Focusing on the work of ten women artists, all born by the end of 1918, the exhibition Alberta Mistresses of the Modern: 1935-1975 shines new light on the establishment of modernism in the province. Working largely in Edmonton and Calgary, the work of these artists reveals the important role that women played in the development of modernism, particularly early forms of abstraction, in Alberta. Of the ten-member “Calgary Group,” whose 53 oil paintings were featured in an exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1948, four of the artists were women, including: Marion Nicoll, Janet Mitchell and Dorothy Willis. Of that group, only Marion Nicoll is still well recognized today for her commitment to modernism. The exhibition Alberta Mistresses of the Modern demonstrates, however, that there were many more women artists in this pioneering generation who contributed to Alberta’s cultural roots and the formation of a vibrant visual arts community in the province, and who were decidedly modern.
While they were largely painters (oil, watercolour & later acrylic) and/or printmakers (linocuts, woodcuts, etching, silkscreen & clay prints), the exhibition also includes some sculpture, ceramics and mosaics. Guest-curated for the AGA by Mary-Beth Laviolette Alberta Mistresses of the Modern features over 80 works on loan from more than 15 different private and public collections, including: the Art Gallery of Alberta, the Glenbow Museum, the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, the Nickle Arts Museum and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.
Mary-Beth Laviolette is the curator of the exhibition Alberta Mistresses of the Modern: 1935-1975. Born in Edmonton, Laviolette is a graduate of Carleton University in Ottawa, and spent ten years in the province specializing in arts journalism. She covered the visual arts for Arts National on CBC national radio, then returned to Alberta in 1982, where she wrote articles for a variety of newspapers and gallery publications, as well as co-founding and co-editing Artichoke(1989-2005), a visual arts magazine. She published An Alberta Art Chronicle in 2005 and Alberta Art and Artists: An Overview with Patricia Ainslie in 2008. Laviolette currently lives in Canmore, Alberta.
Alberta Mistresses of the Modern- 1935-1975 runs until June 3 and features 80 pieces on loan from more than 15 collections nation wide and is presented with the support of ATB Financial as part of the ATB Alberta Masters exhibitions series.
To accompany the exhibition the AGA produced a beautiful coffee table book authored by the curator and produced with the financial support of the Alberta Treasury Branch. The book features archival photos, indepth biographies and stunning reproductions of the artists’ important works and is on sale at the Art Gallery of Alberta.
If you missed the opening talk by Mary Beth Laviolette, the exhibition’s curator on March 9 at the AGA in Edmonton, you can catch it in Calgary on Wednesday, April 25, 7pm at the Engineered Air Theatre, EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts at 205 8th Avenue SE, Calgary. Free with reception to follow