The Curator’s View: Thomas Bouckley Collection, World War One

This post comes from the desk of Megan White, Assistant Curator. 

New to the RMG and to Oshawa, for the past couple of months I have been learning more and more about the history of the city as Curator of the Thomas Bouckley Collection. With more than 4000 photographs in the collection, the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” certainly rings true, with each image acting as a storyteller of Oshawa’s past.

Doing research for upcoming exhibitions can, at times, take me to some pretty unusual places. One lesson that I’ve learned from my most recent research project is that when someone asks you “Would you like to go for a ride in this tank?” the answer should always be yes. Working at an art gallery, it’s not every day that I get to climb inside a large Sherman tank from WW2 or go for a ride in an M113 A1 APC tank, but when the opportunity presented itself on a recent trip to the Ontario Regiment Museum, I couldn’t say no.

This spring, I have been delving into the history of Oshawa during World War One–the topic of the upcoming Thomas Bouckley exhibition, opening in early September. We have a large collection of photographs taken between 1914-1919, demonstrating what Oshawa was like during the War. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, this exhibition is part of a partnership between the RMG, the Oshawa Community Museum, the City of Oshawa, the Ontario Regiment Museum, the Oshawa Public Libraries, Trent University, Heritage Oshawa and Rogers TV. This partnership provides educational programming throughout the year, to build awareness of the significance of the First World War in Oshawa.

Soldiers at Grand Trunk Railway Station, 1915  The Thomas Bouckley Collection, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa

Soldiers at Grand Trunk Railway Station, 1915
The Thomas Bouckley Collection, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa

 

Commanding Officer Addressing Battalion, 1916  The Thomas Bouckley Collection, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa

Commanding Officer Addressing Battalion, 1916
The Thomas Bouckley Collection, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa

The best way to gather as much information about this piece of Oshawa’s history was to utilize resources outside of the Bouckley Collection and turn to other institutions in Oshawa as a way of enhancing my research. That took me to the Oshawa Community Museum where I sifted through archival documents about Oshawa’s 116th Battalion, read newspapers from 1916, as well as to the Ontario Regiment Museum for a tour of their newly renovated building filled with interesting artifacts and photographs.

This is perhaps one of the best perks of working in the arts/culture/heritage sector–having access to such fascinating pieces of history and learning from other museums (not to mention always getting the best behind-the-scenes tours). It just doesn’t get much better than the wind whipping through your hair as you roll over a muddy field in a tank.

If you would like to see a tank in action, the Ontario Regiment Museum holds demonstrations once a month at their location at 1000 Stevenson Road North, Oshawa. Click here to read more.

For more information about upcoming WWI events and lectures through 2014, visit http://oshawarememberswwi.com/.

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The Curator’s View: Thomas Bouckley Collection, An Art Perspective Part 2

This post comes from the desk of Sonya Jones, Curator of the Thomas Bouckley Collection.

While studying and reviewing the photographs in the Thomas Bouckley Collection, I’m always looking for new ways to re-contextualize and interpret the Collection. What’s refreshing is that no matter how well I think I know the collection, I’m always pleasantly surprised to discover something new, or see something in a different light. For example, in a blog posted in 2012, (click here to view) I put on art historical lenses and selected a number of images from the collection that reminded me of famous artworks.

Since then, I’ve discovered more images that have similarities to artworks, whether through subject, composition, or both. Just for fun, here are a few more examples:

Watteau (1)

Jean Antoine Watteau Mezzetin, c. 1718

Jimmy Jacques

Jimmy Jacques With A Williams Banjo, 1910

Holbein

Hans Holbein  The Ambassadors, 1533

White Brothers

William and Wilkie White, 1890

Lowry

L.S. Lowry The Fever Van, 1935

Traffic Signals

Traffic Signals at the Four Corners, 1920

Hopper

Edward Hopper Office at Night, 1940

Tax Office

Tax Office, City Hall, 1957

McLaughlin

Isabel McLaughlin Untitled, undated

Sand filter Plant

Sand Filter Plant, Oshawa Harbour, 1919

Interested in exploring the Thomas Bouckley Collection? You can browse the collection online through our website here.

