Since moving in with us he has been busy making new work. He doesn’t get out very much but I’ve tried to include him as much as possible in our active arts scene in town. That means a membership in the Dawson Arts Society which has a hand in our foundation year art school called Yukon School of Visual Arts.
The school’s gallery space is made available in the summer as an exhibition space, so last spring I applied to have a show of dad’s work. My proposal was accepted and we got slotted in for a two week stretch in the middle of this past July at the Confluence Gallery.
Summer around here is nuts, meaning it’s hard to get anything done. Add a few unplanned trips to Ontario into the mix and the clock for putting together a show starts running out in a hurry.
Enter my saviour Kerri Reid! She is a visual artist from Toronto who completed a residency here at the Macaulay House during this summer. Kerri made friends with Ilgvars spending lots of time hanging with him in his studio.
I asked if she’d help curate dad’s show and luckily for me she agreed. Here’s Kerri in my messy woodworking shop – the only available working space – with two of Ilgvars’ pieces that were selected for the show. I know she was especially partial to the one on the right.
In any case, Kerri’s input was a life saver. And it didn’t end there. Our friends at the Berton House writer’s residence joined the fray as well. Jeramy Dodds and his partner Brecken Hancock, both of whom are distinguished poets jumped in and helped pull everything together.
What a huge compliment to Ilgvars’ art that all three would take valuable time away from their own residencies to help do the work of curating, assembling and hanging the entire show. Over the span of 3 intense days we matted and framed over forty of dad’s works for a show that was scheduled to open at the end of that week.
Here’s Brecken on the left fussing over one of the mats from her long cutting list while Jeramy assembles another maple picture frame. I was working the chop saw, bucking up the lengths and feeding them to Jeramy’s station. Kerri did all the glass cutting. What a job!
And I am so, so indebted to these guys, I can barely express how grateful I still am. If it weren’t for their help it would have been not even half the show that it was.
We decided to go for a salon type of display for two groupings of similar work. By similar I mean same time period and format. My brother Oliver framed these six earlier. Ilgvars made these images since moving to Dawson City.
The purpose of the show wasn’t to display a definitive body of work but rather a casual survey of Ilgvars’ work from his time as a student at the Ontario College of Art to the present day which spans approximately 50 years. I think we succeeded in revealing his indisputable mastery of drawing, composition and use of colour. Not to mention his versatility of technique.
In addition to his private practice Ilgvars held some amazing day jobs. His favourite was working as a scientific illustrator for the Canadian Department of Agriculture at the Experimental Farm in Ottawa.
Kerri and I thought it appropriate to show some of his illustrative work, so we set up a few plinths in the centre of the gallery which held several binders that people could leaf through and admire. The drawing above is one of the examples that was shown.
As you can see the audience is mesmerized by my opening remarks at the vernissage of the show. I’m out of the frame on the right and did all the talking since dad didn’t want to say much although he was delighted with the way everything turned out. It was billed as a Father & Son show but my contribution was a couple of images where Ilgvars was the subject.
I’m showing Reinald Nohal (red shirt) around the gallery. He co-owns the Paris Café in Berlin which is home to many works by the postmodernist “bad boy” Martin Kippenberger and was a famous hang-out in the sixties and seventies for the local intelligentsia when it was known as the Exile Café. My dad is holding court in the background.
The feedback we received was very encouraging and supportive. I think people were blown away by the caliber of Ilgvars’ work. Let the postmodernists take note and learn about actual artistic skill combined with the ever precious “narrative”. Let them learn about truth and reject falsehood. The medium is not the “message”, rather it’s only a way to expressing a deep and enduring creative soul.
Many thanks to Tara Rudnickas for her photos of the gallery opening.