In the first gallery event at the Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery since the pandemic began, Regina artist Marsha Kennedy celebrated the opening of her exhibition Embodied Ecologies with a limited crowd of attendees on Oct. 9.
Featuring works from the very beginning of Kennedy’s career as a prairie artist up to this year, Embodied Ecologies is a retrospective collection mapping the evolution of her work as an artist and a valued influence on the Saskatchewan art scene over the past forty years.
Curated by MJMAG curator Jennifer McRorie, the exhibition includes over one hundred works drawn from both public and private collections littered across western Canada to explore the conceptual theme of body and nature that pervades Kennedy’s catalogue.
Embodied Ecologies includes numerous mediums, like printmaking from the beginning of Kennedy’s art journey in the late 1970s post-modernism era, installation and sculpture from her mid-career, and paintings from the past until the present.
The exhibition is arranged in chronological order, beginning with Kennedy’s first piece titled “Qu’Appelle in Time” from 1981 displayed just across from a trio of paintings at the end of the show, completed in 2020 that have never been displayed before.
The juxtaposition is interesting as much of Kennedy’s work touches on the connectedness of humanity and ecology, exploring the body, motherhood, feminism, nature, environmental sustainability and colonial impacts on the land.
“Some of the work is quite provoking and other work is quite intimate and trying to introduce other levels of looking at art and our relationship to art, or in this particular case, looking at the way I present nature as a more intimate relationship,” said Kennedy.
An overarching concept of Kennedy’s art is exploring the connectedness between humans and nature and the problems and consequences that arise when this connection is ignored or severed — a message she feels is still relevant today.
“I’ve been talking about this subject for many years in my art, and it's mostly been from a point of view of trying to sensitize people, but also to make them aware and provoke them to think about their relationships to the environment, the living systems, the other species,” said Kennedy.
“This show comes at a time where things haven’t gotten better, they’ve gotten worse. And in some ways, I feel like my work is talking to people who already know this, but hopefully there’s things that touch them more intimately, to realize they’re serving this earth on the territory of Treaty Four, to think about the values of the Indigenous people here and across the world whose intellect and imagination have not been disembodied from the earth,” she continued. “It will hopefully bring forth something that isn’t whispered any longer, it's being called and yelled and screamed.”
The title, Embodied Ecologies, was selected by McRorie in developing the show, but Kennedy was pleasantly surprised at how perfectly it describes the body of her work.
For Kennedy, many of the pieces featured in the exhibition are ones she hasn’t seen in a while, and she is pleased to see them together in one space for a show like this one.
“It's a pretty wonderful opportunity and privilege to be able to see this work together,” said Kennedy. “They are all familiar to me, of course, because I made them, but it is nice to reconnect because this will probably be the last time I see a lot of this work.”
McRorie and the MJMAG were thrilled to be able to host an official opening for the show, especially a show that honours and celebrates the influence of such an important local artist.
The MJMAG is hosting two more opening events for the show on Oct. 17 and Oct. 24 at 10 a.m., with COVID-19 precautions in place such as limiting attendance to 20 people and requiring masks in the gallery.
The gallery space also features directional arrows on the floor as added precautions, and the MJMAG has created QR codes for all of the text panels in the exhibition, linking to the gallery website for patrons to read at their own perusal.
Kennedy will also be joining McRorie for a Zoom interview on Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. for a conversation about her career and her art.
Marsha Kennedy: Embodied Ecologies will be available to view at the Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery until Jan. 10.