Twins look through the holes in a pair of scissors while laying down in a field of long, green grass.
Amalie Atkins, The Diamond Eye Assembly (film still), 2018. Courtesy of the artist.

New acquisitions add Prairie voices and more to Remai Modern collection

Remai Modern holds more than 8,000 works in its collection, dating back to the 1960s and the museum’s predecessor, the Mendel Art Gallery. It is an ever-evolving collection that tells the stories of the institution and this place. Bringing in new acquisitions allows the museum to represent more artistic voices that speak to key movements and moments in contemporary art.

In 2021, Remai Modern added 14 works to its collection, 11 purchases and three donations. The new works represent a wide variety of media, from video to beadwork to installation, and include the museum’s first purchase of a work by Saskatoon-based artist Amalie Atkins. Read on to learn about the pieces joning our collection.

These donations and purchases were approved by Remai Modern’s Collection Committee in June. The purchases were made possible thanks to the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation, who in 2017 pledged $1 million a year for 25 years to support art acquisitions.

Deanna Bowen, “1911 Anti Creek-Negro Petition” from Immigration of Negroes from the United States to Western Canada 1910-1911, 2013 Edition 2/2, 233 inkjet prints on archival paper, 21.6 x 28 cm each, edition of 2 + 1 AP. Photo courtesy of MKG127, Toronto.

Deanna Bowen, “1911 Anti Creek-Negro Petition” from Immigration of Negroes from the United States to Western Canada 1910-1911

  • Exhibition history: Currently on view at Remai Modern as part of the exhibition In the Middle of Everywhere: Artists on the Great Plains
  • Medium: 233 inkjet prints on archival paper

Deanna Bowen’s recent work is an examination of family connections to the migration of African Americans from the southern states, through Oklahoma and Kansas, and ultimately into Canada, where they established important settlements as Black Prairie pioneers.

The starting point of her piece is a petition that was delivered by Edmonton’s white citizens to the Government of Canada, demanding a halt to further immigration of African Americans into Western Canada. “Creek-Negroes”— people with mixed African and Indigenous heritage — refers to the African Americans who were coming from Oklahoma, where they had integrated with Creek (Muscogee) people.

Bowen’s own family history is integrally related to larger narratives about the presence of Black people in the Great Plains region. The 1911 Anti Creek-Negro Petition points to Canada’s racist past, unearthing a story that is greatly at odds with this nation’s claims to have been a haven at the end of the Underground Railroad.

Installation view, Amalie Atkins, The Diamond Eye Assembly, Remai Modern, Saskatoon, 2019. Photo: Blaine Campbell. Collection of Remai Modern. Purchased 2021.

Amalie Atkins, The Diamond Eye Assembly

  • Exhibition history: Debuted in 2019 at Remai Modern in the Connect Gallery
  • Medium: 16-mm film

Amalie Atkins’ 2019 exhibition at Remai Modern was comprised of three films: The Diamond Eye AssemblyTransvection and Requiem for Wind & Water. Shot on 16-mm film and set in the rural community of Petrofka in the North Saskatchewan River Valley, Atkins’ fictional world comes alive through lyrical music and haunting narratives. A cast of female characters animates the landscape, a site of trauma and resilience. They communicate with each other across time, connecting past and present. This work is layered and fragmented with a dream-like structure, exploring ancestral connectivity and the retrieval of memory.

Atkins is a Saskatoon-based artist with a growing reputation for her films and video installations, exhibiting her work in national and international exhibitions. A handmade aesthetic, passion for storytelling and prairie upbringing are interwoven in Atkins’ work. This is the first work by Atkins to enter the Remai Modern Collection.

The artist donated an additional work, Three Minute Miracle: Tracking the Wolf (2008), to the collection in 2021.

Installation view, Bridget Moser, My Crops Are Dying Buy My Body Persists, 2020, Remai Modern, Saskatoon. Photo: Blaine Campbell. Collection of Remai Modern. Purchased 2021.

