Educational, inspirational and free (admission and parking), Esker Foundation is a great starting point when planning a visit to Calgary’s Inglewood neighbourhood. After exploring the fall 2019 Esker exhibition, my friend (Jane) and I enjoyed a tasty lunch, a walk along the Bow River pathway and a stop at espy. It was a great half-day! But I’ve already planned a return visit before the fall 2019 exhibition closes. Why? For one thing, I was quick enough to respond to an Esker e-newsletter that I successfully registered for an upcoming workshop. Just as significantly, it’s because I really want to watch Black (W)hole again!
Through December 20th, there are two exhibitions in the main space. My appreciation of the art was greatly enhanced by the helpful, printed exhibition brochure and even more-detailed content available via the Esker app.
Jeffrey Gibson: Time Carriers
The energetic colours Gibson used for his To Name An Other garments caught my attention even before I entered the Esker exhibition space. They are hung in a way that makes it quite easy to ponder each garment’s “name” – a courageous and inspiring action or event in defiance of circumstances the artist considers wrong. The short phrases are incorporated into the repeating print pattern on the custom fabric used for each of the 50 garments.
On the opposite wall, not visible until you’re well into the exhibition space, are accompanying drums printed with the same “names”. These are even easier to read and consider.
I don’t know about other visitors, but Jane and I each felt the need to choose one that particularly resonated. Mine…
In the space to the left of the garments is a a collection of structured, highly-embellished garments, complemented by photographs of people wearing those garments. These are from Gibson’s Anthropophogic Effect, based on the theme of inheritance.
I was drawn to the beautifully stitched quilts at the back of the space. Created in collaboration with quilter Robert Bernis, they showcase themes and topics that are personally important to Gibson.
Nep Sidhu: Divine of Form, Formed in the Divine (Medicine for a Nightmare)
Around the corner from Gibson’s vibrantly-coloured garments, Jane and I made a sharp left into the darkness of the viewing space for Black (W)hole, a short film by Nep Sidhu in collaboration with Maikolyo Anabi Alley-Barnes. Wow! The visuals were stunning and the music and vocals were engrossing. I have planned a return visit to view this film again – with the benefit of having seen firsthand several of the featured sculptures thanks to the inclusion of several pieces from Sidhu’s Formed in the Divine, Divine of Form series in the fall 2019 exhibition. As a photographer, I particularly appreciated how the video portrayed details from the sculptures.
If you visit Esker just once before the fall 2019 exhibition closes, try to give yourself enough time to view Black (W)hole twice – once at the start of your visit and once at the end.
Down the long gallery space between Gibson’s garments and drums and the window looking west to downtown Calgary, Jane and I spent a long time studying the intricate gowns from Sidhu’s No Pigs in Paradise Series. Each is so detailed and unique; I wish I’d downloaded the Esker app earlier, to help me better appreciate the thought that went into creating each almost-human form.
Around the corner from the window looking to downtown, three huge tapestries commanded our attention. Amazingly detailed and incorporating a variety of fibres and other materials, they are from Sidhu’s When My Drums Come Knocking They Watch series.
Down at street level, we took advantage of the rare opportunity to enter Esker’s Project Space, where we were introduced to Marjie Crop Eared Wolf’s ongoing project to learn Blackfoot. Iitsi’poyi is a drawing, sound and video installation that impressed upon us how one determined person can make a real difference when it comes to language preservation – and how difficult it would be to learn Blackfoot!
Iitsi’poyi runs in the Project Space through January 26, 2020. The fourth floor main exhibition space will be closed over Christmas and into the New Year, while the space is reconfigured for the upcoming Katie Ohe exhibition, which opens January 24th.