An underrated and beautiful part of the Mt. A campus is the Owens Art Gallery. The gallery hosts a multitude of rotating exhibitions so there is always something new going on at the Owens. To learn a bit more about the Owens’ current slate of exhibitions, I spoke to Lucy MacDonald, the Curator of Education and Community Outreach, about e what is currently on display at the Owens, including a new nature-based gallery.
Before interviewing MacDonald, I took a minute to explore the Owens, and was quickly drawn in by an exhibit. Behind a wall, where it said Solaris in bold text, was a dark room, in which there was a projector set up. I saw animals of ice being melted and then reforming into other animals of ice and melting again in an entrancing continuous cycle. This is the work of collaborative Canadian artists Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky. “They have been working together for 25 years, and, in fact, their first exhibition together […]was at the Owens. […] They have a connection to this community that goes way back,” MacDonald said. Their works are based on community. The ice animals were originally all two-dimensional sculptures that were shaped in workshops with about 130 Sackville locals. The artists then proceeded to take the sculptures back to their studio and made molds to cast the sculptures in ice. The ice sculptures were then left to melt, and the artists recorded the progress. The participants were also asked to do one line drawings which would all come together to make one large circular drawing. The final addition was to make a soundtrack of three compositions. One based on each rain, streams, and waves by making simple musical instruments whose sound mimicked water. “Those workshops were rooted in the theme of the water cycle and this idea that water connects all living things, and the premise that all water on earth has always been here and cycles through life, and the oceans, and bodies of water, and through that we are all connected to all living things,” MacDonald explained, opening my eyes to the depth of this entrancing exhibit.
The second nature-based exhibition new to the Owens Gallery, of a feather, is exactly what it sounds like. Of a feather is a bird-based art exhibit created by Thaddeus Holownia and Karen Stentaford in memory of Gay Hansen. Hansen was very connected to Mt. A and was a professor of ornithology, and the life partner of Holownia. The works were created after the passing of Hansen, and the delicate bird feathers were created in a state of grief. In the words of MacDonald, “It is a very beautiful and special exhibition.” Lucy explained Stentaford is also an artist based in Sackville specializing in photography. She is a connected member of the community and a talented artist. The exhibit is filled with many different bird-based pieces of art. Feathers, photos of nests, feather patterns up close and more. “There are the nests, and two artists who are thinking about nature, about [the] environment, about how we are connected, implicated in nature and about observation. About slowing down to see the world around us, all of these aspects,” explains MacDonald. Some of these [aspects] resonate with Solaris as well in some interesting ways. It is another exhibition I would really encourage people to come and see and spend time with. It also, in the way that the photographs were made in observation and slowness, I think invites you to slow down and consider the works.” MacDonald’s meditative take on the exhibit beautifully encapsulates the feelings and meaning of the exhibit.
The Owens Art Gallery is a treasure on campus that is not always taken advantage of. “We’re thinking about connecting with people, and hopefully building curiosity and building relationships,” said MacDonald when asked about the goals of the gallery. “We do work on social media as well to give insight into behind the scenes of our process and what’s going on,” responded MacDonald when I asked where to find the Gallery online. The overall theme I felt from my visit was connection, and the exhibits and Lucy MacDonald made me feel like I was connected to nature, and to the gallery. It is my hope that more people will stop by to see these stunning exhibits, which are up until the end of this semester, and feel that same connection.