Bridget Moser, My Crops Are Dying But My Body Persists

  • Exhibition history: Debuted in 2020 at Remai Modern in the Connect Gallery
  • Medium: Single channel video, 21:57 min

This video debuted at Remai Modern in early 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was forcing museums around the world to close. While we didn’t open this exhibition in the actual gallery space until August 2020, the work was featured on Remai Modern’s website, inviting viewers from outside of Saskatchewan to watch as well.

My Crops Are Dying But My Body Persists is a video work that incorporates strange and sometimes unsettling images of food, the artist’s body and decorative objects. Comprised of short scenes and excerpts, the artist builds a humorous and bizarre mise-en-scène that explores themes of discomfort, loneliness and fears about the future.

Moser has received national recognition for her unique performance practice that draws from prop comedy, experimental theatre and the history of performance art. Synthesizing a wide range of references and materials from consumer culture, popular music and film, her satirical performance and video projects confront the contradictions, anxieties and absurdity of contemporary life.

In addition to My Crops Are Dying But My Body Persists, Remai Modern also purchased another of Moser’s video works A Plant Growing Where a Plant Should Not be Growing (2020). The artist donated a third work Every Room is a Waiting Room Pt 1 & 2.

WATCH: My Crops Are Dying But My Body Persists

Puppies Puppies, Blood Drop Stress Balls (for Lutz Bacher), 2019, 750 foam stress balls each ball measures 76 x 60 cm, installation dimensions variable. Collection of Remai Modern. Purchased 2021. Installation view, BODY FLUID (BLOOD), 2019, Remai Modern, Saskatoon. Photo: Blaine Campbell.

Puppies Puppies, Blood Drop Stress Balls (for Lutz Bacher)

  • Exhibition history: Debuted at Remai Modern in 2019 as part of the exhibition BODY FLUID (BLOOD)
  • Medium: Installation comprised of 750 foam stress balls shaped like blood drops

Puppies Puppies often draws on the work of other artists who have inspired and influenced her. Referencing or remaking a work of art opens the original piece up to new meanings and connections. 

In this piece, Puppies Puppies pays tribute to Lutz Bacher (who died in May 2019). Bacher was a mysterious Conceptual artist whose work often addressed gender, sexuality, violence and power. Bacher’s work Stress Balls (2012) consists of hundreds of black spheres scattered randomly on the floor. For her piece, Puppies Puppies uses bright red stress balls shaped like blood drops, which are often used as promotional items by blood banks. Stress balls are also used during the donation process, as squeezing them encourages blood flow. 

Ruth Cuthand, Second Wave: COVID-19 No. 1, 2021, glass beads, suede board, vinyl lettering, 64.1 x 48.9 cm. Collection of Remai Modern. Purchased 2021.
Ruth Cuthand, Second Wave: COVID-19 No. 2, 2021, glass beads, suede board, vinyl lettering, 64.1 x 48.9 cm. Collection of Remai Modern. Purchased 2021.

Ruth Cuthand, Second Wave: COVID-19 No. 1-3

Saskatoon-based artist Ruth Cuthand is best known for beaded representations of viruses in her Trading series, which highlights the impacts of European colonization on the Americas, including the spread of measles, smallpox and cholera. Her recent beaded works take that same approach with COVID-19, offering beautifully detailed beadwork that memorializes the experience of living through a pandemic while also calling to mind the sweeping epidemics of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that devastated Indigenous communities.

Sharona Franklin, Comfort Studies, 2020, cotton, linen, velvet, silk, polyester, vinyl, wood and plastic, 183 x 141 cm. Collection of Remai Modern. Purchased 2021. Installation view, An apology, a pill, a ritual, a resistance, Remai Modern, 2021. Photo: Blaine Campbell.

Sharona Franklin, Comfort Studies

Vancouver-based multidisciplinary artist Sharona Franklin describes her practice as “the embodiment of biopharmacology, biocitzenship, and the unveiled autobiography of a daily ritual, private self-injection, and the treatment of genetic disease.” Her works present a radical acceptance and celebration of her experience growing up with degenerative disease and living with disability. This quilt, with its offer of comfort and warmth, subverts the inherent masculinity of the biopharmaceutical industry in its handcrafted aesthetic. Its patchwork of photographs, arranged in a cellular structure that also references the body or skin, depict “bio-ritual altars,” arrangements of syringes and other medications amongst the trappings of the artist’s home, which document her daily treatment of immune-suppressing drugs. Collaged with quotes printed on textiles, embroidery, ribbon and other paraphernalia, the work gives presence to the otherwise invisible antibodies that take shape in Franklin’s body, and provides visibility to bodies that live with invisible illnesses. 

