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Exhibit challenges the way Canadian landscapes are perceived Socrates exhibition challenges ideas around Canadian landscapes and art

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Photos by Razan Samara

By Adrienne Klein  

The Shifting Ground Lines: Shifting Pluralist Perspectives exhibition explores how cultural backgrounds influence their view of landscapes and use of land through framed depictions of Canadian landscapes, from Carl Ray’s Medicine Bear to Lawren Harris’ Lake and Mountains, hanging on the crisp black walls of the main floor of L.R. Wilson.

Shifting Ground Lines: Shifting Pluralist Perspectives is an exhibition curated by Brandon Coombs and a production team consisting of Beatrice Hammond, Sienna Suji Kim, Kyle Wyndham-West and Jennifer Yacula of McMaster University. It is composed of twelve photo reproductions of artistic Canadian landscapes and is part of the Socrates Project at McMaster University, which aims to shed light on pressing issues through interdisciplinary approaches.

The exhibition was originally conceived as part of a project for Art History 4X03 administered by Angela Sheng, an associate professor in the Art History department, where students were tasked with curating a visual exhibit. Beatrice Hammond, who is a fifth-year art history and English major, explained that her group decided to do their project on Canadian landscapes because they wanted to challenge and question popular ideas surrounding the meaning of Canadian art.

“When people think of Canadian landscape their mind automatically goes to the Group of Seven. That’s what we were taught in elementary school. Go to the art gallery, see the Group of Seven, learn it, but we don’t usually get to see that that’s not the only landscape,” explained Hammond.

“That’s not the only representation of landscape or Canadian landscape and there’s so many different representations. [W]e really wanted to shift the narrative… we’re shifting the notion of what is the conventional landscape and shifting away from the settler, colonial ideas of art and…what is beauty and what is landscape.”

The director of the Socrates project, Rina Fraticelli, trusted these students to make the entire exhibit a reality. They were given the upmost independence in the curation process. They picked pieces to include, framed the artwork by hand, marketed the project and were involved in every details from inception of the project to the closing reception.

“There were a lot of components to this and I learned so much about the professional art world through this experience. It was crazy learning how museums and galleries work and how to communicate with them and get results. Like how to get people to give you photo reproductions, how to get them to ship them to you, you know, just working with people,” said Hammond.

The reception for the exhibit has received a positive response thus far. On Sept. 26, Coombs gave a curatorial talk where he discussed the way that we create artificial boundaries in various areas of society and Hammond enjoyed watching everyone admire the pieces through that lens.

“[We] had Coombs talk about how the art relates to space and how we create artificial boundaries through our provinces and territory lines and how some spaces are delegated to some people while others aren’t so that was kind of cool watching people view the artwork while keeping that in mind,” explained Hammond.

Only a few of pieces from their original virtual exhibition were able to be secured, but the intent remained the same; to have equal representation for Indigenous and non-Indigenous art. The entire process shows the value of experiential education both for people leading the project and those able to appreciate the end results.

The exhibit can be viewed in L.R. Wilson up until Oct. 19, when there will be a final reception for the exhibit. People will have the opportunity to hear from the students who put the exhibit together and discuss it with them.

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