Interview with artist Margaret Rodgers

“Hot Topics” blog posts come from the desk of Sam Mogelonsky, our Communications & Social Media Coordinator.

The RMG caught up with artist Margaret Rodgers to discuss her new exhibition Closeups.

The RMG: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Margaret Rodgers: As an Oshawa-based artist I am especially interested in local history but my work ranges across subject and medium quite extensively. Recent exhibition activity includes No Man’s Land (Erring on the Mount festival, Peterborough), The Tree Museum: Easy Come, Easy Go (AGP), WhiteOut, TAC Art/Work Gallery, Toronto, and  OshawaSpaceInvaders, 2013-14. Earlier works relative to the Closeups exhibition include Out of Time at Oshawa City Hall, Money etc. (installation in a bank vault at 20 Simcoe N Oshawa), and (site/cite/cité/city) SPECIFIC: “The Shwa” a downtown Oshawa project exhibited as RENEWAL at Red Head Gallery Toronto.

I founded the IRIS Group, a collective of women artists, taught at Durham and Centennial Colleges, and was Director/Curator at VAC Clarington. My writing includes Locating Alexandra (Toronto: ECW, 1995) about Painters Eleven artist Alexandra Luke, and various reviews and essays for catalogues, journals and blogs.

In 2008 I organized IRIS in the North Country at BluSeed Studios and Hotel Saranac, Saranac Lake, NY, and showed there again in 2010 and 2013. For 2015, I am Guest Curator of Crossing Borders, an exhibition exchange with BluSeed for VAC Clarington. International exhibition activity includes Deviant Detours, Kunsthaus Gallery, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and the Beijing World Art Museum, with seven Durham artists.

As a member of Heritage Oshawa I worked on DOORS OPEN and organized Heritage Week events at the Oshawa Centre.

Margaret Rodgers’ studio

RMG: Where did you get the idea for Closeups?

MR: I have always found it interesting that our photos are peopled with strangers who happen to be there in the background and to speculate on where our own images have ended up incidentally. In the IRIS at Bola show and later in Out of Time at City Hall I drew from images that included the 20 Simcoe N. environs–once a bank, then Burns Jewellers, Tribal Voices, and Bola. There was also a photo of a pub that existed there before the bank, and in all of the pictures there are people on the street, rarely posing but caught anyway, tiny and frequently blurred images that I found fascinating to contemplate.

In 2011 I installed Money, etc in the vault there. Subsequently we held an IRIS at Bola show in the store, and the following year The IRIS Group rented the space to create our own work and hold a series of workshops. Through exploring the building I found these old battered jewellery trays that had been used when Burns Jewellers was the owner. It was IRIS member Jan Prebble who suggested hanging them by their handles, and with permission from the manager we used a few in the workshops. When I was asked to make art relating to the Bouckley collection I thought that the trays would make perfect bases for the historic subject matter and got permission from the owner John Aquilina to take them.

RMG: What other artists have influenced your career/artistic practice?

MR: I am a huge Joyce Wieland fan for her gutsy exuberance and her use of any medium that fit her purpose. Also Gerhard Richter, but who isn’t? I studied with Krzysztof Wodiczko in a tiny Trent class that he called The Crown Donut School of Cultural Studies . His projected interventions were just becoming famous, and his brilliance was obvious. I think the idea of using unconventional methods and media probably comes mostly from him.

RMG: What is your favourite image from the Thomas Bouckley Collection?

MR: I loved all of the ones I worked with, since I pored over the collection trying to make choices, the images of children are particularly appealing but the entire collection is engrossing.

Margaret Rodgers, Fireman and Fan, Prospect Park 1900, 2014

Margaret Rodgers, Fireman and Fan, Prospect Park 1900, 2014

RMG: What draws you to using historical photographs in your work?

MR: I think it comes from looking at similar photographs in my family collection, trying to see into the past and think about those long gone relatives, who they were and what they were like. I have inherited albums from a dear aunt who was born in 1890 and who told me many stories about her early life. In the 1980s I did a series based on this personal history, and have been thinking about it again.

Also my son and I visited Thomas Bouckley one time when he lived in Bond Towers. I remember his apartment being crowded with photo equipment and his stories about bribing the garbage collectors to watch for any discarded photographs. We were thrilled to meet him since we loved his books.

