Quotable: Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

Sunday 27 March 2016

The perk of celebrating Easter early in the weekend is that while everyone else is hustling and gathering, I have a Sunday to read and relax. I've been devouring Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein, who is one third of the band Sleater-Kinney and co-creator of Portlandia, and it's endlessly enjoyable, but I especially took pause when Brownstein wrote about the band's experiences opening for Pearl Jam, a move that challenged Brownstein's perceptions in unexpected ways.

#AGHBeaverHall: 1920s Modernism in Montreal

Sunday 13 March 2016

I spent a lot of my early twenties snapping photos that I probably shouldn't have at Ottawa's National Gallery of Canada. I'd wait until the sombre-looking security guard turned away for a moment so I could document the piece of work I was admiring. A natural archivist, I wanted proof that I had been been in the presence of that exact painting at that exact moment.

I was never completely sure of the rules surrounding photography at galleries, but snapping photos always seemed like something I had to do clandestinely. That's why I am such a fan of the Art Gallery of Hamilton's new Social Media Influencer Nights that allow bloggers to get up-close-and-personal with works of art, while also photographing, tweeting, instagramming, etc.

If you missed my post about the first Social Media Influencer Night, see it here. 

The 1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group exhibit is on view February 20 to May 8, 2016, and it chronicles the bold and experimental group at the forefront of modern paining in Canada in the 1920s.

From the Art Gallery of Hamilton's website:
The painters associated with Montreal’s Beaver Hall Group (so named for the location where they shared studio and exhibition space) were among Canada’s most avant-garde artists of their day and yet until now their contribution as an association has yet to be fully researched and presented. 
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has righted the situation and organized the first major exhibition to shed new light on this pivotal association of artists. In essence, the Beaver Hall Group was to Montreal what the Group of Seven was to Toronto. But rather than offering an image of Canada’s identity through the depiction of untamed landscapes, they showed their attachment to the portrait and to humanized cityscapes and landscapes. 
The exhibition levels the art historical playing field. In locating the activities of this Montreal group in a national context, we are given a broader view of the artistic landscape in Quebec, Ontario and indeed Canada. This is particularly important as the Beaver Hall Group has always, in part, been characterized by its female membership. As the first association of its kind in Canada to bring together professional women artists, it provided both a community and public forum for their activities and the development of their practices, another sign of the Group’s progressive, modern nature.
The paintings in this exhibit are diverse and plentiful, but for me, a self-professed history nerd, the painstaking research and careful analysis that must have happened to make this exhibit possible are what blew me away. The exhibit places the Beaver Hall Group in history through ephermeral evidence — an invitation, books of significance, certificates. #AGHBeaverHall brings together art and history in an exhibit that would seem at home in a museum of history or an art gallery.

Also on exhibit is #AGHJohnScott, rather Fearful Symmetry: The Art of John Scott, which includes 28 works on paper as well as Trans AM Apocalypse No. 3, (1998-2000), "an actual car, which the artist painted matte, incising on the surface words from the Book of Revelation that refer to the apocalypse." Ah, the melding of the literary and visual arts.

Fearful Symmetry: The Art of John Scott is on view February 6 to May 15, 2016.

Gallery Hours:
​Tuesday & Wednesday, 11 am - 6 pm; Thursday, 11 am - 8 pm;
Friday, 11 am - 6 pm; Saturday & Sunday, 12 noon - 5 pm

Interview: Jenna Butler

Sunday 6 March 2016
One of my favourite books of 2015 was A Profession of Hope by Jenna Butler (and published by local publisher Wolsak and Wynn), so I was thrilled that Jenna agreed to be interviewed on Not My TypewriterRead an excerpt from A Profession of Hope here. 

1. What can you tell readers about A Profession of Hope, and the adventure that inspired it, that they won't read on the book's back cover?
Initially, many readers assume A Profession of Hope is about two young newlyweds striking out for the land to live some sort of Walden-inspired existence. It's definitely a different sort of adventure. My husband got into farming a few years off retirement, and I settled into it after major surgery. Our time building Larch Grove Farm hasn't been a mad nature idyll at all; instead, it's been a real balancing act between dreams and real life, which can be pretty tough in a Zone 2 growing area. So we have some great times out there, but we also have times when we struggle being off grid and organic in the midst of conventional farms, and also being two aging people. At the end of the day, the book is about creating dreams while never losing sight of reality.

Review: But You Did Not Come Back by Marceline Loridan-Ivens

I admit to judging books by their covers, but even more so, I judge them by their titles. I was haunted by But You Did Not Come Back even before I cracked its spine. As its title suggests, this tiny but powerful memoir is a painful testimony. It recalls Marceline Loridan-Ivens unimaginable experiences as a 15-year-old who was separated from her beloved father after they were arrested in France. He was sent to Auschwitz. She was sent to Birkenau. Only she returned.

I've read other Holocaust memoirs, but what makes But You Did Not Come Back truly unique is that it's written in the form of a letter to Loridan-Ivens' father, not only about her experiences during the Holocaust, but also about how his death followed her through every stage of her life, including influencing her work as a documentary filmmaker.
"I lived because you wanted me to live," Loridan-Ivens writes near the end of her memoir. "But I've lived the way I learned to back there, taking one day at a time. And there were some beautiful days, in spite of everything. Writing to you has helped me."
Reminiscent of Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, But You Did Not Come Back is not a testament of hope. It's unsentimental, grating, and difficult to read, because even though she's close to 90, Loridan-Ivens' pain is tangible. From its first page, it's clear that But You Did Not Come Back isn't going to brim with optimism.
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