The Virgin Mary with Saints by Bernardo Daddi

The Curator’s View: The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic

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

I experienced an interesting art crossover a couple of weeks ago during Toronto’s Luminato Festival. We had purchased tickets for The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic when they first came out last fall and were looking forward to the North American debut of Robert Wilson’s take on the life of the internationally renowned performance artist. We went into Toronto early on Saturday after realizing that the AGO’s Revealing the Early Renaissance exhibition was closing and this would be the final opportunity to take in the opulence of early 14th century Florentine art.

The Virgin Mary with Saints by Bernardo Daddi

The Virgin Mary with Saints by Bernardo Daddi

The Renaissance exhibition was beautiful in every way—the crucifixes, manuscripts, alter pieces, stained glass—hard not to find something that wasn’t worthy of contemplation. The installation, of course, lent itself to a considered study: benches that resembled pews, rich wall colour from which the gold leaf shone, and heavenly choral music drifting through the spaces. The stage was expertly set.

Willem Dafoe and Marina Abramovic

Willem Dafoe and Marina Abramovic

Not unlike Wilson’s adaptation of Abramovic’s life. When entering the theatre, three “Marina’s” were lying in repose on coffin-shaped structures with three Doberman Pinschers wandering around and through the sarcophagi. Talk about setting the stage. From there the story unfolded, expertly narrated by Willem Dafoe, of Abramovic’s survival of her cruel mother and eventual rise to the highest respect of the international art world. There was heart-wrenching tales of physical and emotional abuse endured by the respected performance artist known for her incredible feats of endurance (her most recent performance at the Museum of Modern Art where she sat facing various visitors for 736 hours and 30 minutes—every hour that the museum was open during the run of her retrospective exhibition, comes to mind. It was simultaneously unnerving and fascinating to watch her motionless engagement).

The interesting thing was some of those crossovers that I mentioned at the beginning of this blog. Both the exhibition at the AGO and Abramovic’s performance were visually lavish, demanding the audience’s full attention. The narratives were similar: Abramovic’s suffering could easily be equated to Christ’s as well as his followers. In the latter case some of the renaissance artists seemed to relish depicting the decapitation and stabbing of the saints, while Wilson did not shy from the various forms of abuse heaped on Abramovic by her mother. It was one of the final scenes in the stage performance that was strikingly similar to the AGO’s exhibition. Three “Marina’s” were suspended above the stage, arms outstretched in obvious crucifixion fashion. Then the red-dressed artist was rolled across the stage on a platform (more visual spectacle!). Having experienced the Renaissance in the morning, it was difficult not to see Abramovic’s “resurrection” from her past life, one which she left through the endurance of her symbolic crucifixion.

Read more:

Revealing the Early Renaissance: The Art

About Revealing the Early Renaissance via Globe and Mail

About the production of The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic via CBC

About the exhibition Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present

About the documentary film Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present

The Curator’s View: International Museum Day

The Curator’s View comes from the desk of Linda Jansma, Senior Curator at the RMG.

This Saturday, 18 May marks the 34th International Museum Day. The entire month is actually set aside as one in which we can celebrate our collective histories by sharing our heritages, cultures, ambitions and dreams through what’s being offered in museums, art galleries, heritage sites etc. throughout the world. This year, the RMG is one of over 30,000 museums in over 100 countries on five continents that will mark a day in which we examine our place within our community and how we can affect change through our exhibitions, programs, workshops, art classes, and concerts.

2013’s  theme, which is set by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) is

 Museums (Memory + Creativity) = Social Change

 ICOM states:

This truly optimistic theme in the form of an equation dynamically gathers several concepts that are essential to define what a museum is today, highlighting the universal nature of those institutions and their positive influence on society.

Harrington

Currently, we have Richard Harrington: Arctic Photographer installed in our Alexandra Luke I Gallery space. Large-scale black and white photographs of Inuit from the 1950’s showing beautiful, yet, at times, disturbing images. Interestingly, these arresting photographs affected change once viewed in the south. Government assistance was initiated to help relieve some of the suffering that people in the North were experiencing at that time. Harrington, through his creativity, affected social change. The accompanying sculpture by Charlie Sivuarapik provides both critical context and dialogue between a non-Inuit photographer and an Inuit carver who mediates, on a much more personal level, his experience of the North.

