Curator: Bianca Elke, Museum Studies Intern
Works from the recent gift by Jim Coutts.
The works of art presented in this exhibition capture sunlight and untamed nature while providing a sense of peacefulness. Endless prairie, windswept grass, the silent sunshine and vast skies depict a land with no paths and no trails. This is an ever-changing land of native grass and hills that is eternally dominated by the seasons.
During the summer, native wild grasses and flowers nurture the indigenous animals. The sky takes on ominous colors when the early evening light plays against the dark edge of an approaching prairie storm. When the days get shorter and the cold invades, the sun starts setting on the perfectly white plain; no dark objects visible, everything covered with the white mantle of snow.
Although the prairies are often accused of being monotonous, it is their vastness and simplicity that makes this geography so hauntingly beautiful. These enchanting landscapes evoke a sense of belonging and home for many people, including Jim Coutts, and they have provided continual substance to artists, songwriters and poets.
I chose to curate this exhibition that revolves around a prairie theme because many local people can relate to these works of art that so easily render feelings of nostalgia. I grew up in Germany, but my affinity for prairie scenery comes from the many stories told by my father, who grew up in Warner, Alberta, a small farmers community 70 km outside of Lethbridge. He has childhood memories of the first rainstorms in the summer, which created the most beautiful moody skies, along with the sunsets in the country that gave the prairie grasses a beautiful glow. The long workdays in the fields during the summer and fall, followed by the preparation for a long, cold winter. The memories of the first gentle snowflakes covering the earth in white, while the Canada geese prepare to leave their native surroundings and make their way south. These and other happy memories told to me by my father made me pursue this exhibition and represent my longing for this captivating landscape of the prairies.
– Bianca Elke
Museum Studies Intern, Dept. of Art