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Meet the artist: Oh Susanna

Meet the artist: Oh Susanna

Alt-country folk songster, Oh Susanna, aka Suzanne Ungerleider, is renowned for her stirring vocals and poetic narratives, which she weaves seamlessly through her latest, and fifth, full-length album: ‘Soon the Birds’. Joining Kim Beggs and Justin Rutledge, she will perform her lingering odes as one third of the ‘Dark Strangers’ on Thursday, April 24th at the Yukon Arts Centre. Tickets $27.

How would you describe your music (in five words or less)?

Because I loath to answer this question I am asking my husband Cam to do it for me. He says, whilst stirring hollandaise sauce for our Sunday brunch: "Achingly beautiful and haunting." He's a pretty excellent husband I must say.

What is the best thing about your being a musician?

I think the best thing is the feeling I get after singing.  I can worry and question a lot but if I just sing for a while it silences those thoughts and can make me at peace.

What would you do if you were not a musician?

Without any practical considerations of whether I have the talent or training, I would be a famous Oscar-winning director with the sideline of a practice in psychotherapy.

What is the most memorable response you’ve ever experienced to your music/songs?

One of the most meaningful responses I've ever experienced is when I learned that a person had listened to my music to help mourn the death of his wife. 

Speaking of 'Dark Strangers', what do you appreciate most in your friends?

Their positivity, love, loyalty and sense of humour.

For more information about the artist and her music, please visit her website or Facebook page


Meet the artist: Michele Karch-Ackerman - Part 2

Meet the artist: Michele Karch-Ackerman - Part 2

YAC continues our conversation with an artist who 'sews for ghost', discussing Michele Karch-Ackerman's inspirations and aspirations. 

Committed to creating “healing work through the energy of [her] stitches”, Karch-Ackerman’s solo exhibition 'Foundling' is a gift of acknowledgement and prayer for unwed mothers who were forced to give up their infants between the 1920s to 1960s in homes and institutions across Canada. 

An integral part of this exhibition involves the performance of tea ceremonies, conducted in silent memoriam to these young mothers and lost infants. These domestic rituals are reserved for five participants at a time, and will take place every Friday at 12:15 p.m. beginning March 28th until May 9th (with exception to Good Friday, April 18th). Each ceremony will last roughly fifteen minutes. If you are interested in participating in a tea ceremony, please contact Participation will be determined on a first come first serve basis. Evening ceremonies will be organized if there is clear public interest. 

Foundling is currently showing in the Yukon Arts Centre Gallery until May 10th, 2014. 


Who are your favourite artists?

My favourite artists are many and varied.  I consider myself a weird hybrid of Joseph Beuys and Maud Lewis.  I love everyone from Annette Messager and Christian Boltanski to Betty Goodwin and William Kurelek...  Let's throw in Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt and Mark Rothko and Cy Twombly and add a splash of Henri Matisse and Vincent Van Gogh.  Season with Lynda Barry and Roz Chast and top with a sprinkle of Paul Cezanne and Frida Kahlo.  Oh and Modigliani!  And Paul Klee!  Oops, forgot Gustav Klimt.  Oh, and Egon Schiele.  Can't forget him.  Oh and then there is the circular water lilies by Claude Monet.  Now, that's a masterpiece...

What is your dream project?

I am very lucky because my dream projects are always the ones that I am working on.  At that given time.  I spend my life dreaming, really.  And then stitch those dreams into exhibitions.  In a couple of years I will have had forty solo shows in public galleries across Canada.  That's a lot of different galleries...different spaces...different communities.  Each one unique and wonderful in it's own way.  And always a delight.   One gallery I would love to be involved with is the Bronte house in England.  My current project would fit perfectly there because it's inspired by tuberculosis and Emily died of it.  But it involves so many little holes to hang hundreds of vintage rose plates that it would destroy the house!  Hmm...maybe it's worth proposing anyway...

What are you working on now?

The project I am working on now is called 'Little Flower Sanatorium' and it's inspired initially by tuberculosis sanatoriums but has broadened to provide healing and solace for those who have experienced life threatening illness.  It involves my hand stitching a hospital 'curtain' or room from hundreds of vintage handkerchiefs edged in tatting (which was used as occupational therapy for tuberculosis patients).  The show was inspired by my favourite saint 'St. Therese of the Little Flower'  (who died of tuberculosis).  Her saintly image is roses. She wrote ' I will send a shower of roses' in her memoir 'Story of a Soul'.  I've collected hundreds and hundreds of vintage plates with rose patterns (eating well was part of the cure for tuberculosis).  I plan to count every blossom and offer each blossom as a blessing to those in need.   At the moment I'm stitching the 'requirement list' for those who entered tuberculosis sanatoriums.  It involves three sets of pajamas, sweaters, socks and mittens.  Those sanatoriums were cold!

