Assortment, An: Darkly Delicious Literary and Visual Oddments
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 8 December 2017

An Assortment: Darkly Delicious Literary & Visual Oddments by Marie Elyse St. George Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-83-6 The enticing title of Marie Elyse St. George’s latest book says it all. Delve into this tickle trunk of poems, stories (both fictions and truths), drawings, paintings, and cartoons, plus a tribute to now long-passed writer Anne Szumigalski, and you’ll indeed find something darkly delicious to make you smile, laugh, and think. Saskatoon’s St. George has earned an esteemed reputation as both a visual artist and a writer, and a career highlight’s been her 1995 poetry and art collaboration (with close friend Szumigalski) Voice, which resulted in both an exhibition at the Mendel Art Gallery and a book which garnered the Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 1995. She’s also collaborated with poet Patrick Lane, provided art for the covers of numerous literary journals and books, and published an award-winning memoir. While reading An Assortment: Darkly Delicious Literary & Visual Oddments, I procured an image of a young girl skipping through a field of wildflowers, plucking blossoms here and there for an atypical bouquet. This image was no doubt hastened by the book’s…

DAG Volumes: No. 1
Dunlop Art Gallery / 25 January 2017

DAG Volumes: No. 1 (2012) Editors Dr. Curtis Collins, Blair Fornwald, Wendy Peart Published by Dunlop Art Gallery Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $60.00 ISSN: 1929-9214 The Dunlop Art Gallery is a department of the Regina Public Library, thus it’s fitting that Library Director and CEO Jeff Barber provided the foreword to DAG Volumes: No. 1 (2012), a limited-edition hardcover celebrating seventeen insightful essays by eleven contributors, and 130 full-colour photographs that are the next best thing to visiting the DAG in person. The exhibition retrospective features work from DAG’s Central Gallery, its Sherwood Village location, and in situ art. As this comprehensive volume of the gallery’s 2012 exhibitions and events was released a handful of years ago, a little Googling enlightened me that then-director Dr. Curtis Collins now heads The Yukon School of Visual Arts (Dawson City), but I turn to his introduction for words on DAG’s 50th anniversary – the reason for this first in a prospective series of books. “Such a feat of longevity in Canada, by any cultural institution, should be duly noted.” Agreed! The opening essay, written by Linda Jansma, concerns the retrospective of art by Shelagh Keeley, an accomplished Canadian who works on paper…

Fritz Stehwien: A Retrospective
Landscape Art Publishing / 18 September 2015

Fritz Stehwien: A Retrospective by Barbara Stehwien Published by Landscape Art Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $9.95 ISBN 9-780991-964918 The softcover book Fritz Stehwien: A Retrospective, originally published in 1993 and later released with an updated biography, was a family affair. The book-not unlike a gallery catalogue produced to accompany a major artist’s show-is prefaced by introductions to the German-born artist’s life and work by daughter Barbara Stehwien and daughter-in-law Nancy Robinson-Stehwien. What follows is 20 attractive pages of black and white and colour images of the prolific artist’s work, including landscapes, portraits, and still-lifes. First, the man. In the introductions we learn that Stehwien was the quintessential artist, always ready to capture the spirit of what was around him, and as such he lived a full and interesting life. “I have not known him to go anywhere without his materials,” his daughter writes, adding that if he didn’t have everything that was required, he would “improvise using the back of painted or printed matter, even restaurant napkins.” She says he would use “any old pen rather than lose an important moment.” The use of “moment” here lends a clue to the value the subject of this book saw…

Wilf Perreault: In the Alley
Coteau Books / 2 June 2015

Wilf Perreault: In the Alley Edited by Timothy Long Published by Coteau Books and MacKenzie Art Gallery Review by Courtney Bates-Hardy $59.95 ISBN 978-1-550505955 Wilf Perreault: In the Alley is a stunning coffee table book. The book design itself is enough to tempt anyone into picking it up and buying it. A sizable book at 12” by 10”, it certainly does justice to Perreault’s beautiful and large-scale images, although it’s difficult to top seeing them in person. What the book offers is an engaging and insightful background on Perreault’s life, art, and the many ways he has touched others. In the Alley begins with an introduction by Timothy Long, the head curator at the MacKenzie Art Gallery. He gives a brief overview of Perreault’s childhood on a farm near the French-speaking villages of Henribourg and Albertville. The book, it should be noted, is appropriately presented in both French and English. Long moves from Perreault’s childhood to his time at the University of Saskatchewan and then as a teacher, all the while tracking Perreault’s growth as an artist and the connections he makes within the community. The most fascinating parts of Long’s introduction are the back stories he includes for some…

The Vaults
University of Regina Press / 25 September 2014

The Vaults: Art from the MacKenzie Art Gallery and the University of Regina Collections edited by Timothy Long and Dr. Stephen King Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $39.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-289-2 Opening The Vaults is like cracking open a safe, revealing the cultural treasures stored in the collections of the MacKenzie Art Gallery and the University of Regina. This visually inspiring coffee table book explores only a fraction of the more than 4,500 works of art. The core of this collection originated when prominent Regina lawyer Norman MacKenzie started amassing art by European and Asian masters, along with emerging Canadian artists such as Inglis Sheldon-Williams. When MacKenzie began building his collection, art was not greatly appreciated in Regina. People thought he was foolish to spend his money this way. He lamented that it would be easier to sell 200 automobiles than to give away oil paintings. MacKenzie had to rebuild his collection after a tornado in 1912 virtually wiped out the pieces he had accumulated. One painting, ironically titled Storm at Sea, survived the storm and is reproduced in this lavishly illustrated book. When he died in 1936, MacKenzie bequeathed his collection of artwork and antiquities…

