Visual Literacy Program activities

Looking at art during McMaster’s Public Health and Preventative Medicine Residents workshop at the Museum of Art

Looking at art during McMaster’s Public Health and Preventative Medicine Residents workshop at the Museum of Art

It’s been a busy 2014 so far for the Museum’s visual literacy programs.

Despite the cold spring, faculty, staff and students from the Faculty of Medicine came to the Museum for Spark Your Creativity, a visual literacy workshop as part of Wellness Week 2014. We were also happy to have groups of undergrads from the School of Nursing in for short visual literacy workshops at the end of March.

In April, I participated in the Art and Wellness panel discussion at the Canadian Museums Association Conference, Intention, Innovation and Invention: The Future of Museums. From there, I visited the Canadian Art Gallery Educators Symposium to present a case study: The Art of Medicine: Arts-Based Training for McMaster University Medical Residents at the McMaster Museum of Art.

June saw an invitation to do a workshop, Visual Literacy and the Long Look, as part of Social Work and the Arts Clinical Day. On Friday, we welcomed McMaster’s Public Health and Preventative Medicine Residents for a workshop at the Museum as well.

As you may know, in 2010, we began a partnership with McMaster’s Department of Family Medicine to develop a visual literacy course The Art of Seeing (now The Art of Medicine) for their Residents to build skills of observations, communication and empathy by learning to look at art.

I’m happy to say, interest in the program keeps growing.

Nicole Knibb, Education Coordinator, McMaster Museum of Art

In the Artist’s Own Words: Svava Thordis Juliusson

This summer, in addition to our collection exhibitions, the Museum proudly presents recent work by three Hamilton artists. Here we focus on one, Svava Thordis Juliusson, with highlights from her talk about her work at the Opening Reception in June:

Further insights into her work in the context of her joint exhibition (with artist Laura Marotta) are offered in this critical review.  And for more information about the artist and her work, check out her website,

Juliusson and Marotta’s exhibition continues until August 16th – don’t miss it!

Artist in Residence: Tom Thomson’s Eldest brother

George Thomson (Canadian, 1868-1965), Clean Air, oil painting

George Thomson (Canadian, 1868-1965), Clean Air, late 19th-mid 20th century, oil painting. Purchased by the McMaster Class of 1944.

Thanks to a gift of the Class of 1944, George Thomson’s painting of a northern Ontario landscape has quietly graced the Common Room of Wallingford Hall for decades, bringing pleasure to many McMaster University students.

Though less famous than his younger brother Tom Thomson (1877 – 1917), whose now iconic paintings of Algonquin Park inspired the Group of Seven, George Thomson was an accomplished painter in his own right.

It seems fitting that students should now gather, for conversation, music making, and the study of many disciplines beneath a painting by a man who embraced all of these things in his lifetime. So too is it fitting that the Class of 1944, whose University years coincided with those of WWII, should choose a gift that is both serene and distinctly Canadian.

While the George Thomson painting is a treasure privately shared by the residents of Wallingford Hall, McMaster’s painting of Algonquin Park by Tom Thomson will be on view in Conservation related exhibition at the Museum this summer.


Simon Frank’s Art Blooms on Campus

Simon Frank planting his Artist's Garden, Untilled, at McMaster

Simon Frank planting his Artist’s Garden, Untilled, at McMaster

Artist’s Garden

This summer, an unpurposed garden plot beside the Museum entrance is getting an artist’s touch. The Museum has commissioned Simon Frank, a Hamilton-based multidisciplinary artist, educator (at Cardinal Heights Elementary School) and recipient of the 2013 City of Hamilton Arts Award for Visual Art, to create a site specific installation.

The artist proposed a planted work, titled Untilled, comprising diverse perennial plants and ground covers, each chosen for their specific colour and texture.  Untilled references a watercolour in the Museum’s collection by Paul Klee


Paul Klee, Untitled [Spatial architecture, Tunisia], 1915, Watercolour with white gouache, Levy Bequest Purchase

Says Frank, “Klee’s abstracted landscape was directly inspired by his travels in North Africa, and the array of colours he encountered in the Tunisian landscape. With Untilled, I will reverse this process (and return the favour), drawing my inspiration from the way he uses colour in the work, and translating it back into a small, living, growing landscape.”

The work also references an experience the artist had while traveling by train through the Netherlands. “I saw rows of pure colour (tulips) stretching to the very distant and flat horizon.”

McMaster students and Museum docents will assist Frank with the planting and maintenance of the garden installation through the summer.

Simon Frank is a Scottish-born (Glasgow 1968), Canadian artist whose contemporary landscape-based work draws from a broad range of artistic and cultural traditions, to explore the complex relationship between nature and culture. The natural environment provides Frank’s continually evolving artistic practice with an aesthetic frame of reference, and the source of both raw materials and inspiration. Much of his recent practice has concentrated on process-oriented works, which when enacted in a public space, take on elements of performance and ritual.

