I’ve always felt guilty about my feelings towards Emily Carr‘s paintings. I felt like I should like them more than I do. I felt like maybe I was missing something. I didn’t dislike them, but there were so many other paintings I’d rather look at. I guess my guilt comes from the fact that on paper I like everything that Emily Carr stood for and represents. I like that she documented different First Nations communities all along the West Coast. I like the fact that she’s a woman making a name for herself at the beginning of the 20th century in a very biased male dominated art world. I like the fact that she was so attune with nature that she actually preferred trees to people. I like the fact she studied in France and was influenced by the Fauves. I like that she’s a famous Canadian artist and sometimes it feels like we don’t have enough of those. I like all these things but unfortunately most of her paintings leave me cold.
So I went to the A.G.O. to see From the Forest to the Sea hoping to find that something I was missing. In the first few rooms I encountered the usual suspects: totem poles (a painting of a totem pole can never hold a candle to the real thing), very crowded compositions and tons and tons of green. My heart was beginning to sink and then……… I found them. Along one back wall were a series of paintings done in the thirties, executed on paper; they were loose, fresh – amazing. She actually mixed gasoline with her oil paints to give them more of a watercolour feel! I’d finally found my Emily Carr.
From the Forest to the Sea runs from April 11 to August 9th.