Working on Heritage Oshawa also brought home the great loss that the city has suffered in the destruction of its earlier architecture. While there is definitely something about sentiment and nostalgia, both frowned upon in the art world, incidentally, there is also this desire to reach into the past and establish a connection to what once was.

RMG: What do you hope visitors will take away from seeing the exhibition?

MR: In terms of the photographic work of art, consideration is also given to point of view, to the photographer’s choices, to the overall cultural construct in play. It’s always interesting to contemplate the unseen, the undocumented. We are given images that show a busy prosperous city, or families at leisure. I tried to find that person off to the side, or engulfed in a crowd. I would like people to think about the images within the context of a comfortable middle class, but to understand that this would have been only a part of society.

Aside from simply appreciating the artworks of themselves, I hope they will have fun with it, make a game out of trying to match the Bouckley pieces with the figures I have pulled from them, and enjoy a bit of our local history.

 

Closeups: Margaret Rodgers
Selections from the Thomas Bouckley Collection

23 January – 7 May, 2015
Opening: RMG Fridays, 6 February, 7-10pm
Artist talk with Margaret Rodgers: Sunday 22 February, 1-3pm

 

 

The Value of Community Art

Vol ‘n’ Tell is an ongoing series of blog posts written by RMG Volunteers. Raechel Bonomo is an Oshawa native, art enthusiast and second-year Print Journalism student at Durham College.

As you walk into Gallery A, the new community art space at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, you are greeted by the scent of fresh paint as your eyes wander across the brightly colours where paint is not only on the canvas but spilled off and onto the walls.

A concept carried out by artist Pete Smith and a literal out-of-the-box interpretation of what this new space hopes to bring Oshawa.

In the last two years, community art studios or “art hives” have been emerging across Oshawa. The concept of public-based art is reinforced by city initiatives such as Culture Counts, an arts, culture and heritage plan introduced last year.

On a larger scale, the RMG has recently hopped on the community art studio bandwagon.

Elizabeth Sweeny is the manager of public programs and art reach at the RMG. She says the RMG surveyed more than 100 people in the Durham Region regarding art-based community development and found a high demand for a professional space to display art.

Gallery A is the answer to that call.

Opened early this year, Gallery A is a professional exhibition and studio space in the lower level of RMG intended to offer opportunities for artists in the community to share their work. The space also plans to provide educational opportunities to community members including information sessions and technique classes.

“Durham Region is full of culture and we are certainly building on that. We know that artists need more spaces to exhibit, so absolutely it’s helping to address that void,” says Sweeney.

Among these spaces is The Vault, or the V3 Collective, located in downtown Oshawa.

The Vault is a volunteer run space where artists and community members can make, display, and buy art. The owner of the space, Zal Press, believes in the concept of local art and as an economic catalyst.

“If you look back, economic growth and prosperity is grown by the creative class,” he says. “It’s not only the growth but it’s resilience, the capacity to change with time.”
Press considers Queen Street West in Toronto, where he resides, as a respectable model for Oshawa to follow.

He credits Toronto artists for the popularization and economic drive in the area. They were able to draw attention to areas with local art, creating a buzz loud enough to capture the attention of city. Wherever the artists were, development came.

According to Press, development occurred along Queen Street West wherever artists such as visual, performers and musicians occupied. For example in the 80’s, Spadina and Queen used to be an area populated by artists until it was developed into a shopping hub.

“Follow the artists and you’ll find the money,” says Press.

This economic model and new wave of thinking can be rooted to The Rise Of The Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community And Everyday Life written by Richard Florida. It promotes the vitality of out-of-the-box thinkers to create a sustainable economic environment, specifically in cities.

In Oshawa, art and art studios are being used as a both a tourist attraction and a reason to bring residents downtown.

Steven Frank put this idea into action in 2012 when he created Oshawa Space Invaders (OSI), an art crawl that occupies vacant buildings in the downtown area.

“It helps show the potential in individual spaces that may end up being leased as a direct result of our exposure,” says Frank.

Not only does this idea engage local artists, 200 participants in 2014, to display their work as well as art appreciation from community members, it serves as an economic driver for downtown businesses. The foot traffic during OSI last year brought more than 5,000 visitors downtown.

“By creating an event that brings together the creative community in an innovative way we help people envision the downtown as a place of vitality, worthy of investing in,” says Frank.

In the last year, even more community art hives have developed in Oshawa’s downtown.

