What’s going on at the Art Gallery of Regina?

Anyone else see a school of fish? Hannah Eiserman

First time visitor finds workshop and membership opportunities

On this week’s pitch list, I asked what was better than setting out in the newly warming weather with a coffee to go gaze dreamily at some art work – and then get paid to write about it? And then I answered that question: nothing. So what did I spend my weekend doing? You guessed it! Gazing dreamily at some artwork.

I thought that this time I would check out a gallery I had never been to before. So, I went down to the Art Gallery of Regina for the first time, and I was pleasantly surprised. The gallery is a bit conspicuous and requires a keen eye – and a bit of Google Maps-ing – to find. It’s located in the park that runs along Wascana Creek in the Cathedral area. I’ve walked in that park and past the building hundreds of times and had no idea what was inside!

They feature three spaces for exhibits: one large, central gallery room right off the main entrance where the Elevate and Holon exhibit was and the spaces for the “Outside the Box” exhibits. Which are actually, deceptively, inside a glass display case and along a square shaped hallway. False advertising!

The Elevate and Holon exhibit features Nikki Middlemiss’ series Elevate and Tucker’s Holon sculpture. Holon was the first major draw of the gallery: a massive sculpture fixed to the ceiling consisting of many tiny carved pieces of woods arranged in a curved, almost spiral shape. Immediately, the sculpture reminded me of a school of fish, circling and swimming upward – but then I realized that from a distance, it could be one big fish too. The way the piece is displayed allows you to walk around, under, and directly up close to it.

I was very conscious then, while I was looking at all these small carved pieces of wood, that they were each individually shaped by human hands. The grain of the wood and strokes of the tools that Tucker used were obvious that close up, which gave the piece a sort of intimacy, despite how massive it was. After I decided that the piece resembled either a school of fish or the scales of one, I realized it was probably bad practice to project any living shapes onto a piece of abstract art, but Tucker’s artist profile notes he “shapes wood with reverence and empathy for trees as living beings.” Though the piece isn’t meant to be figurative, it’s actually meant to be a self-portrait, so I have to think maybe Tucker wouldn’t mind my interpretation of the piece as lifelike.

Middlemiss’s collection of torn and spray-painted tracing paper was deceivingly simple. Middlemiss creates a very satisfying and mesmerizing texture by combining the two media – one that it was really difficult not to want to reach out and touch. I noticed as I walked the hallway gallery after that there was a workshop happening in one of the studio spaces, and only once I got home did I realize that it was likely Middlemiss’s workshop “Let Your Materials Guide You.” This is certainly a concept Middlemiss is well versed in. The physicality of her work is outstanding.

The Hallway Gallery, which wrapped around a courtyard that would be lovely once spring has sprung and dissolved the piles of snow making it currently unusable, was an absolute treat. It’s a part of one of the two spaces dedicated to the “Out of the Box” program: “a non-curated/non-juried program aimed at creating additional opportunities for AGR members to display and sell their artwork.”[1] Right now, they are displaying some work by the Aurora Artist’s Guild. Some of my favourite pieces were by Pauline Lieppi (Unmatched Beauty, a floral painting that was a striking, contrasted colour combo, and two paintings of kittens called Waiting for Milk and Lazy Afternoon), Jim Anderson (a collection of bird paintings), Dan Allen (Great Horned Owl and Green Glow, depicting the northern lights), Tina Worth (Weekend Retreat), and Kathy Hancock (Walk in spring).

The glass display cases held three exhibits. One was by the Stitchery Guild, I believe, displaying their recent pieces of needlework. The one nearest the door was a blown glass beading exhibit, with pieces created in workshops hosted by the gallery. The first exhibit was a collection of traditional embroidery and beadwork by C.F. Armistead. This display made me a bit uncomfortable, as the artist’s blurb disclaims Armistead is actually a pastor of Settler ancestry who was motivated to learned beadwork as a sort of celebration of the mingling of cultural identities, which is all well and good, except the pieces are also for sale. The ethics of a Settler selling art pieces done using an honoured Indigenous practice are questionable at best, though the display cases aren’t commissioned, and the Art Gallery of Regina doesn’t receive profit from it, so I hesitated to mention it. But what is a gallery profile/review without honest opinions given?

Though the “Outside the Box” spaces are booked until 2023, members of the gallery[2] are free to submit and query work they would like to have exhibited in the hallway or glass display cases. Since the gallery is a non-profit, non-commercial gallery, they are unable to take admission or pay artist fees for their contributions, but the pieces in the “Outside the Box” spaces are for sale, through the artists themselves. This is an under-utilized opportunity for students or recent graduates to participate in gallery showings, so be sure to become a member and keep your eyes open for the next submission opportunity.

The Hallway Gallery leads between the display cases and also the clusters of studio spaces where workshops are offered – another great student opportunity that is likely often missed! Their upcoming programming includes a member Show and Sale May 6 to 22 (which submissions are still open for), a Creative Exploration Writing Workshop hosted by Carla Harris on April 9 ($20 admission fee) and a weekly event called Still Life Sundays, a (free) drop-in painting session held over Zoom.

[1] The Art Gallery of Regina’s website’s “Submissions and Calls” page: https://www.artgalleryofregina.ca/submissions-and-calls

[2] Students can become honorary members (sans board voting rights) for free!


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