Above: Salon Wall
By contributor Miranda Wallace
Few people can say they’re a successful artist at the age of 94. Maureen Marshall is one of those people. The Islander has spent her life travelling around the world, painting what she sees with a heavy influence from the culture she’s surrounded by. The View, a VIU campus gallery, is lucky enough to have been gifted a series of these paintings based on Marshall’s experiences in Africa. The gallery is covered in colourful canvas from floor to ceiling in a breathtaking display.
The View was created in 1976 and mainly housed professional artists’ work. The focus is now being shifted to student art and more community-based works, according to curator Justin McGrail.
“I’d like students to integrate art into their everyday lives. To realize that the art gallery is part of campus life…looking at art and going to galleries should be a lifelong habit,” he says. “There are no titles or information on the walls. What I’d like students to do is learn to trust their own eyes. People spend a lot of time reading walls of text. We don’t want them to prioritize that kind of understanding; it’s meant to be a visual experience.”
McGrail said it is difficult to single out a favourite in the collection. Instead, he has a favourite wall, because of the hanging style: a salon wall. “It’s really alive,” McGrail said. When looking at the wall, the pictures seem to tell a story— everything is so vibrant and organized.
“It’s surprising, the amount of variation within a series, whether the colour or the content. I think it really shows the possibilities. Each painting shows a different approach; they’re all slightly different. I love how many of the paintings have paper and holes—it looks like a scrapbook.”
“There’s a long history of painters integrating African styles, and it has anthropological roots that make us think of history. Her scrapbook and her memories are an entry into this history of African art.”
Marshall’s anthropology background is evident in the way she portrays a different culture in such a respectful manner. There’s no objectification or discrimination; it’s a very open display of humankind. McGrail encourages First Nations students to come, stating that they might see a lot of commonalities in the works.
Since the opening, less than two weeks ago, more than 50 people have been to see the works. It’s a mesmerizing experience, and the reaction was “outstanding,” McGrail said. A VIU student had similar thoughts. “The vibrancy and the lifeblood of it makes you feel like you’re really there. It’s a very visual story,” he said.
“I know that the family and the artist is really happy, because these works have been in storage for many years. They’ve only ever seen these in a shed.”
The exhibit will run throughout November, and is open from 1—4 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays. If you have the chance, go check it out.