Oshawa Art Association Opening

Oshawa Art Association Opening

 

In other spaces we share riches from our permanent collection, a collection that is held in trust for future generations. And in yet another gallery, we are hosting the annual juried exhibition of the Oshawa Art Association. 250 people crowded into the gallery on the opening evening to celebrate the talent found within our own community. And, of course, that’s not all—our Imagination Station, CONTACT photography festivalcontribution with the work of Tom Ridout, and collaboration with local seniors to produce an exhibition showing the intersection of our past and present that points towards our future.

Tour Group

Tour Group

As the Senior Curator of the RMG, I feel honoured to be part of a team that is passionate about sharing both Memories and Creativity through art, music, lectures, workshops, art classes, and more.

I hope you can join thousands who will walk into one of those 30,000 museums and galleries on Saturday. There is so much to celebrate!

The Curator’s View: Blockbusters

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

One of my colleagues at the gallery, forwarded the following quote to me:

people who favour these shows [blockbusters] are like people who prefer to see cut flowers arranged in rooms rather than go out into the garden and see what is growing there.

Why then are people still so attracted to only seeing cut flowers?

I visited two blockbuster exhibitions this past summer: Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris at the Art Gallery of Ontario and Van Gogh: Up Close at the National Gallery of Canada, and, just a few weeks ago, Frida and Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting at the AGO. I had heard negative things about the Picasso exhibition, and, having gone to the Musée National Picasso in Paris many years ago, I understood those comments. What was “left” in Picasso’s estate was a lot of experimental work and some work, let’s be honest, that he couldn’t sell.

But the gallery was packed, of course; the name, being the primary draw. One of the best things about working in an art gallery is that, when I arrive early, I’m almost alone in the building—I can hear Ralph’s vacuum running somewhere… I get to experience the works of art alone, taking as much or as little time as I want. So, the crowds in blockbusters can make me grumpy.

Image

Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Dora Maar, 1937

I prepare myself for the swarm of people and look for the positive takeaway. In the case of Picasso, there were some superb mixed-media wall sculptures: cubism in 3D that I hadn’t really been expecting. There were also some really beautiful personal drawings.

Image

Vincent van Gogh, Giant Peacock Moth, 1889

Van Gogh, if possible, was even more crowded. There are advantages to being 5’11”, and seeing work over the top of people’s heads is one of them. I think I would have missed half of the exhibition if I were shorter. But the work was simply beautiful. Not the Doctor Gachet and vase fulls of sunflowers, or self-portraits with bandaged ears that people think of when they think of Van Gogh—but stunning landscapes and close cropped studies of nature. I love looking at how exhibitions like these are installed: butter yellow walls in one room and a light blue/grey wall in another; immaculate labeling—what more could one ask for? (Other than fewer people, of course!)

Image

Frida Kahlo, Self Portrait with Monkeys, 1947

The Frida and Diego exhibition was a Saturday excursion—with a week and a half left before the close of the exhibition, I didn’t have much choice. In this case, our 19 year old son joined us and watching him experience the work of these two Mexican artists and talking to him about his thoughts, brought an added dimension to this blockbuster. Kahlo’s work is beautifully detailed and trying to spend any amount of time in front of one work is challenging, to say the least, however, even a minute in front of these masterpieces is certainly worth it.

Leaving Van Gogh, we wandered into the exhibition Arnaud Maggs: Identification. A handful of people looking at the work of one of the country’s important senior artists (who passed away before Christmas): the recent recipient of the prestigious Scotiabank Photography Award and Governor General Award winner. Better numbers than the AGO, where we were the only ones in the beautifully curated, albeit smaller, exhibition of internationally renowned artist Michael Snow’s sculpture entitled: Objects of Vision. We were also almost completely on our own in the AGO’s Evan Penny: Re Figured exhibition that we spent time in after Frida and Diego (this third important senior Canadian artist was also new to our son, so spending quality time with the work was a bonus).