The Livingroom Community Art Studio began as an idea in the head of Mary Kronhert in 2007 while she was studying to be an art therapist in Toronto. Derived from an article from Concordia professor and owner of La Ruche D’Art in Montreal, Janis Timm Bottos, Krohnert was introduced to the concept of a free, community space where members of the public could walk in and make art.

“Art spaces like this tend to revitalize neighbourhoods and make the areas around them more colourful,” says Krohnert.

A $38,000 Ontario Trillium Grant was used to pay for rent, materials and one part-time staff member, made the Livingroom studio possible. Krohnert also relies on community donations to keep the studio afloat, a call well received by the public that has filled the studio with paint, fabric and even some musical instruments. The walls of the studio are lined with buttons, paper, pipe cleaners, the epitome of any crafter’s heaven.

Despite only being open for a couple of months, the studio has been well received by the community. According to Krohnert, studio attendance has been high with new and returning walking through the door every day.

“There’s nowhere else like it,” says Krohnert. “This is something Oshawa needs.”

Together the creative class is helping to evolve Oshawa to create a more viable, economically strong city – one art hive at a time.

 

Image- Postscript, Pete Smith, 2015.

Interview with Running On Empty Curator Heather Nicol

“Hot Topics” blog posts come from the desk of Sam Mogelonsky, our Communications & Social Media Coordinator.

The RMG caught up with Running on Empty’s guest curator Heather Nicol for a quick chat about the exhibition and her artistic practice.

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RMG: Firstly, please tell us a bit about who are you and your curatorial/ artistic practice?

Heather Nicol: I’m an artist and independent curator based in Toronto. I’ve created exhibitions for gallery spaces, but more often I work in what might be considered off-site locations, such as underutilized or repurposed urban spaces. My installations often are cited in public places, such as large atriums or, for example, in the great Hall of the Union station. Also in unusual exhibition venues, such as an crumbling rail terminus in Buffalo, a three-story carriage house in upstate New York, or in a château, in France. I am very excited about a large-scale public art project coming up in March, in lower Manhattan’s Winter Garden, an enormous barrel vaulted interior space opposite the new World Trade Center.

RMG: What was the inspiration behind Running On Empty? Oshawa has a long history with the car – does this play into your exhibition at all?

HN: Architecture or geography serve as a point of departure in my curatorial work. I am interested in ways that the histories and physical properties of exhibition spaces impact the reception of the art that is presented in them.

So, yes, Oshawa’s, and the Robert McLaughlin Gallery’s history with the automobile industry afforded me the opportunity to pursue an idea that had been percolating concerning cars as a mediating force in our relationship with the landscape.

RMG: How did you select the artists in the exhibition?

HN: I seem to have a strange habit of keeping a lookout for potential off-site exhibition venues as I go through life, whether it’s a vacant warehouse or decommission school. I have thought that a wonderful old-fashioned gas station near where I live would be a terrific place to create a show about cars, and have kept an eye on it for years, wondering it it might close or be up for rent. Ironically, it’s up for rent right now!

From from the beginning of my thinking about this show, I hoped to include the famous traffic jam sequence from Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 film “Weekend”. I saw the film in my early 20s, and that particular imagery has apparently been tucked away in my mind for years.  It is quite fantastic.

Monica Tap_6

Early on, I thought of some of the artists that are in Running On Empty, including Kim Adams and John Massey. I met Elinor Whidden while on a residency in Newfoundland, and Ioved the way she links cars and highways with historical notions of landscape. Her work inspired a shift in my musings about this possible show, away from auto bodies, toward the idea of the car as transportation device, particularly in relationship to the vast landscapes of Canada. I have previously worked with Monica Tap and Seth Scriver, both of whom have works that are very well suited to this idea – Seth’s film was made in collaboration with Shayne Ehman. I saw Asphalt Watches at its premier at TIFF, and was especially enthusiastic about the way it links with the Godard movie. I was interested in locating an artist who worked with taxidermy animals, in part inspired by a close friend’s terrifying account of hitting a bear, and the ensuing encounter with the animal’s body. It was through online research that I discovered Montreal based Kate Puxley, whose work “TransCanada” is a wonderful addition to the project.

RMG: We love the exhibition play list – can you please tell us more about it?

