First, Sculptural Vocabularies was a collaborative symposium organized by The Winnipeg Art Gallery along with Mentoring Art for Women Artists and coordinated by the WAG's Adult Education Coordinator, Anna Wiebe. As a first of its kind initiative in Canada to focus specifically on women in sculpture on an international scale, it brought out over 100 delegates from across the country, despite so much going on with shows opening at Platform, Urban Shaman, Maison Des Artistes, and Gallery 1C03, much of which was parallel programming for Close Encounters, and of course, the bone crushing conditions of minus forty Celsius conditions that some would call invigorating, while others would not.
|Image credit: Aganetha Dyck, Checkers and Bees, from exhibition The MMasked Ball, 2009|
The last day of Sculptural Vocabularies overlapped with the opening day of Close Encounters: The Next 500 years, a city wide international exhibition on Indigenous art that again, is a first of its kind. The panelists on Saturday were the strongest lineup including the morning panel featuring Mary Anne Barkhouse, Faye Heavyshield, and Nadia Myre moderated by Candice Hopkins, and the afternoon one on one conversation between Lee-Ann Martin and Rebecca Belmore. I describe this line up as the strongest as the work is inherently more political. While I was dismayed by the lack of men present for the first two and a half days of the conference, the greatest disparity was still not through gender, but through race relations, as a question, or rather, a rude request from the a woman in the attendance calling on Heavyshield to speak aloud the Blackfoot language was embarrassing and infuriating all at once.
The conference ended on a high note, with a candid and personal conversation between Martin and Belmore, who in a t-shirt, jeans, and fluorescent sneakers, who couldn't remember a single date, still stole the show by simply being an artist wholly immersed in a process that can only be described as electrifying.
|Image credit: Marja Helander, Mount Annivaara Utsjoki, 2002 , c-print, 117x93cm|
Curated by the powerhouse team of Lee-Ann Martin, Steve Loft, Hopkins, and Jenny Western, the exhibition seems quite aware of all of these issues, though I am sure this will be argued, and really, it is that passion in the discussions to come that is the most exciting element of this star-studded exhibition.