Image

Artist Evan Penny and Arial #2, 2006. (c) Evan Penny 2012

Will those who prefer cut flowers ever wander into the garden to look at the flowers in depth and take in the work of Maggs, Snow, and Penny? Isn’t that what presenting exhibitions like Van Gogh, Picasso, and Frida and Diego is supposed to foster—gallery goers who want to go beyond the blockbuster? The AGO and NGC did an admirable job of linking up three senior Canadian artists against four famous international ones. Now to get the crowds smelling the flowers from the garden, as well as the vase.

The Curator’s View: Care and Conservation of Art

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

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery is a member of the Canadian Museum Association and adheres to their ethical guidelines. Those guidelines include the following paragraph about collections:

Museum collections consist of natural or cultural (i.e. manmade) objects and intellectual property directly owned by the museum, as a public trust, and registered as part of its permanent collection, to be used for the exclusive purposes of preservation, research and presentation to the public.

This week, I read a plain language version of this guideline that came through the American Association of Museums. It reads:

Know what stuff you have
Know what stuff you need
Know where it is
Take good care of it
Make sure someone gets some good out of it. Especially people you care about. And your neighbors.

Well, the RMG has a lot of stuff it has to take care of and part of that care is conservation. Recently, two works from the collection were returned from a conservator that we regularly use: Across the Fields, Newtonbrook by Frederick Brigden and Nature Morte by Jeanne Rheaume. Both treatment reports include a lot of conservation jargon, for example:  “weave distortion,” “drip mark,” “consolidated scratch.” Suffice it to say, the paintings were really dirty and certainly did not look like they did when they left the artist’s studios in 1935 (Brigden) and 1961 (Rheaume).

Image

Before conservation

Image

After Conservation

Above: Nature Morte by Jeanne Rheaume, 1961

Image

Before

Image

After

Above:  Across the Fields, Newtonbrook by Frederick Henry Brigden c. 1935

The above photos give you an idea of the miracles of ammonium cirtrate (pH 7.8), EDTA/Troton, XL/Benzyl alcohol and citric acid/Brij. (Ah, if only there was a plain language version of conservation reports!)

Look for the Brigden painting currently hanging in our Permanent Collection gallery, and look forward to seeing the Rheaume to come out of the vault in 2013.

Sharing Our History: Augmenting the Thomas Bouckley Collection

The Curator’s View this week comes from the desk of Sonya Jones, Assistant Curator, and Curator of the Thomas Bouckley Collection.

Thomas Bouckley’s fascination with his father’s collection of historical photographs of Oshawainspired his passion for documenting Oshawa’s past. He was concerned with the condition of the historical photographs, and took it upon himself to learn how best to preserve and reproduce them for future generations. Thus began his collection, which continued to grow in various ways, one of the more unique being from local garbage men who found photographs and albums in the trash. Oshawa families would also provide him with copies of their historical photos. Additionally, Bouckley took up photography himself capturing images of Oshawa as it existed in his lifetime—for example these photographs documenting the demolition of Centre Street United in 1967 (located where Rundle Tower is today).

Before
After

His vision for the Thomas Bouckley Collection when it was gifted to the RMG in 1985—in addition to it being preserved, a community resource, and used in public programming—was for the collection to continue to grow and also to carry on his practice of documenting Oshawa. Throughout the years Then and Now projects have been done to show the transformation of the city, and donations have added to the collection. There are, however, still areas and time periods that are not well represented in the collection. In the spirit of Thomas Bouckley’s desire to visually document Oshawa’s history, I’m always interested in augmenting the collection and encourage anyone who would like to share their historical photographs to contact me. Seeing as Bouckley himself received copies of family photograph collections, I would continue this tradition by scanning photographs in order to enhance the collection. Everyone will benefit as the collection is a community resource that is available to search online, and in person.

Some time periods that are not well represented in the collection are:

1940s- WWII years
1950s
1960s
Oshawa Generals 
Oshawa Airport
Early photos of North Oshawa
Smith Potteries (located on King Street West near the Hollows)
Parkwood Estate
Lakeview Park 1940s onwards

With questions or to share photographs, please contact Sonya Jones
sjones@rmg.on.ca or 905 576 3000 x110