New year, new Agnes

A rundown of the gallery’s four new exhibits

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre is kicking off the new year with exhibits about the struggles of Indigenous people, women and quilters. 

The largest of the four new additions is Kent Monkman’s Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience, a multi-room collection of paintings and Canadian memorabilia in rejection of the Canada 150 celebrations last year. 

Through scenes guided by Monkman’s alter ego Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, the artist explores the lives of Indigenous peoples from present day in the North End of Winnipeg all the way back to Confederation. 

The first room of Monkman’s exhibit features a reimagining of the classic painting of the Fathers of Confederation and is titled ‘The Daddies’. The piece features Miss Chief laying nude on a Hudson’s Bay blanket surrounded by a group of visibly uncomfortable men looking at her in the centre of the room. Monkman’s outlandish scenario represents how frequently removed the Indigenous perspective is in these early considerations of our country. 

Another standout of the collection is titled ‘The Scream’ and can be found in the final room of Monkman’s exhibit. The piece features Monkman’s section on residential schools and the forced relocations of Aboriginal youth by social workers in the 60s and 70s. 

The painting depicts a group of Mounties and priests restraining Indigenous parents as their confused and terrified children are forcibly taken away. The Mounties in their bright red outfits and the floor-length black robes of the Priests clash with surrounding greenery and a peaceful house in the background. 

Sharing the space with Monkman’s ‘The Scream’ is another new collection called '“He First Brought it to Perfection”: John Smith and the Mezzotint in Early Modern England’. 

("The Scream" by Kent Monkman). 

This new exhibit, curated by Andrea Morgan, features the prints of many notable early modern artists like Anthony van Dyck and John Faber Jr. and focuses on the work and legacy of printmaker-publisher John Smith. 

Smith used mezzotint printing both in his own works and as a patron to other artists in this early era of mass-produced art. 

Alicia Boutilier, Chief Curator at the Agnes, spoke with The Journal about the significance of these new exhibits. 

According to Boutilier, printmaking is “like doing a drawing in steel.” It also allowed everyone to have a great work of in their living rooms because prints were much less expensive than paintings in the 17th century.  

Next, in the same room as the Agnes’ famed ‘Portrait of Man with Arms Akimbo’ by Rembrandt, is an exhibition titled ‘The Powers of Women: Female Fortitude in European Art’. 

The exhibit explores female power in the period of early modern Europe. The works feature men attempting to corrupt women through seduction or drinking that makes their beauty impure, according to the works. 

Despite these societal restrictions, Boutilier said the paintings in the exhibit show how women still exerted their influence and will contrive to do so despite these existing hardships. 

This exhibit asks viewers to critically reevaluate how they understand beauty and its role in gender-related power dynamics.

After this exploration of middle age gender dynamics, viewers come upon the last of the new exhibits titled Log Cabin: A Canadian Quilt

Curated by Boutilier herself, the exhibit explores the role of quilts in Canada’s early days. 

“Log cabin quilts are characterized by strips of fabric around a central square,” Boutilier said about the individual patches that typically make up a quilt. 

There are over 80 quilts in the Agnes’ final collection, with some of the exhibit on loan from collectors. One noteworthy quilt comes from North Buxton, Ontario and was made more than 100 years earlier as a gift to the community’s founder for the sanctuary he provided. According to Boutilier, the community of North Buxton was founded for runaway slaves and others looking to escape the United States. 

These new and unique additions to the Agnes, from the calming quilts to the heartbreaking depictions of colonization, explore a part of history that has gone overlooked.  

This year, the Agnes presents the stories of people and places in a new light so viewers can better appreciate what has been surmounted and what still needs to be overcome so that all Canadians are truly equal. 

 

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.