We’ll have more on this exhibition by Joan Scaglione in a later issue. But it’s definitely worth a visit to the MacKenzie Art Gallery to see. It consists of 18 cedar canoes — some simple ribbed structures without hulls, others resembling fully functioning vessels, although I wouldn’t trust any of them on the open water.
Consistent with the historical role they played in the life of First Nations and Metis people, along with early European fur-traders and explorers, Scaglione elected to portage her canoes into the gallery. The day she did (January 7), the mercury plunged to minus 37.5 degrees C, and the windchill was around minus 50.
If you missed media coverage of the portage, there’s video included in the show. It probably wasn’t her intention to do it on such a bitch of a day, but the fact the portage was undertaken in the dead of winter does lend an intriguing interpretive slant to Ribs of Sky, Ribs of Stone that I elaborate on in my review.
The stone, by the way, is a reference to the half-ton of black slate that’s also part of the installation. As far a metaphors go, it’s a pretty potent one for the harsh and unforgiving nature of Canada’s wilderness landscape.
Ribs of Sky, Ribs of Stone is on at the MacKenzie until April 11.