Typically Sarnia-Lambton’s major art gallery opens its exhibitions before it hosts in-depth conversations with the artists in its ongoing Art and Ideas series.
“I would say this is an unusual case,” said Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery curator Sonya Blazek about the recent talks earlier this month with artists Susan Dobson and Lee Henderson.
Their respective exhibitions, Focus Finder and An Abridged Sonic History of Global Conflict, are expected to open in-person at the downtown Sarnia gallery next month.
Virtual tours, though, have been available at jnaag.ca.
“We were hoping to open but, of course, lockdowns have prevented us from doing so,” Blazek said.
“So we thought we would try it, especially since we have the exhibitions digitized.”
The 60- to 90-minute, free-to-attend talks give people a chance to ask artists questions. They are recorded and kept online so people can view the talks later, providing a more in-depth experience with artists, Blazek said.
“They’ve always been a hit,” she said.
Going digital more than a year ago amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Art and Ideas events have continued to draw virtual crowds in the range of 50 or so people on average, she said.
At times, they’ve hit 100, prompting the gallery to up its webinar limit to 500, she said.
Henderson, whose exhibition includes embroidered patches referencing military-themed punk, metal and glam rock bands, is hosting a second talk in the series, Back in Judy’s Jungle, on Aug. 5 at 7 p.m.
While his exhibition physically doesn’t include any sound, people sometimes ask about what the bands featured sound like, Blazek said.
“So he’s actually going to take inspiration from all the bands that he researched … and he’s going to spin an entire DJ set for people to listen to” as what a soundtrack for the exhibition might be, she said.
Also in the series and next up on July 28 at 7 p.m. is a live discussion between artist James Kirkpatrick and rapper Jesse Dangerously.
Kirkpatrick, who also performs musically under the name Thesis Sahib, had an exhibition at the gallery in 2018 called To the Unseen Future for which the gallery recently completed an exhibition publication, where writers are hired to include reflections on the exhibition as a companion piece.
Normally exhibition publications are done concurrently with exhibitions so visitors can read and engage with the written material and the exhibition around the same time, Blazek said.
“It helps them explore the exhibition in depth.”
A critical essay about Dobson’s exhibition, for instance, will be packaged with photographs of Lake Huron – visually interrupted by the viewfinders of cameras – when it opens next month, Blazek said.
For Kirkpatrick’s Art and Ideas, there’ll be a look at the exhibition publication, as well as a focus on his musicianship, she said.
“We’ll take a deeper look at his Thesis Sahib rap life, what he’s contributed to Canadian rap, and then there will be a live performance as well,” she said.
More details are available at jnaag.ca.