Art always tells a story.
Sometimes it’s the story of the artist, or of an experience, but Vancouver-based artist Landon Mackenzie aims to tell or re-tell the stories of the past.
Mackenzie was born in Boston where her Canadian parents were doing graduate work.
“I think one of the things that’s important is when you’re from a place that is referred to as ‘the centre’ you immediately might as I did, leave to art school, to see what all the other interesting fuss is about,” said Mackenzie.
Raised in Toronto but spending time in the “near north” of Ontario, she was exposed to a lot of art through her parents.
“We lived right downtown near two or three of the most important early contemporary Toronto galleries that showed abstract painting,” said Mackenzie. “My grandmother was a painter and my uncle was a painter who taught at the Ontario College of Art. I had all these opportunities that a lot of artists don’t get”
Mackenzie — who also teaches at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design — left Toronto for Halifax where she began her education at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.
“Unbenouced to me, Halifax was kind of the hot bed of conceptual art was in residence,” she said. “Something I always say to my students is to go to the lecture. You don’t know who that person is now or who they will become, because I would go and it would be Phillip Glass, but it wasn’t the famous Phillip Glass, he was just a guy playing these weird repetitive sequences and strangely nerdy on a piano.”
Mackenzie didn’t study painting in her undergraduate or graduate work.
“I began painting in the late ‘70s in a resistance to the doctrine of conceptual art and minimialism,” she said. “So I began to paint in this almost child-like way as part of a group of younger artists in Montreal.”
Mackenzie’s Lost River series that came out of that time garnered a lot of attention with one in the Art Gallery of Ontario and one in the National Art Gallery in Ottawa.
Mackenzie’s show in Nelson will show case work from her Saskatchewan series which was done in 1993-1997.
“We have one really famous one that is coming, which also toured with the McMichael Centre for Canadian Art, which did a tour of images thinking of the Prairie and in particular where the Qu’Appelle Valley touches the icnonography and the story telling of indigenous, settler and contemporary of that part of the Prairies,” she said.
Through her maps, which incorporate other images, Mackenzie often looks at landscape and how we’ve identified with the land as Canadians.
Another piece that will be featured in Nelson is Vancouver as the Centre of the World, which was done for the Vancouver Olympics.
“It positions Vancouver as the centre of the world because Vancouver was always seen as the farthest edge because if you met someone from Shanghai that would be almost impossible because they were at the other farthest edge,” she said. “But now we know that Vancouver is nine hours from Shanghai, nine hours to Santiago or Lima, Warsaw or Berlin is nine hours if you could go over the pole.”
Mackenzie’s work will be opening tonight at Touchstones with a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. There will also be an artist talk on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Mapping History will run until September 16.