Contemporary Canadian art is as unique as it is outstanding, with "Oh, Canada" a prime example. Designed by Denise Markonish, who had traveled for three years throughout Canada, she compiled some 400 studio visits for her art survey.
Not a new thing for MASS MoCA, one of the largest centers for contemporary visual and performing arts in the country, the notable museum had completed two other art surveys in addition to that of Canada: Laura Heon's Austria with a focus on Vienna, and China with Joe Thompson and Susan Cross.
With a dream of building the MASS MoCA's permanent Canadian collection that began when she was first hired as its curator some four years earlier, according to CBC Markonish finished her survey of Canada art works on May 26, 2011. She was more than prepared to do Canada and the Canadian artists proud in a Massachusetts art show that would last from late May of 2012 to April of 2013, billed as "... the largest survey of contemporary Canadian art ever produced outside of Canada."
According to the Government of Canada website, "On Memorial Day weekend, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams officially opened "Oh, Canada," a major exhibit of Canadian Art that includes works by more than 60 artists who come from every province and nearly every territory and span multiple generations and all media. With an exhibition space of over 14,000 square feet on 24 acres, "Oh, Canada" is thought to be the largest survey of contemporary Canadian art ever produced outside of Canada."
To many art experts, the Massachusetts's art show is considered vital to Canadian art viewed in the United States and for Canada. In Canada International, the Massachusetts "Oh, Canada" show, with over 100 pieces from 60 Canadian artists, is located in a major cultural and artistic center in the popular Berkshires region. Previously a converted 19th century factory building, the museum now has over 100,000 square feet of valuable exhibition space, allowing for the installation and performance of works that have few artistic boundaries. The year show of Canadian artists are filling MASS MoCA's first floor galleries in addition to additional indoor and outdoor spaces.
When Denise Markonish first visited Montreal before "Oh, Canada," she was representing Art New England, according to Berkshire Fine Arts. After extending her visit to see the art museums and galleries that were not included in the city's press itinerary, she found a world of art she did not know existed. A place that impressed her the most was Rene Blouin and his gallery on Saint Catherine Street, now on William Street. She asked him why his place and others like it were not listed in the official Gallery Guide. “You have to ask questions when you visit a city,” he said.
She began to notice the richness of the Canadian culture among the artists she visited with, in particular Montreal's French artistic influences. In the process, Markonish struggled to compile leads on what Canadian artists to seek out while also entailing First Nation artists. But overall, she sought to not just look for artists, but to understand the complex relationship between the US and Canada - our northern neighbors.
Visitors take in Calgary-born, Montreal-based artist Gisele Amantea's long flocking work Democracy, on display in the Hunter Hallway at MASS MoCA as part of the Oh, Canada exhibit. (MASS MoCA)
New Brunswick artist Andrea Mortson's You Are Loved. (MASS MoCA)