HN: It began with the titles for the show, Running On Empty, which is a 1977 song by Jackson Browne. That tune captures the groove of road trips, and for me, memories of listening to songs on car radios. At the same time, it refers to the ominous under belly of our relationship to cars – our reliance on fossil fuels, the environmental impacts, etc. The idea of running out of gas, both figuratively and metaphorically, seemed perfect for this show.

Last fall I spent an enjoyable afternoon with three dear friends with whom I took a road trip to the Maritimes thirty years ago. It was actually a cycling trip, but who’s counting wheels! the four of us began brainstorming the rich history of songs on the subject. Solidifying this spontaneous list-making experience, with the song’s names hastily written on paper towel, into a document for the exhibition catalogue felt like a wonderful extension of the way I approach curating, which is from the position of an artist. I take pleasure in bringing form to whimsical notions, and hope our readers will enjoy it. The playlist is not historically researched, it is a simple expression of our collective memories at that particular moment in time.

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Images
Stills from film Asphalt Watches, Shayne Ehman and Seth Scriver
Monica Tap, One-second Hudson no. 4, 2007
Kate Puxley, from the series Trans-Canada, 2011-ongoing

RMG Fridays: 4th Anniversary Bash!

Join us on Friday 6 February from 7-10pm as we celebrate our 4th anniversary, this RMG Fridays is not to be missed! Our co-hosts for the night include The Honourable Mayor John Henry, Dr. Tim McTiernan of UOIT, Don Lovisa of Durham College, and Leo Groarke of Trent University.

The night is jam-packed with sights and sounds including the much-anticipated performance by Grey Lands, Wayne Petti’s return to his alt-country roots and indie rockers Howie Sutherland and The Indigos. Share your favourite RMG Fridays moment and check out the opening of Closeups: Margaret Rodgers.

On the first Friday of the month, join the RMG in celebrating local talent. The gallery buzzes with live musical performances, interactive art experiences, open gallery spaces, social mingling and more. Suitable for music lovers, youth, families, date nights, and culture-vultures.

While you’re at the RMG, enjoy a selection of tapas prepared by Pillar’s Catering.

Free to attend | 7-10pm | Cash Bar | All ages welcome.

Follow the twitter feed at #RMGFridays!

The RMG is grateful to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for their support of RMG Fridays. The RMG also extends its thanks to the Aked Endowment, the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Oshawa and the Canada Council for the Arts for the support of our exhibition programming.

Image – Margaret Rodgers, Fireman and Fan, Prospect Park 1900, 2014 and Grey Lands

Curator’s View – Jock Macdonald

This blog post comes from the desk of Senior Curator, Linda Jansma.

It has been an exciting journey to be involved in the development of Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form. As the “spiritual home” of Painters Eleven, it was natural for the RMG to be part of this collaboration with the Vancouver Art Gallery and Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Many of the 26 works by Macdonald in the RMG’s permanent collection are featured in both the exhibition and publication, as are other paintings from major public holdings across the country, as well as from private collections.

The exhibition presents important new research: a previously unknown diary that Macdonald kept while he and his family lived in Nootka, a remote community on Vancouver Island, correspondence from Jock to British Surrealists Dr. Grace Pailthorpe and Reuben Mednikoff, and a selection of 86 previously unknown works housed in the archives of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. The latter represents a link between Macdonald’s early forays into abstraction, and his fully realized automatic works and a number are included in the exhibition.

This wonderful photograph of Macdonald, taken at the opening of a Jack Bush exhibition in 1958 at Toronto’s Park Gallery, is also a recent discovery and a 2014 addition to the RMG’s important P11 archives. We are grateful to the Feheley family for their generous gift of this material.

Image – Jock Macdonald, 1958 Park Gallery Opening, Gift of the Feheley Family, 2014

Closeups: Margaret Rodgers

Selections from the Thomas Bouckley Collection

23 January – 7 May, 2015
Opening: RMG Fridays, 6 February, 7-10pm
Artist talk with Margaret Rodgers: Sunday 22 February, 1-3pm

Local artist Margaret Rodgers has created a new body of work as an extension of her ongoing interest in Oshawa’s heritage.  Using photographs from the Thomas Bouckley Collection as a jumping off point, Rodgers has created a series of mixed media works that ask the viewer to take a closer look at scenes from Oshawa’s history. 

