Glorious and Free
March 1 – April 5, 2013
Helen Christou Gallery
Curator: David Smith, Museum Studies Intern
Works from the U of L Art Collection
Objects for this exhibition were selected on the basis of their distinctly Canadian visual aesthetics. Each work of Canadiana evokes a sense of place within the viewer. National identity is complicated and problematic to define as it is constructed from multiple sources including language, history, music, food, media and symbols. Relations between France, Britain, the United States and the Aborigional Peoples are ones that have historically formed and continue to shape current Canadian culture. As an intricate and delicate device it would take a thick instruction manual to comprehend in all its complexity.
Representing Canadian national identity through imagery is a difficult task because of the nation’s intermittently contentious history. The pieces of iconography included in this exhibition are highly charged works infused with politics and ideology. In some cases, decades have passed between the creation of the work and the present exhibition, but the works remain powerful images nonetheless.
An exploration of Canadiana in art would not be complete without a consideration of the landscape. The rugged terrain has been a significant factor influencing Canadian identity. Harsh winters threaten survival and act as a collective obstacle which has brought Canadians together while the dramatic landscape from coast to coast is something on which we continue to capitalize through the tourism industry.
It may be difficult to define what Canadian identity is, but it is not difficult to explain the way we market our identity to tourists. One need only look at a standard Canadian gift shop to see the wildlife shirts, bottles of maple syrup, plastic totem poles and postcards of Mounties to understand that the lighthearted approach to representing Canadian culture is a position that is occupied with great pride.
– David Smith
Museum Studies Intern