On a recent trip to Toronto, I met my arty friend Helen to see the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) exhibit “From the Forest to the Sea: Emily Carr in British Columbia”.
It is a fabulous exhibit, a retrospective of Carr’s work from the first half of the 20th Century, including her much loved totem poles and her interpretations of British Columbia’s majestic landscape. I loved seeing the progression of her work from timid first steps through photo realistic depiction to a confident artist who utilized bold brushstrokes and instilled her feelings and emotions into her pieces.
I was so taken with the show and the artist that I purchased Emily Carr—A Biography by Maria Tippett to learn more.
Between the book and the exhibition, here are 5 things I have learned about Emily Carr:
1. She was finally recognized as an accomplished artist not until her mid 50’s and became an award winning published author at age 70! (There’s still hope for me!!)
2. She gave new meaning to the term mixed media. Late in her career, she began using manilla paper for her support and white house paint mixed with artist pigments, thinned with GASOLINE!!! Emily was also a smoker, which could have made for an explosive revelation!
3. Emily was a lover of nature and the outdoors. She often fell ill when she studied/worked in the studio but flourished when she worked “en plein air”.
4. During her life she had several careers besides artist; namely, teacher cartoonist, decorator, landlady, dog breeder, tamer of wild animals, rug hooker, writer, potter, camper/hiker.
5. As an artist, she felt that she could only truly share her gift when she painted something she cared about—the totem poles and villages of remote British Columbia.
Emily was a fascinating, sometimes cranky, always strong-willed, woman who lived and worked in a time where women were not encouraged to be independent and forge a life of their own.
The exhibition at the AGO continues until August 9th, so if you find yourself in Toronto between now and then, you really must go and see it!