Sophie would have shared her cultural knowledge and many of her insights on art with a woman whom she was so fond of, a woman who would nevertheless go on to demean and primitivize her existence after her death."

I wrote this essay with Shirley Bear for the exhibition Emily Carr: New Perspectives on a Canadian Icon organized by the National Gallery and the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2006. It is based on a performance piece Shirley and I created together called Dear Emily / Dear Sophie about Salish basket maker Sophie Frank and her long time friend Emily Carr using correspondence between the two women we discovered in the archives in Victoria. We presented it at the VAG when the redesigned Carr galleries were opened in 1996. The piece was billed as “a contemporary dialogue about art, appropriation and friendship”. It was later performed and the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria, and Emily Carr College of Art in Vancouver.

Download a PDF version of  the essay “The Presentation of Self in Emily Carr’s Writings.” Buy a copy of Emily Carr: New Perspective on a Canadian Icon here.