In Black and White
Landscape Art Publishing / 14 May 2014

In Black and White: A Stroll Through Canadian Landscapes by Waltraude Stehwien Published by Landscape Art Publishing Review by Jessica Bickford $19.95 978-0-9919649-0-1 In Black and White: A Stroll Through Canadian Landscapes is a book unlike any other I’ve encountered. It is a collection of scissorcuttings, also known as papercuttings, which are an art form with a history that traces all the way back to sixth century China. Using only black paper and negative space Waltraude Stehwien creates evocative landscapes and cityscapes that are instantly recognizable to anyone who has travelled through Saskatchewan and Western Canada. The only text in the book is the title of each piece, and the only colours are the simple black and white of Stehwien’s artwork, but as you flip through each page, you can’t help but feel there is a story here. There is also a depth and a kind of warmth that comes from Stehwien’s work, and almost a sense of nostalgic serenity from the prairie scenes that are often devoid of people and wildlife. You can tell you are looking at something that took a lot of time and skill to create, and you can almost feel the chill winter wind, or…

Building a Legacy
Coteau Books / 3 April 2014

Building a Legacy: Edmonton’s Architectural History by Ken Tingley, with Lawrence Herzog Published by Coteau Books Review by Keith Foster $39.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-545-0 Every city deserves to have its own coffee table book displaying its heritage structures and architectural marvels. Building a Legacy: Edmonton’s Architectural History is a shining example of how such a book can be organized. This 234-page hardcover book shows Edmonton’s history through hundreds of black and white and colour photos of its buildings. Lawrence Herzog, who has photographed and written about the city’s history for more than a quarter of a century, took many of the photos, supplemented by photos from the City of Edmonton Archives. Author Ken Tingley’s narrative is well-researched and well-written. Each chapter covers a period from the fur-trading days at Fort Edmonton up to the 21st century. He also includes an index and glossary of architectural terms. The book provides basic information on each building, such as its address, date of construction, and date of its designation as an historic resource. Tingley then gives a fascinating narrative background on the buildings and the people involved with them. Tingley notes some of the city’s more colourful characters, and this is where the book…

Robert David Symons: Country Man
Hagios Press / 7 November 2013

Robert David Symons: Countryman: Artist, Writer, Naturalist, Rancher by Terry Fenton Published by Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery and Hagios Press Review by Keith Foster $25.95 ISBN 978-1-927516-03-4 As Robert Symons lay seriously ill in bed, a friend dropped by to check on him. Sweating profusely, Symons explained that he needed to finish reviewing the proofs for his forthcoming book because “I think I’m going to die tonight.” His friend remarked, “Boy, that’s what I call a deadline!” They both laughed so hard that Symons’ temperature dropped, his fever subsided, and the baffled doctors sent him home. This is one of the incidents related in Robert David Symons: Countryman, about a multi-talented man who was a naturalist, rancher, artist, and author of eleven books of natural life on the Prairies. Trevor Herriot, a Saskatchewan naturalist who knew Symons personally, introduces Terry Fenton’s text, which is almost a memoir or personal recollection. This is followed by a chronology by Heather Smith, curatorial director at the Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery. An astute observer, Symons recorded his observations in both paint and words and illustrated his own books. He also painted many of the dioramas for the habitat exhibits in…

About Pictures
Hagios Press / 14 April 2010

About Pictures by Terry Fenton Published by Hagios Press Review by Andréa Ledding $20.95 ISBN 978-0-9783440-9-2 About Pictures is just that –a perfect companion for students, collectors, art-lovers, or gallery-aficionados. Reading at the 2009 Saskatchewan Book Awards from this nominated book, Fenton said “It’s about pictures, it’s got pictures, it’s short, and it’s only $20.” All selling-points, but the book covers an impressive range of material in a short span, comprising brief essays interspersed with over 30 beautiful glossy images. Fenton’s portable soft cover edition is a witty companion and tour guide of the art world, drawing from careful research and personal philosophy combined with years of education and experience as gallery director, curator, and critic. It’s a must-have for everyone who likes art, wishes to know more about it, or wants to “brush up” on the basics. Fenton believes in the value of a good question, using them generously before providing answers, while sharing professed favourite works of art. He explains of his title that artist Henri Matisse used the word “pictures” in his quote “Above all, pictures are illusions.”, and Matisse also described art as “something like a good armchair, providing relaxation from physical fatigue” – a likely…

Landmarks: The Art of Dorothy Knowles
Hagios Press / 10 September 2008

Landmarks: The Art of Dorothy Knowles Text by Terry Fenton, Art by Dorothy Knowles Published by Hagios Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $25.95 ISBN 978-0-9783440-2-3 If members of the general public were asked to name a prominent Canadian landscape painter, I’d guess that they might identify a member of the Group of Seven or Emily Carr, but here in Saskatchewan we also have a number of landscape painters of prominence, and high on the list is Dorothy Knowles. Terry Fenton, acclaimed landscape painter and former Mendel Art Gallery director, has forged an aptly-named homage to his friend and fellow artist, Saskatoon’s Dorothy Knowles, and Hagios has packaged the text and forty stunning Knowles’ images in a book that one might expect to pay twice as much for. Land Marks: The Art of Dorothy Knowles is a tour de force. Fenton met his subject at an Emma Lake Artists Workshop in 1965, where another artist commented: “That housewife from Saskatoon is making good paintings.” Not surprisingly, the famous Emma Lake workshops (initiated in 1933 by Walter Murray and Augustus Kenderdine) played an integral role in Knowles’ life and work. It was here that she “discovered a passion for art that…