Owens exhibit curates quirky combinations

Sackville-inspired project invokes trains, travel and humour

Inspired by John Hughes and the all-too-familiar sound of Sackville trains, the Owens Art Gallery’s featured exhibition, “Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Donkeys,” explores a wide variety of themes. The exhibition, featuring work from 24 artists, celebrates modes of transportation and the various ways in which artists interpret them.
Owens director and curator Gemey Kelly says that the exhibition’s title was inspired by the 1987 John Hughes film, Planes, Trains and Automobiles. To highlight this source of inspiration, the exhibit begins with a tiny screen playing a scene from the film on repeat, which visitors can watch with provided headphones.
“I wanted to use the idea of the film as a way to provide me with a theme for an exhibition,” said Kelly. “I wanted to pique people’s curiosity.”
The addition of donkeys was used to bring an amusing quality to the exhibit, but also to draw on other works in the Owens’s collection.
“It was a way of presenting our collection in an unusual combination,” said Kelly.
Starting in early October, the works will be accompanied by labels created by Mount Allison students.
Kelly teaches a museum studies course, and she and her students are interested in how art is titled, described and labeled. The opportunity to get students involved was another source of inspiration for the exhibition.
“I like the quirkiness of it,” said Kelly. “I like the fact that students are going to be involved. I like the way it brings all these works together and highlights the Owens collection.”
Indeed, the unusual curation adds an element of interest to the exhibition as a whole. Instead of grouping works together based on the artist, time period, style or medium, Kelly is interested in how different artists have interpreted the same subjects over the years.
To reflect this, the exhibition displays pieces from a range of time periods, with works as old as 1898 and as current as 2004. Kelly also made it a point to include pieces from a variety of media, including photography, painting, drawing and silkscreen printing.
Two works by Ottawa artist Eric Walker, mixed-media depictions of the trains which pass through Sackville, make up the centerpiece. Walker spent time in Sackville on residency and took great interest in the Sackville trains.
Each train is 64 feet long and is displayed on the wall opposite the entrance. They are made entirely of scrap materials such as flattened soup cans, old rubber, and nails. They are especially impressive in that they reflect the Sackville trains to the last detail, with all the signs, logos and labels clearly displayed.
A third mixed-media piece by Walker, Trains in Sackville, is also displayed. It depicts the Sackville trains in the center, with popular Sackville sights such as Mel’s, Waterfowl Park, and the Mount Allison campus along the outer edge.
“[Walker] went around Sackville and gathered bits and pieces of garbage, and then put them together to make an overview of the town,” Kelly explained.
Other pieces feature cities like New York City and Montreal, making for a balance of local and national, rural and urban.
“Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Donkeys” will be displayed in the Owens Art Gallery until Oct. 18. The wide variety of works included mean it will likely appeal to those with a diversity of interests, such as Sackville culture, donkeys, and 1980s comedy films starring Steve Martin.

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