Talented peeps made 2015 a great year
ARTS FEATURE by Gregory Beatty and Stephen Whitworth
There are bigger cultural hotspots in the world but Saskatchewan packs a potent punch for a place with fewer than 1,200,000 people. Every year there’s more to see, think about and experience. Here is a sadly short list of a few things we dug in 2015.
Buffy Sainte-Marie Wins The Polaris Prize
Saskatchewan made Canadian music history in 2015. For the first time in its 10-year existence, the Polaris Prize was awarded to someone from this province. That would be Buffy Sainte-Marie, for her album Power In The Blood.
It was the second straight Polaris win for an indigenous artist — Tanya Tagaq having won last year for her wildly experimental Arctic soundscape Animism. Sainte-Marie’s album was in a more conventional rock/folk vein. Some of the songs were new, others were reinterpretations of older songs, and there was even a cover (the title track is a 2002 song by the English rock/roots band Alabama 3).
Sainte-Marie was born on the Piapot Cree First Nation in the Qu’Appelle Valley in 1941. She rose to prominence during the Folk heyday in the mid-1960s, but throughout her long career she’s always worked hard to grow as musician and keep her sound fresh and contemporary.
More Björk than Baez, more Kate Bush than Laurel Canyon, is how one music critic described her. Having seen her live a few years ago at the Regina Folk Festival that’s a description I can get behind. So congratulations to Buffy Sainte-Marie for her Polaris win. /Gregory Beatty
Every summer in mid-July I start compiling listings for our Fall Arts & Culture Guide which runs in late September. It’s always exciting because I get an advance peek at all the art exhibits, concerts, lectures, theatre and dance performances and whatnot that are planned for Regina’s fall season.
This year, we got to enjoy a bit of a Saskatoon invasion.
When I was reviewing the visual art options, Zachari Logan’s A Natural History of Unnatural Things, which ran at the Art Gallery of Regina Oct. 15-Nov. 27, leapt out immediately. Based in Saskatoon, with a BFA and MFA from the University of Saskatchewan, I’d yet to see any of his work. But in 2014 he’d scooped the Lt. Governor’s Emerging Artist Award, then followed that up with a residency at the prestigious International Studio & Curatorial Program in Brooklyn. So he looked like an artist on the rise and I was anxious to see his work for myself.
While A Natural History of Unnatural Things had drawings dating back to Logan’s student days, it also included several new works done during his three-month stay in Brooklyn. One multi-panel “tapestry”, in fact, was inspired by a visit to the Cloisters which is affiliated with the Metropolitan Museum of Art where he viewed the famous medieval Unicorn tapestry.
In contemporary art, drawing is typically a poor cousin to painting, sculpture, installation and new media. Logan’s deft hand and darkly surreal images blend human, animal and plant-based imagery to explore our troubled relationship with nature, and issues of male identity. Poor cousin, nothing: these drawings are compelling.
If you missed the show, don’t fret. It’s at the Moose Jaw Art Gallery April 28-Aug. 26, and is definitely worth a road trip. /Gregory Beatty
Comics Will Eat You
You think drawing doesn’t get respect as a legitimate art form? Try cartooning. Stories about comics and cartoonists still appear in newspapers under headlines like, “Wham! Pow! Zap! Cartoons aren’t just for kids anymore!”
First things first: comics have NEVER been just for children. In the 1930s, George Herriman drew Crazy Kat, a surreal meditation on the eternal cycle of love and hatred. In the 1940s, heroes like Superman and Captain America helped fire wartime patriotism. In the 1950s, Walt Kelly’s Pogo attacked McCarthyism. In the 1960s, Robert Crumb reminded the world that sex and drugs exist, and that mainstream culture is corrupt.
Dakota McFadzean, a Saskatchewan-born cartoonist currently living in Toronto, continued making his own contributions to the art form in 2015. His book Don’t Get Eaten By Anything collects hundreds of his Dailies — online comics that McFadzean draws, well, every day. From monsters wrestling with guilt over eating children to alienated ghosts to philosophical birds, his characters confront ideas and situations that reflect the beauty, horror and contradiction of life. It ain’t kids’ stuff though it’s often hilarious.
Dakota, who also draws the ongoing comic strip Murray Geister: Paranormal Investigator for this magazine, will take a break from his Dailies in 2016. But if you haven’t yet encountered them, Don’t Get Eaten By Anything presents a huge collection of strips waiting for your attention. The beautiful hardcover is available at better comic and book stores near you. /Stephen Whitworth
The Fantastic Festival Province
Back to music for a moment: we’d be remiss to not mention Saskatchewan’s exploding music festival scene. From the SaskTel Jazz Festival to Gateway in Bengough, from the Regina Folk Festival to Ness Creek, this place has become a pint-sized powerhouse of outdoor music awesomeness. And that’s not even counting the hundreds of shows that pass through Saskatoon and Regina every year. There might have been a time when a music fan would complain about being stuck in Saskatchewan. That time would not be 2015. Keep it up, Sask! We can’t wait to see what you’ve got for us next year. /Stephen Whitworth