Behind-the-scenes during Installation week

Leopold Plotek with his painting

Leopold Plotek with his painting

These are busy days at the Museum, as we install 4 new exhibitions in our galleries.  Here are some pics behind the scenes from the last week when artists Ian Johnston and Leopold Plotek were here with their work. Finished installation views coming soon! Their exhibitions were opened to the public today with a formal opening reception – and talk by Ian Johnston –  on September 11:

Installation is still underway in our upstairs galleries. New exhibitions include the following – in order of appearance (click the links for full details and event info):

Aug 28 – Oct 25

Aug 28 – Oct 25

THE ART OF THE BOOK: Rabbi Bernard Baskin, Book Collector
Sept 11 – Dec 20

GRAHAM TODD: Imaginary Spaces
Sep 11/14 – April 25/15

and a we welcome a special installation on our top floor landing of

Preparing for a Great Tour

Les Petites Pommes, French Immersion students, visit McMaster Museum of Art, summer 2014

Les Petites Pommes, French Immersion students, visit McMaster Museum of Art, summer 2014

Every summer I look forward to a visit from our good friends from the local French immersion camp, Les Petite Pommes. The students are always ready to participate, and come well-prepared with questions, imagination, and a fantastic understanding of museum etiquette.

Museums are for everyone, but can sometimes be intimidating because of their special sets of rules and regulations. Museums are entrusted with preserving artwork for future generations, and so have to avoid activities that will harm the collection.

Art can be easily damaged, so things like food and drink can’t be brought in to the gallery.

Touching art, while very tempting, will damage it.

There’s a cautionary tale about getting too close, too: Steve Wynn, an American art collector, accidentally put his elbow through one of his Picassos, permanently damaging the painting!

Photography is more than just light damage! This certainly is a factor, but it’s also important to respect the artist’s copyright. So flash-free photography is allowed in certain exhibits.

If you ever have any questions when you come to the MMA, there’s always someone in the gallery to answer them. And if you *do* take some photos here at the MMA, we’d love to see them! Tweet @ us on twitter @MacMuseum.

-Teresa Gregorio, Information Officer, McMaster Museum of Art

Spotlight on an Altarpiece

van Aelst

Pieter Coecke van Aelst (Flemish 1502-1550), A Triptych, c.1530-1532
The Holy Family with an Angel Offering Fruit (centre), The Annunciation (left wing), The Rest on the Flight into Egypt (right wing, by an unknown artist), oil on panel
Collection of McMaster Museum of Art, Levy Bequest Purchase 1993

One of the key works in our summer exhibition Mother and Child is this 16th century altarpiece by Peter Coecke van Aelst.  Historically significant and beautiful, the work is a rich resource for our education staff and docent team when leading tours. It provides the launching point for a wide range of discussions – everything from painting style and perspective to religion and life in the 16th century.

In the latest Museum in a Minute series videos, Information Officer Teresa Gregorio takes us in for a closer look at van Aelst’s triptych:


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.

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