Rodgers places a spotlight on captured moments of figures that are otherwise easily overlooked in these photographs. The act of featuring these people in her work is a subversion of the original intent of the photographer, but allows the viewer to look at the image in a new way.  Rodgers deals with incidental images, often grainy or blurry, but those that are suggestive of daily life at the time. Most of the mixed media work centers on bystanders from various historical Oshawa events, calling up the manner in which we all become background strangers captured in other people’s photographs at one time or another. The works featured in Closeups are displayed using recovered jewelry trays from the basement at 20 Simcoe Street North, a building formerly owned by Burns Jewellers and further referencing Oshawa’s past. 

Margaret Rodgers is an Oshawa-based artist who has exhibited internationally and locally for many years. She founded the IRIS Group, a women artists’ collective, in 1996, taught art subjects at Centennial and Durham Colleges, and spearheaded many projects as Director/Curator at VAC Clarington.

Curated by Megan White.

For more information, please visit www.margaretrodgers.ca

Image – Margaret Rodgers, Fireman and Fan, Prospect Park 1900, 2014

Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form – Special Programs

This winter we’re offering an in-depth  learning series about the artist and educator Jock Macdonald.

Over 60 years ago, Alexandra Luke organized The Canadian Abstract Exhibition for the YWCA in Oshawa, giving birth to abstraction in Ontario and a collective of artists who would go on to call themselves Painters Eleven. Jock Macdonald, a member of this illustrious group, is regarded as an early visionary, leading the way in automatic and abstract painting in Canada.

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery is thrilled to present Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form, the first major retrospective of the artist’s work in over thirty years and the only venue to host the exhibition, east of British Columbia. The exhibition provides a fresh look at Macdonald’s artistic practice and includes for the first time, previously unknown Automatics, discovered in the archives of The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art by the RMG’s Senior Curator Linda Jansma.

Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form
3 February, 2015 – 24 May, 2015

Opening Reception
RMG Fridays, 6 March 2015, 7-9pm

Talk and Tour with Pete Smith and Linda Jansma, Curator of Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form
Sunday 1 February, 1-3pm

ArtLab artist in residence Pete Smith will discuss his relationship to abstraction and the development of his recent ArtLab installation. Senior Curator, Linda Jansma will share the story of her discovery of the previously unknown Macdonald works, followed by a guided tour of Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form.

Symposium
Abstraction in Canada: The Legacy of Jock Macdonald

Saturday 7 March 2015, 10am-4pm

Lunch and refreshments included. Registration required $20 / $15 students
Free for RMG Members.

This one-day symposium will explore the life and work of Canadian painter Jock Macdonald, including postwar abstraction in Canada and Macdonald’s influence on the last century of Canadian art.  This event is held in conjunction with Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form —the first major retrospective of the artist’s work in over thirty years. The day will include an in-depth tour of the exhibition, a light lunch and refreshments and presentations from art historians, researchers, students and curators. 

Call for proposals

The RMG invites diverse session proposals that contribute to our understanding of postwar abstraction in Canada, including the work of Jock Macdonald and Painters Eleven.

Session proposals may cover history, theory and criticism, museum and curatorial practice, contemporary work, and artistic practice. Please submit your CV and a 300 word abstract to Elizabeth Sweeney at esweeney@rmg.on.ca by January 15, 2015. 

Website

In conjunction with Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form the RMG is proud to launch www.jockmacdonald.org a special exhibition website detailing the artist’s life with an extended timeline, live drawing tool and interactive gallery of artworks. This is the first time the artist’s work has been available online in an interactive, web-based format.

Catalogue

Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form is accompanied by a major book co-published by The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and Black Dog Publishing, featuring texts by each curator, an essay by scholar Dr. Anna Hudson, excerpts from Macdonald’s correspondence and a diary the artist kept while living in Nootka Sound from 1935 to 1936. Available at the RMG shop.

School Enrichment Programs
February 2015 – May 2015
Grades JK-12

This comprehensive school enrichment program includes an interactive tour of Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form, proving an easy and engaging introduction to the world of abstraction. Students will also visit the studio and experiment with watercolour and ink to create an abstract artwork inspired by the exhibition. Visit the Teachers Corner on our website to learn more.

OPG Second Sundays!
12 April: Amazing Abstractions                                                                                                                                     We are letting our imaginations loose! Inspired by the Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form exhibition, we create watercolour paintings, unique abstracted pinwheels, silly sculptures and a collaborative abstract floor art. Free.

Top image: Jock Macdonald, Untitled, 1954 (Detail), Collection of the Robert McLaughlin Gallery