Exploring the treasures found in the Nickle

By Indrani Kar

Unbeknownst to perhaps most U of C denizens, one of our home-grown art galleries just happens to be the host of many world-class art exhibits throughout the year. The Nickle Arts Museum typically has at least two main shows on display at any given time on the main floor and has a second level that houses longer-term shows or special collections. Currently there are three exhibits on the main floor at the Nickle—the MFA Graduating Exhibition, Everett Soop: Journalist, Cartoonist, Activist, and a recent addition to the Nickle’s permanent collection, Attila Richard Lukacs’ Eternal Teahouse.

The last day of the MFA grad exhibit will be Fri., Sep. 14, after which a new installation goes up. This exhibit is one worth seeing and the depth of the work displayed by these recent graduates can only be experienced, not described. Artists Martine Audet, Courtney Chetwynd, Patricia Dawkins, Jane McQuitty and Jennifer Stead present their intriguing theses in media as diverse as bark, wood, fibre, acrylic, video installations, charcoal, mattresses, shells, sand, dried hibiscus flowers and oak leaves.

The Everett Soop exhibit is a particularly revealing and profound look at some of the darker aspects of Canadiana, such

as the effects of residential schools for our Aboriginal peoples, and delves into the life and work of journalist, cartoonist, and activist Everett Soop—a Blackfoot Albertan who advocated for Native rights and the rights of individuals with disabilities from the ’60s to the ’90s. This multimedia installation showcases a videotaped interview with the artist himself, many of his published, politically poignant and satirical cartoons, as well as excerpts of his written work and commentaries on his political representation. Soop started his career by working for the Kainai News on the Blood reserve in Alberta in the late ’60s. Going through the exhibit, one quickly discovers that the office of the Kainai News which was to become Soop’s workplace for much of his career started out as the building where Soop attended St. Paul’s Anglican Residential School earlier in his life. Describing his experiences there as dehumanizing and brutal, Soop dedicated his life to winning back respect for his people through his articulate, intelligent and sardonically humorous writings and drawings. This exhibit would be of interest to all Albertans, especially those with any political interests or background. The last day of this exhibit is Sat., Sep. 29.

Last but not least, next to the Everett Soop exhibit lives Attila Richard Lukacs’ Eternal Teahouse, as well as a lone painting of his entitled One Good Reason, which dramatically depicts captivity, torture, sublimation, and redemption in one tableau. The sculpture Eternal Teahouse was originally installed in Documenta IX in 1992, the premiere venue for modern and contemporary art that occurs every five years in Klassen, Germany. This enigmatic installation is essentially a pissoire—French for urinal or men’s bathroom—filled with tall paintings of Hellenic nude figures, some in red or black army boots, no less, depicting the stages of human life.