Simon Frank digs in. Early stages of his Untilled garden art installation

Simon Frank digs in. Early stages of his Untilled project

Over the past eighteen years, Frank has participated in solo and group exhibitions across Ontario, as well as exhibiting in special projects in Saskatoon, Italy and South Korea. He has received grants from both the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. Selected exhibitions and offsite projects include: “Take on Me”, Luminato Festival, Toronto (2014); “Romancing the Anthropocene”, Nuit Blanche, Toronto (2013); “View (from the escarpment)”, Art Gallery of Hamilton (2012); “The Tree Project”, McMichael Gallery, Kleinburg (2012); “Terra Incognito”, Rodman Hall, St Catharines (2009); “Earth Art”, Royal Botanical Gardens, Hamilton (2008); “Sketch for New Forest”, The Koffler Gallery, Toronto (2007); “Wild Wood” Haliburton Forest Preserve, Haliburton (2007); “The Forest for the Trees” Galleria di Arte Contemporanea, La Spezia, Italy (2007); “Ice Follies 2006”, WKP Kennedy Gallery, North Bay (2006); “Gold Leaf” (performance), Art Gallery of Ontario (2005); “Shorelines”, MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie (2005); “Exchange-Changing the Landscape”, The Tree Museum (2004); “SPASM II”, Saskatoon (2004); “The Geumgang Nature Art Project”, Korea (2002); “CAFKA/Power to the People”, Kitchener (2002);  “Zone 6B: Art in the Environment”, Hamilton (2000). Frank is also a member of the Hamilton-based collective TH&B, which has produced site-specific projects in Hamilton, Kingston, Toronto, Banff, Buffalo and New York.

His work was shown at McMaster in the past in a 2004 performance, Core, and the 2004-2005 exhibition LANDeSCAPES (with Reinhard Reitzenstein).

This installation will be celebrated along with the Museum’s summer exhibitions with a Public Reception, Artist Talk and refreshments on Saturday June 14 from 2-4 pm.

JMW Turner:  Prints, Process & Picnic Baskets

Turner - Dartmouth

Joseph Mallord William Turner (English 1775-1851), Dartmouth Castle on the River Dart, 1824, From Turner’s Rivers of England (Proofs) 1823-1827, mezzotint and engraving. Gift of Dr. M. Brain, 1982. McMaster Museum of Art Collection

The MMA collection boasts a collection of 94 mezzotints and engravings by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 – 1851), considered the greatest landscape painter of his generation and often referred to as ‘the painter of light’.

In order to bring his painted landscapes and seascapes to a wider public, Turner painstakingly supervised a team of master engravers in the production of folios of his images. McMaster’s prints were produced by Turner and his team. Most are unpublished proofs, works in progress and for many images we have more than one version. This allows us to see Turner’s process and reveals his creativity in action.
Spot the difference between this detail from the print above and a later version of the image.

JMW Turner - detail of Dartmouth Castle mezzotint and engraving

JMW Turner – detail of Dartmouth Castle mezzotint and engraving

JMW Turner - detail of Dartmouth Castle

JMW Turner – detail of Dartmouth Castle mezzotint and engraving (w/picnic basket)

In related news, Timothy Spall has just received the best actor prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival for playing JMW Turner in Mike Leigh’s new film, Mr Turner. It has received great reviews so far and will be in theatres later this year. Check out the trailer for the film below:

Mr. Turner

Baseball and Other Facets of Radcliffe Bailey’s ‘Diamond’


Radcliffe Bailey (American b.1968) Diamond, 2004 mixed media in shadow-box frame Gift of David and Julie Moos 2012

The New York Times described American artist Radcliffe Bailey’s shimmering, shape-shifting works as being fueled by an exploration of “Black Atlantic culture, the vital, nurturing, agitated link between Africa and the Americas.”

The McMaster Museum of Art was delighted to have Bailey’s Diamond enter the collection in 2012, a generous gift of David and Julie Moos, and is doubly pleased to present it in this summer’s exhibition Structure of the World.

In his art, Bailey harmonizes an intuitive balance of world history and family memory, and layers meaning by layering objects.

The overt subject of Diamond is baseball, embedded in the title, motifs and in images which were drawn from his family cache of photographs.  Baseball has an important dimension in the Civil Rights movement—the first critical moment being the breaking of the “colour barrier” by Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in the major leagues beginning in 1945.

The term “diamond” also may be a reference to “blood diamonds”—diamonds mined in Africa to finance war and in turn, the social-human impact.

Other, less overt aspects of the work are autobiographical. Bailey was scouted as high school baseball prospect by the major leagues. The number “25” refers to Bailey’s birthday, November 25, and “7” is ‘the perfect number.’ *

Diamond comes from a body of work that High Museum Curator Carol Thompson described as “containers for socially cathartic art, inspired by medicine cabinets—literally—where you go to find something to make you feel better.  Lyrically and metaphorically [the works] reconnect the too-often disconnected histories of peoples of Africa and the African Diaspora, emphasizing collective experiences while recognizing the Black Atlantic world’s infinite diversity.”

To learn more about Radcliffe Bailey and his art, check out these videos:

Radcliffe Bailey – TEDxAtlanta

Radcliffe Bailey – interview at Jack Shainman Gallery, 2013

*from correspondence with Jack Shainman Gallery

Video: interview with John W. Ford


Earlier this year the Museum presented House Not a Home, an exhibition of recent sculptural works by artist John W. Ford, who also teaches in McMaster’s School of the Arts. During the exhibition the Faculty of Humanities captured some great footage of the artist with his work. Enjoy!

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