Kapwani Kiwanga, The Marias, 2020, installation including wall paint and paper flowers on custom plinth, edition of 3 + 1 ap (offering 2/3), dimensions variable. Collection of Remai Modern. Purchased 2021. Installation view, An apology, a pill, a ritual, a resistance, Remai Modern, 2021. Photo: Blaine Campbell.

Kapwani Kiwanga, The Marias

Kapwani Kiwanga has explored the role that plants play in self-medication and self-protection, acknowledging the power of some plants to both poison the body and heal and preserve it.  

The Marias comprises two paper copies of the peacock flower (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) in two of its growth phases. The work materializes the research of 17th-century scientist and artist Maria Sibylla Merian and her groundbreaking 1705 publication Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium. The work also honours the ancestral knowledge and path of resistance that it records. Merian’s illustrated folio made note of how abducted and enslaved African women in Surname (then a Dutch colony) had transported peacock flower seeds with them, hidden in their hair, to use as an abortive. At a time when Victorian women in Europe were making paper flowers as a pastime, others were using flowers as a form of embodied resistance.  

Displayed on teardrop-shaped plinths against a backdrop of bright yellow, the plant sits defiantly within the exhibition space outside of its natural environment but also out of the enclosed glass cases canonical to botanical and ethnographic displays of previous centuries. These mechanisms encourage viewers to reconsider the legacies of display and normalization that have been inherited by the contemporary museum. 

Kapwani Kiwanga is a Canadian artist based in Paris whose study of Anthropology and Comparative Religions informs her practice.  

Dominique Rey, Leurre, 2017, laser cut white & clear acrylic, digital photos, acrylic columns, aluminum rods, 275.6 x 231.1 x 106.7 cm. Collection of Remai Modern. Purchased 2021.

Dominique Rey, Leurre

  • Exhibition history: Part of the 2019 exhibition If I have a body
  • Medium: Digital photos, acrylic, and aluminum

Translated into English, Leurre, means a lure or an illusion. Part of the series Pieces of Me Pieces of You, Rey uses collage fragments that appear to be suspended in space. The images and their silhouettes have been mounted or cut in acrylic, enticing the viewer to move from two to three dimensions in a play between photography and sculpture.

Al McWilliams, Figure, 1992, beeswax, photograph, lead on aluminum, 188.6 × 71.8 × 5.7 cm. Collection of Remai Modern. Gift of the Estate of Robert M. Ledingham, 2021. Installation view, Regarding Desire, Remai Modern, 2022. Photo: Carey Shaw.

Al McWilliams, Figure

  • Exhibition history: Currently on view at Remai Modern as part of the exhibition Regarding Desire
  • Medium: beeswax, photograph, lead on aluminum

Remai Modern accepted the donation of Figure by Al McWilliams, generously given by the estate of Robert (Bob) M. Ledingham. Figure joins another work by McWilliams, Ghost Chair, in Remai Modern’s collection.

Al McWilliams came out of the minimalist movement of the sixties, an influence that is evident in his early sculptures and installations as well as his photo-sculptural works. In the Stone Chiasmas series, the artist takes photographic images of reliefs found on the facades of Gothic and Renaissance cathedrals in Europe and appropriates them in contemporary sculptures. Covered in beeswax or glass and set against lead, the materiality of the works heightens the senses of the viewer, suggesting sensuality and touch with skin-like beeswax while simultaneously creating boundaries with cool glass and lead. Placed in a new context, McWilliams’ historical images of figures and body parts evoke thoughts of sexuality and gesture and raise questions of gender relations as well as history and memory. 

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Remai Modern aims to be a welcoming and inclusive public gathering place where we recognize the past, engage with the present, and envision new futures together through art. Explore more of the collection at collections.remaimodern.org.