AGG Launches 2024 Summer Season

Written by GAC Staff

Today is the first official day of summer! In the art world with warm weather comes lots of great and thought provoking art. In fact, the Art Gallery of Guelph (AGG) launched its 2024 summer season exhibitions this past Thursday. GAC staff had the chance to go to the launch celebration and hear about the three new exhibitions from the artists and curators themselves. 

The director of the Art Gallery of Guelph (AGG), Shauna McCabe, explains that land holds profound significance in all three exhibitions, often symbolizing belonging and upheaval. The main gallery space features the first exhibit, “Yours in Native Spirit Richard Bedwash,” curated by Shauna McCabe and Colinda Clyne. 

Right: Richard Bedwash, “The legend of Thunderbird,” 1983. Left: Richard Bedwash, “Man Charging into Thunderbird,” 1983

Richard Bedwash, an Anishinaabe artist born in 1936 on Long Lac Reserve #58, was immersed in Ojibwe teachings before being sent to a residential school. This displacement influenced his art, helping him reconnect with his culture, history, and community.

Shauna highlighted the exhibit’s local importance, linking it to discussions surrounding an urban park at the abandoned Guelph Correctional Centre (Ontario Reformatory). The centre has murals Bedwash painted during his incarceration, where he was active in the Native Sons, a grassroots group of Indigenous inmates created in 1976. These murals, now at risk, showcase the value of traditional knowledge and cultural expression in the justice system.

Richard’s work features bright colors and bold lines, with narrations from Ojibwe stories effectively creating a visual narrative of sorts that preserve and highlight traditions, stories, and experiences. 

This idea of highlighting experiences through the use of a visual narrative is evident in the exhibition on the second floor, What Remains. 

This exhibition brings together the stories of migrants and borderland residents from El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. It contrasts El Paso, one of the safest U.S. cities, with Ciudad Juarez, one of the world’s most dangerous, and focuses on the challenges of mass migration, dangerous journeys, and survival.

“The Promised Land (La Tierra Prometida),” 2018, Digital photograph; sublimation print on metal

The exhibit features photography, sculpture, and illustrations of objects left behind during border crossings, representing personal stories of trauma. Many of these items, such as children’s stuffed animals, are belongings of personal significance that immigrants are forced to abandon.

The physical space of the gallery and the way some of the larger installations confront viewers make you feel as if you are walking amongst these abandoned objects making it difficult to feel removed from the imagery.  

The final exhibit, Fractures and Futures, featuring work from artist Catherine Chan, explores our connections with the natural world. She uses rocks and other materials to showcase layers of experiences and memories throughout Earth’s history.  Inspired by the art of kintsugi, Chan explains how her work is centered around fracture and repair and how to conceive time beyond our lifespan by bringing together objects, literally and metaphorically, that hold eons of information and memories. 

These exhibitions invite viewers to reflect on the profound themes of identity, migration, and our relationship with the natural world, offering a rich and immersive experience to start the summer.
If you wish to learn more about each exhibit or visit them yourself check out the AGG’s website linked here.

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