What inspired you to become an artist?

I think I was always an artist.  It seems very natural to me to have become one.  I come from a long line of artsy folk.  My grandmother (the one who inspired the Foundling show) won the watercolour prize at the Beaux Arts in Montreal, my grandfather was an architect.  My father made Jackson Pollock style amateur paintings in the backyard in the sixties and my mother dabbled in all sorts of painting and sculpting.  My favourite thing to do as a child was to read books like Little House on the Prairie and A Little Princess or look at my mother's art books.  It all came very naturally.  I do remember once when I was seventeen visiting the stone farmhouse of a family friend.  They took us across the road to a wonderful log cabin that was part of a studio tour.  In it lived two painters and their children.  They had their paintings displayed on the walls of the living room (which had been turned into a gallery).  I remember quietly saying to myself 'This is what I want'.  Now I live in the country in a board and batten house with a studio on the main floor.  I have two children whom I homeschooled and I make art for a living.  I think seeing the blueprint of that creative family helped me to create my own blueprint. 

To contact the artist, please refer to her Facebook page

Meet the artist: Kim Beggs

Meet the artist: Kim Beggs

A stalwart of the Yukon music scence, Kim Beggs is an acclaimed singer-songwriter who has just released her fourth album ‘Beauty and Breaking’ to rave reviews. Sharing her songs and the stage, she will perform alongside Justin Rutledge and Oh Susanna for Dark Strangers on Thursday April 24th at the Yukon Arts Centre. Tickets $27.

How would you describe your music (in five words or less)?

Broken pieces sung back together

What is the best/worst thing about your being a musician?

I get to write music. It takes much of my creative energy to promote the music.

What would you do if you were not a musician?

I would be a carpenter or a mother.

What is the most memorable response you’ve ever experienced to your music/songs?

Being on the CBC Sunday Edition with Michael Enright twice.

Speaking of 'Dark Strangers', what do you appreciate most in your friends?

They are dark and emotional. They create music with it. That is inspiring.

For more information about the artist and her music, please visit her website.

Behind-the-scenes: Scott Price

Behind-the-scenes: Scott Price

Since the closing of Jennifer Walden and Jane Isakson’s solo exhibitions, YAC’s gallery preparator Scott Price has been hard at work, preparing for last Thursday’s opening of Michele Karch-Ackerman, Helen O’Connor and Rosemary Scanlon’s solo exhibitions.

Artwork was carefully jigsaw-ed back into crates and packed for shipping. Walls were patched, painted and moved (that’s right, moved!). Lights were re-hung and re-directed. And only then did the real work begin: installation!

Our latest exhibitions in the Yukon Arts Centre Gallery incorporate some fairly unique features, including 98 floating onesies, a suspended film screen made of handmade paper, and unframed artworks mounted with magnets. As with any exhibition, much of the artistry involved with installation is unknown to the public, but in this behind-the-scenes look, we hope to reveal the creativity and craftmanship that makes every show possible. We talked to Scott about his experience as our resident preparator.

1) What is a gallery preparator? 

A person who installs art in an art gallery, works with the artist to make sure the work is presented in the best manner and light possible.

2) What are some of your responsibilities?

Some of my responsibilities include uncrating and unpacking the artwork when it arrives at the Arts Centre. I inspect the art (condition report it), hang it and light it and put up all the artists’ information including the title of show.

3) What is an average day for you?

An average day includes preparing space for the artwork, working with artists when they arrive on site, helping them become acquainted with the space and how their artwork will show in it.

4) What is the most exciting thing about your job?

The most exciting thing about my work is doing what I do, trouble shooting on the spot, hanging out and working with artists from the Yukon and across the country. I really like my job – the variety and the challenges.

5) What is a popular misconception about your job?

A misconception is that artwork is just there and people don’t realize the amount of work behind the scenes to get the work up on the wall – the amount of cooperative work to get a show up.

6) How did you get into this career?

I got this job by being who I am, by knowing the things I know. I am an artist and carpenter and these experiences I bring to the job. My first show was a result of being asked by the previous preparator to step in while he was doing other training. From there, I was later asked to take the job full time.

7) What is the weirdest thing you have installed for an exhibition?

The weirdest thing I’ve ever installed was a bunch of small houses held up with big chicken feet. The show also had a lot of other stuff, including painted chicken eggs and strange rabbits – but the fact that it was so obsessive made it such an amazing show.

8) What is the best thing about your job?

The best thing about this job is the variety of art I get to handle and the people I get to meet.

9) Can you tell us what is unique about the latest exhibitions in the gallery?

