Modern Art and I Don’t See Eye to Eye

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I have kept my lips sealed, tongue tied and fingers off my keyboard for nine months on my only experience at the Remai Modern.

Elaine Hnatyshyn’s column in last week’s paper inspired me to say something. I found the work at the gallery interesting, but I didn’t see what I expected and what I wanted to see.

It became apparent that I don’t get modern art, and likely never will. We all have our likes, dislikes and take-it-or-leave-its. I do recognize and appreciate the talent of those who create art in all forms, but I would categorize myself as someone in the take-it-or-leave-it crowd. 

On the day of my visit, many people seemed to appreciate what they were seeing. I struggled to tell if they really liked it, or professed to like it because it’s in a swanky art gallery. I suspect it might be a bit of both. 

Given there were 420,000 visits in the gallery’s first year, you could say, “what does he know, he should keep his yap shut and he should go watch pro wrestling.”

But I will forge ahead.

More paintings and sculptures and works of that ilk would draw me back to Remai Modern. And I would like to see part of the gallery dedicated to the work of local artists.

Why can’t we give them the recognition they deserve in a way that won’t “cheapen” — in the eyes of connoisseurs — the feel of the gallery? I wrote “cheapen,” but I really mean “enhance.” We have amazingly talented people in our midst.

Remai Modern is a huge — and expensive — building. Surely, it can offer more diversity. Pound some nails into the walls and hang some paintings, for heaven’s sake.

Saskatoon isn’t Paris or New York, and we shouldn’t try to be. Travelling exhibitions keep the gallery fresh, but we also support all things local in this neck of the woods. 

Hopefully our new interim CEO — Lynn McMaster — will use her Regina roots to review the gallery’s direction. She knows what makes the province tick. 

Let’s not use last year’s success as a blueprint for the future. 

I encourage city council to make sure taxpayers are getting what they paid for. Council has been accused of meddling at the gallery. I say meddle away.

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McMaster comes to Remai Modern after 30 years in cultural and education sectors. She was most recently CEO at Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia. She has also held leadership roles at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and its affiliate, the Canadian Children’s Museum in Gatineau, Quebec.

Her resume goes on and on. It’s all good stuff.

“I am so pleased to be joining the team at Remai Modern, a museum with a growing reputation both in Canada and beyond,” she said in a news release. “It’s an exciting time in the museum’s history and I look forward to contributing to Remai Modern’s momentum as a community hub and a destination for visitors.”

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I have been wishy-washy on the site of our proposed new arena for quite some time. I was at Remai Modern for lunch — there’s some irony for you — last week and also took a gander at the area south of the farmers’ market. 

I can definitely see the new arena on that site. It would be a thing of beauty on the riverbank and I miscalculated its distance to downtown. 

My new order of locations is now riverbank, south parking lot of Midtown and north parking lot of Midtown. The city yards aren’t on my list. 

That said, my order of preferred sites could change next week.

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It was cool that the Saskatchewan Rush was set to honour a number of the University of Saskatchewan’s distinguished grads at their game on Saturday. Among them were three Sask. Party premiers — Brad Wall, Scott Moe and John Gormley.

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Silken Laumann, one of Canada’s greatest Olympians, has created a program called UNSINKABLE. It’s a website for people to share stories that will inspire people on their journeys with mental, physical and spiritual health. 

Those of a certain age will remember Laumann suffering a serious leg injury and then, just 10 weeks later, rowing to a bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics. It was one of Canada’s most amazing and inspiring Olympic stories.

“Since my accident and writing my book about my own mental health struggles, people have approached me to share their own personal stories about overcoming physical and mental health challenges,” she said in a news release. “It makes absolute sense to me that these things are connected — in order to overcome something physical, you need to be mentally strong.

“This is a forum for people to keep sharing their stories so others can learn and feel connected. We need stories that are helpful and hopeful; a celebration of how strong people are. There is a demand for a platform that shares lived experience and this is it.”

The stories posted on the site, particularly those written by young people, are heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.

“Celebrities” have written pieces as well. When it comes to mental health, we can learn from each other.

Have a look at WeAreUnsinkable.com.