Art: “Black Gold” by Sandra Sawatzky.

I spent the morning downtown at the Glenbow Museum, which is currently hosting an absolutely incredible art exhibit: a 67 meter long (220 feet!) embroidered tapestry called “Black Gold,” by Calgary artist Sandra Sawatzky.  Inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry and split into 8 panels for ease of showing/viewing, this is the complete history of oil and its connection to humankind, from before we were even kicking as a species, during the days of the dinosaurs, through all the technological movements we’ve made right up to our modern car-culture.  Every detail of the story was meticulously researched and planned, each image/scene representative of people and culture and significant events on the timeline. I would have been impressed with the storytelling alone, but I can’t even begin to find words sufficient to describe the perfectly formed and beautifully executed stitching, the vibrant colours of thread she selected, and the stylized imagery and borders reminiscent of the Bayeux Tapestry.  I had to repeatedly remember to clap shut my gaping jaw; “Black Gold” is truly a masterpiece!

I was impressed by something I read in the artist’s statement about the medium of embroidery on fabric – Sawatzky is also a filmmaker, and she commented on the fact that the USB flash drives, external hard drives, and the computers we are currently using to edit and save film images will not survive far into the future (hopefully we will be able to save the data in a new way!), but she was resolved to create something far more durable and lasting with the cloth and thread that comprise “Black Gold.”  (In another gallery of the museum was an exhibit called Eye of the Needle; in it, there were gorgeous examples of different types of embroidery and beadwork, as well as projects detailing the quilling and tufting artistry of Canadian Indigenous people.  Some of the items were modern, while others were over a century old – an indication of the longevity of the medium).

It took Sawatzky nine years to complete “Black Gold” from start to finish, and you can read details of how she went about the work on her project blog, here.  (This separate link will take you to the Glenbow Museum’s site, where you can read about the exhibit. As the webpages change to reflect new exhibits, this link won’t last beyond May 2018, I believe, but you can at least read it now).

Next time I feel daunted by a large task (creative or otherwise), I will have to immediately remind myself of “Black Gold” and the beyond-impressive amount of work that went into it.  I am so pleased to have had the chance to see it. (And it was also delightful taking in some of the fantastic abstract paintings of Lawren Harris – one of the members of the Group of Seven – which were on display at the Museum in a separate gallery).

Art: Outfit for the Afterlife.

A former co-worker of mine is currently holding an art exhibit at the Glenbow Museum here in Calgary and I finally managed to take it in yesterday afternoon (it ends on 5 September). Beyond the significance and meaning of the work, anyone interested in textile design and beadwork would be captivated by Pamela Norrish’s “Outfit for the Afterlife,” which features half a million glass beads.  There isn’t a stitch of fabric here – the garments are created entirely from beads, painstakingly strung together with nylon thread. Not a single detail is missed – from the frayed, worn knees, rivets, zipper, and durable seams on the jeans, to the pocket and label on the t-shirt. To say that it is incredible is a massive understatement…and that’s even before you read about why she created it and how long it took her to do it.  The piece was surrounded by works from other artists that reflected a similar theme, among them the black garments of a Victorian widow, an exquisite bead-and-embroidery velvet vest created and worn by a Ukrainian-Polish girl who had been imprisoned in Germany during World War II, and several beaded birth amulets made by indigenous North American peoples.

To read a review of the exhibit and see photos of Pamela’s “Outfit,” click here.

The curator of the exhibit wrote this piece for the Museum (unfortunately, I fear this link will not be permanent, but you will be able to read it until the show ends): click here.