University of Calgary: Exhibition explores intersecting histories of art, craft, feminism and textiles

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Prairie Interlace: Weaving, Modernisms and the Expanded Frame, 1960 – 2000 is an ambitious exhibition project that opened Sept. 9 in Nickle Galleries, a part of Libraries and Cultural Resources at UCalgary. Prairie Interlace examines the explosion of innovative textile-based art on the Canadian Prairies during the second half of the 20th century. Although largely overlooked in histories of prairie art and craft, this was a period of intense energy and creativity.

A collaboration between Nickle Galleries and MacKenzie Art Gallery of Regina, Prairie Interlace is a travelling exhibition drawing on public and private collections from across Canada, including 60 works by 48 artists. Working across the Prairies, they challenged traditional approaches to weaving and embraced new techniques, materials, forms, and scale.

“Looking back a generation, the transformation of weaving, crochet and rug hooking into contemporary forms of artistic expression is nothing short of breathtaking,” says Timothy Long, head curator, MacKenzie Art Gallery and exhibition co-curator.

What we value about land, culture, history, art and politics is woven beautifully into every fibre of these works.

The exhibition examines several themes: new directions in weaving including experiments with and beyond the loom, the relationship between textiles and architecture, the influence of the Prairie landscape, as well as the relationship between gender and textiles and the impact of feminism.


“One of the most important contributions of this project, beyond the striking exhibition and important scholarship is the community we are building,” says Dr. Michele Hardy, PhD, curator, Nickle Galleries and exhibition co-curator. “We are grateful to be connecting generations of artists, artists groups and guilds, scholars and collectors by sharing their inspiring stories.”

Featured are a number of monumental works created for architectural settings, including Kaija Sanelma Harris’s Sun Ascending, 1985 (created for the Mies van der Rohe-designed TD Bank Tower in Toronto) and Marge Yuzicappi’s Untitled Tapestry, 1970 (created for the Minoru Yamasaki-designed Dr. John Archer Library at the University of Regina).

Other featured textiles include a life-sized woven tree stump, textiles shown at Expo’67, a series of hooked rugs by Indigenous and Métis artists, and an iconic crocheted feminist sculpture that challenged representation of women in art.

Prairie Interlace artists include settlers, immigrants, Indigenous and Métis artists as well as influential visitors. Among the latter is Mariette Rousseau Vermette, noted Quebec weaver best known for her large-scale commissions, who taught at the Banff Centre, as well as American artist Ann Hamilton, who studied in Banff.

Other influential artists include Ann Newdigate, Pirkko Karvonen and Margaret Harrison. Originally from South Africa, Newdigate’s fine, painterly tapestries explore identity and relationships. Karvonen, who immigrated from Finland, was inspired by the Prairie landscape, its colours and textures. Harrison is a Saskatchewan-based Métis artist who has transformed rug hooking into a vehicle for personal expression and advocacy.

The exhibition runs until Dec. 17 in Nickle Galleries, with further programming including artists’ talks and exhibition tours. Details are available on the Nickle Galleries website.

Prairie Interlace is curated by Dr. Michele Hardy, PhD, of Nickle Galleries, Timothy Long of MacKenzie Art Gallery and Dr. Julia Krueger, PhD, independent curator. The exhibition will show in three more galleries in Western Canada in the coming months: the Mann Art Gallery in Prince Albert, Sask. (spring 2023), Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba in Brandon, Man. (summer 2023), and MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Sask (fall 2023).

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