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Robert Amos: Contemporary art project is on the button

The Legacy — which is headquarters of the University of Victoria’s Art Collections — presents a show called Adasa: The Movement of Hands. You may know it as the World’s Largest Button Blanket.
The world’s largest button blanket began as a course project at the University of Victoria and was created by students.

The Legacy — which is headquarters of the University of Victoria’s Art Collections — presents a show called Adasa: The Movement of Hands. You may know it as the World’s Largest Button Blanket. A project of Carolyn Butler Palmer, the Williams Legacy chair in modern and contemporary art of the Pacific Northwest, it was created by students during the fall term of 2013, under the direction of Butler Palmer and her associate Peter Morin, a Tahltan artist, curator and teacher. What began as a “button blanket course” at the university led to the World’s Largest Button Blanket, which was created by students.


Though the exhibition at The Legacy centres on the button blanket, there is more. A series of photographs by Michael Glendale documented the process. A small but outstanding collection of contemporary fashions in button blankets is tastefully presented on mannequins in the smaller gallery. And Morin makes his own point by hanging four full-sized paintings by Emily Carr and “blanketing” them, hanging one of his own blankets over each. The project has already erupted in events involving dancing, singing, drumming and much else. This stimulating and multi-faceted show also involved UVic’s history in art department and its First People’s house. It’s a model of integration in art, history and people getting together to do things. (Adlasa: The Movement of Hands, at Legacy Art Gallery, 630 Yates St.,, 250-721-6562, until April 25).


Nearby on View Street, the Madrona Gallery is about to open a show of drawings by Shuvinai Ashoona of Cape Dorset. Here is a woman of our generation, looking about and reflecting on life as it is lived in the North: the community bus, the water trucks, the influence and imprint of the modern world on her traditional Inuit heritage. With wit, irony and a fresh point of view, her large coloured pencil drawings are already in the collections of the National Gallery and the Art Gallery of Ontario. It is a brilliant initiative on the part of Michael Warren, director of Madrona, to bring this exciting work here. (Shuvinai Ashoona, Feb. 15 to 28, Madrona Gallery, 606 View St.,, 250-380-4660).

A new book titled J. Fenwick Lansdowne has been edited by his son, Tristram Lansdowne, and will be published soon by Pomegranate Press. I’ll review it when it’s in stores, but I wanted to mention how much I enjoyed the chapter Bob Genn wrote about growing up with Fen.

The two were thrown together as gawky adolescents and grew up in each other’s company — and wonky cars — as they bird-watched their way around B.C. It’s a charming and personal tale of the old days around here, illlustrated with lots of photos and paintings. Genn grew up to be one of the most popular artists around, and Lansdowne became the foremost ornithological painter of his time. And it happened in Victoria.

Also eagerly awaited is the volume on Pat Martin Bates which Pat Bovey has been working on for a very long time. Bovey showed me some of the page proofs which will shortly be published by Frontenac Books of Calgary. Bovey was busy in Victoria last month, working as guest curator for the big Carole Sabiston show that opened at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria last week. There will also be a Sabiston book to accompany this show. (Carole Sabiston, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 1040 Moss St.,, 250-384-4171, until April 28).


Over in Oak Bay, the big news is the reopening of the Red Art Gallery, now kitty-corner to Winchester Galleries at 2249 Oak Bay Ave. Red began a few years ago as a way for artist Marion Evamy to meet the public in a little studio on Oak Bay near Foul Bay Road. When the artist was elsewhere, this first storefront was manned by her husband, Bobb Hamilton. They couldn’t help but invite a few other artists to show there. Soon the next-door shop became Evamy’s studio and the gallery got very busy. Now they have renovated a much more dramatic space in a high-traffic location, with the artist’s studio up on the mezzanine. You’ll be hearing more from Red. (Red Art Gallery,, 250-881-0462)


Allow me to mention a project of mine. My research about the life of Harold Mortimer-Lamb (1871-1970) has resulted in a book (by TouchWood Editions) and an extensive exhibition of the related artworks at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. This show touches on his activities as art collector, pictorialist photographer, art writer and, eventually, painter. When Mortimer-Lamb was 70, he married the beautiful Vera, who was then 30. For a variety of reasons, I call this story The Art Lover. (The Art Lover: Harold Mortimer-Lamb, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, until Feb. 23).

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