The Associates of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (a group originally known as the Women's Committee and later as the Volunteer Committee) are ringing the chimes on their 60th anniversary. To celebrate, they have sponsored the publication of a new book about the gallery's home at 1040 Moss St., and are exhibiting at the gallery a few of the contributions purchased with money they raised.
Best known for their annual House and Garden Tour, and the efforts that help to bring us the Moss Street Paint-In every year, the Associates have been engaged profoundly in every part of the gallery's history. They not only raise funds but host events, arrange tours, polish silver, make boxes, sponsor exhibitions and do anything else that needs doing at the gallery. To a significant degree, the gallery was built by these volunteers.
The new book, The Spencer Mansion by Robert Ratcliffe Taylor (Touch-Wood Editions, Victoria, 2012), is a surprisingly searching look into the history of the building that has always been the heart of the gallery.
News flash: Emily Carr used to drop in at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria back in the 1890s, when it was a mansion known as Gyppeswyck. Her best friend, Ada Green, lived on Moss Street and Emily went there to hang out with the younger crowd - anything to escape her home life, where she was cramped by her bigger sisters.
Built in 1887 by William Ridgway Wilson (who also designed the Armouries), what became known as the Spencer Mansion was originally built for Mr. A. A.
Green, the local agent for the Wells Fargo company. With a stately porte-cochère, it stood amid Garry oaks about a block back from Fort Street on the brow of the Moss Street Hill. For those who have been up to its attic, its octagonal cupola has a splendid view.
After Carey Castle burned down, the lieu-tenant-governor moved into Gyppeswyck in 1899 and for three years it became Government House. Later, Myfanwy Pavelic's grandparents, the Spencers, lived there and it was home to a large and bustling family. In 1951, the last remaining daughter at home, Sara Spencer, gave it away to become our civic art gallery. And today, you can go in and see what a grand front hall remains - just enter the front door of the gallery and turn right.
With Ratcliffe Taylor as an able guide, we can not only poke around every nook and cranny of the house, but get to know the business and social standing of the many people who lived there, including original curator Colin Graham and his wife Sylvia, and even the various live-in groundskeepers. Taylor uses this house as a lens through which we can view the life of Rockland over the years, beginning in the days before electricity, when the property ran all the way down to Belcher (now Rockland) Avenue.
Cash donations raised by the Associates have, over 60 years, been used to buy contemporary artwork for the gallery, much of it local.
Theirs are almost the only discretionary funds the gallery has for the purpose. Among the works now on display are pieces they have purchased for us from Mark Tobey, Jack Wise and Harold Town, all of whom shared a calligraphic sensibility.
Richard Ciccimarra and Herbert Siebner are represented by some of their finest work. More recent purchases include canvases by James Lindsay and Jim Gordaneer, and a sculpture by Daniel Lasarkin.
The Associates encourage the gallery and you are encouraged to become an Associate. For more information call 250-384-4171.
PHOTOGRAPHY FINDS HOME IN APARTMENT
The apARTment gallery has emerged, like a butterfly out of a chrysalis. Also home to the Victoria Emerging Art Gallery collection, it has taken up new, bright quarters at the top of the red-painted stairs in the Mosaic Village at 1016 Fort St. (778-430-5585, theapartmentart.com). When I'm looking for a new visual thrill, I always stroll by. This time I found it.
Lu Jun is a young Chinese photographer from Zhuhai in Quangdong province. Lu sets up tanks of water before his camera, and then drops ink into them. The ink billows and swirls - click! Jun assembles several photos of these richly dimensional "vapour trails" and digitally creates a truly fabulous Chinese landscape.
Lu Jun is an artist who is on his way. The work here has grace and scale, and is executed with finesse. His idea of creating landscapes with these photos of ink swirls is unique and original, yet clearly evolves from a deep past of imagery. This is rich work.
Note: Last week, the painting of Pastry Chefs by Judy McLaren, a former artist in residence at the Fairmont Empress hotel, was mistakenly attributed to me. The error made it clear how broadly her excellent artwork is appreciated and we are happy to set this right.
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