Unique about the next shows: Michele’s intensive investigative research into her subject matter and the heartfelt responsive selection of material and form in which her images present. Helen’s show is warm and joyful and shows her comfort of form, fitting herself into the work. Rosemary’s concentrated illustrative style weaves wondrous spirited metaphysical landscapes.


Remember to check out Scott's presentation of  ART THAT INSPIRES at our pecha kucha style event in the Old Fire Hall on Tuesday, March 18th!  



Meet the artist: Michele Karch-Ackerman

Meet the artist: Michele Karch-Ackerman

Michele Karch-Ackerman is a nationally recognized contemporary artist whose work is known for its provocative and touching mining of the 'smaller' and often tragic histories of Canada's past, commemorating those who died in sanitoria, the plight of unwed mothers, the sad childhood of the famous Dionne Quintuplets, the 'Lost Boys' of the First World War, and the children lost to pioneer mothers.  A graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design, her installations have been shown in over thirty solo exhibitions at public galleries across Canada, including a recent retrospective at The Tom Thomson Gallery.  She has been the recipient of numerous awards from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council, awarded residencies throughout Canada and has received national media coverage.  Ackerman has taught for over twenty years at the Haliburton School of the Arts where her teaching is widely recognized for its innovative and motivational style.

Karch-Ackerman’s exhibition “Foundling” is showing in YAC’s gallery from March 6th until May 10th, 2014.

1)  What is unique about your process?

It feels like everything I do is unique to my practice because I don't know of many artists who make clothing for ghosts.  I have always felt a little lonesomein that regard.  I employ traditionally female crafting and domestic arts: 'The Domestic Acts of Love' and utilize them in a conceptual manner through installation.  My work is tied very strongly to literature and history.  Penance and mindfulness are integral to my work.  Healing through service is paramount.  These are all practices that often make me feel pretty unique.  I have many friends in the ghost world.

2) Has your practice changed over time?

Yes, my practice has evolved.  The earlier works were much more intuitive and decorative and the later works more institutional and conceptual in scope.  I think that initially I was responding to motherhood and living in the country and the pioneer history around me.  Exploring using handicrafts and sewing as a medium that honoured my position as a mother and artist.  As time went on my projects became more specific and involved mining particularly tragic episodes in Canadian history and offering my 'Domestic Acts of Love' as a gesture of love and healing to those who suffered.

3) What is the most memorable response you’ve experienced to you work?

I have had many serendipitously spooky moments.  I work with the ghost world.  It is lovely to watch people engage with the work and tell their tales.  It seems that my work is a springboard for stories.  Each show has its own set of wonderful stories attached to it.  My exhibition 'The Lost Boys' which was exhibited at the Yukon Arts Centre a few years ago had a particular installation in it that took on a life of its own.  As I crossed the country I invited the public to knit sweaters 'for the war effort' in honour of the Newfoundland regiment that fell in the battle of Beaumont Hamel.  It was an honour to display over 500 of these sweaters (many with tiny letters of love hidden inside them) at the provincial gallery The Rooms in St. John's.  I originally had planned to exhibit the installation of sweaters as one complete organic surface covering a specific wall in the gallery.  But the soldiers intuitively guided me to display the sweaters in the shape of a whale which eventually led out to the horizon line of a huge window that looked out on to the ocean.  The soldiers told me they wanted to go 'home' float out to sea and to their villages that dotted the coast.  It was very sweet.

4)  What is the best/worst thing about being an artist?

The best thing about being an artist is doing what you love.  Making art doesn't feel like work at all.  I adore doing research and contemplating and thinking and imagining.  And connecting serendipitous dots is like winning the lottery!  I am working on a project related to tuberculosis and lace making at the moment.  I initially wanted to work with lacemaking because my favourite saint (and the inspiration for the show) St. Therese of the Little Flower died of tuberculosis and her mother was a lacemaker. What an exciting moment when I found out through research that 'tatting' (a form of lace making) was actually employed as occupational therapy for tuberculosis patients!   The ritual of my practice feels the same way I felt as a child reading The Secret Garden for the first time.  It is magical!  And it can be thrilling to spend years on a project and watch it come to fruition.  I also love the catalogues that go with my exhibitions and opening up a box of catalogues for the first time is pure joy!   It feels very rewarding to do such meaningful work for a living.
On the down side the work I do is penance oriented and can involve hours and hours of repetitive tasks.  It can be lonely and boring.  My work is not particularly saleable and I rely on exhibiting it at public galleries and on grants to support it.  During the depths of 'the doldrums' when I am mid process I can sometimes wonder why I chose such a rare occupation.  Why do I stitch clothing for ghosts?  But then I remember the answer!  If I don't, no one else will.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our conversation with Michele Karsh-Ackerman!