The Winnipeg Alphabestiary
January 12 – March 1, 2012
Curated by Mary Reid and organized by the Winnipeg Art Gallery
In 2010 the WAG was fortinate to have had the opportunity to acquire The Winnipeg Alphabestiary, a special project conceived and executed by international arts publication Border Crossings to mark their 25th anniversary. Border Crossings has played a significant role in the encouragement and promotion of Winnipeg artists locally, nationally, and internationally. The criteria for the artist selection was straightforward: all 26 creators call Winnipeg home. Whether these artists were currently living in the city or not was irrelevant as it is through their practices that Winnipeg has earned an international reputation for artistic excellence. Secondly, the work also had to be representational in its form which resulted in many exquisite drawings and paintings.
The alphabestiary format has a long history and is closely associated with children’s books. Generally, the alphabestiary assists the child’s development in terms of language (in particular learning the alphabet). However this process also lends itself strongly to letter and image association. One defining characteristic that seperates us from animals is language, and yet it is interesting that through an alphabesiary we use animals to understand the most basic components of our language.
The animals in The Winnipeg Alphabestiary shift between real life sources and wholly inventive creatures. As Border Crossings editor Meeka Walsh writes, The Winnipeg Alphabestiary is about “both Beauty and the Beast and Beauty in the Beast.”
– Mary Reid