5 Questions with the Glenbow’s New Art Curator

by Sophy Kors · 0 comments

Colleen Sharpe, the new art curator at the Glenbow Museum, hasn’t been there long, but she’s already off to a strongstart. The Karsh: Regarding Heroes exhibit has been extremely well received. What goes into an exhibit like that? I don’t know, but Colleen does…

You’ve only been with the museum for a year, what enticed you to the Glenbow Museum?

It’s actually only been since January 2011!  In 2010 I guest curated The Glenbow’s Landscapes for the End of Time: Stephen Hutchings - I liked working with the team and the ability to be involved in  a project that had a large audience. The Glenbow is the biggest game in town as a museum.As an Art Curator I am supported and work as part of a team of designers, technicians and other museum professionals. The museum is committed to bringing in key national and international contemporary exhibitions, while also using their extensive art collections. What I like best is the Glenbow’s renewed belief to be relevant and engaged with Calgarians.

What do you find most interesting about the Karsh: Regarding Heroes exhibit?

That the 100 works in this exhibition provide a chronology of 60 years of the world’s icons. In reviewing the photos I recognized, I realized history remembers some better then others. It is interesting to re-learn history through Karsh’s eyes. Karsh’s  stories behind the portraits ignite the stories with light and passion.

You wanted to add the story of each photograph to the exhibit in Calgary, and you found 95 of the hundred. Why was this so important to you?

As a curator it is my job to research all exhibitions extensively and to make sure that the museum presents them to our visitors in the best way. In learning about Yousuf Karsh, I came to understand how important it was to his success to understand those he photographed. He was able to speak to them about topics of interest to each and in making them comfortable in conversation, he was able to capture his portraits. The portraits represent an “inner truth”, a moment in time with Karsh when they each dropped their mask and he captured a true essence of each. Adding the stories in Karsh’s words of meeting each person allows all of us an insight into the artist and the moment the work was created. This is important to me, with any artwork or exhibition, to interpret not only the art but it’s creator and their process.

What is your favourite portrait?

The portrait of Pablo Casals, he was a cellist, possibly the best ever. He was not someone I knew about beforehand and in learning about him - in wanting to know more because of Karsh’s portrait I rediscovered - discovered for the first time,  a great man. This was a treasure for me, a great discovery. The pose in this portrait  - taken from behind while Casals played, is poetic. Karsh’s description of the portrait adds a depth to the image - the idea of a man enraptured by his music - this man has music inside him that insists on emerging. In an ancient Spanish abbey the man sits in darkness on a lone chair - a slave to his music. There is a beam of light in the portrait from a high window. It is a metaphor for Casals. Like a light from heaven he is at once a prisoner of his music but also he is freed his music is a miracle and light to find his way in the darkeness.

Here is a YouTube video of Casals in that very abbey for you - just for fun.

I’ve heard there’s a Calgary connection in the exhibit? What is it?

Do you know there will ALWAYS be a Calgary connection in every exhibition Glenbow hosts. We choose exhibitions that are relevant and that Calgarians can connect to. Also we consider how the exhibitions fit with our current collections, library and archives. There are many Calgary connections if we consider each icon shown in the exhibition, but there is one feature connection that we developed into a display with the Karsh exhibit. In 1954 Karsh came to Calgary for a feature photo essay commissioned by Maclean’s Magazine. I found a copy of this magazine and the article while doing research - we had the magazine in the Glenbow archives. For the exhibition we had the pages reproduced and enlarged. The article features key Calgary personalities of the time as well as Calgary architecture (which Karsh thought very impressive) and the Calgary Stampede.

The Karsh exhibit will be on display at the Glenbow Museum until June 15,2011.

The launch party for the exhibit is Saturday, April 30, 7:00-10:00pm and admission is pay-what-you-can at the door. There will be live performances by  Jay Crocker and DJ Matt Bayliff. Wanna go? All you have to do is RSVP to [email protected] by April 28.

Have you been to see the exhibit yet? Which portrait is your favourite?

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