Thelma Pepper: Ordinary Women. A Retrospective highlights the life’s work of one of Saskatchewan’s preeminent senior artists, Thelma Pepper (1920-2020), an important photographer, feminist and activist. Known for her black and white photographs, Pepper documented the lives of Prairie women and men, putting their experiences and resilience into focus. Connecting through shared stories, Pepper illuminated the critical roles women held within their seemingly ordinary, everyday environments. Her photographs of elders exemplify compassion, dignity and intimacy. Her portraits are the result of her deep curiosity and warmth, which put her subjects at ease. Pepper was a vibrant spirit and brilliant storyteller.
Visitors to the exhibition will also see select works by five other women photographers: Rosalie Favell, Mattie Gunterman, Dorothea Lange, Frances Robson and Sandra Semchuk. In this video, exhibition co-curators Sandra Fraser and Leah Taylor talk about Pepper’s approach as an artist and her deep connections to those in her community.
About Thelma Pepper
Thelma Pepper (1920-2020) was a Saskatoon-based artist, who was born in Nova Scotia, where she was introduced to photography by her grandfather and father. Pepper studied biology at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, completing a Bachelor of Science and later, a Master of Science at McGill University, Montreal. Having moved to Saskatoon in 1947, it was not until after her four children were grown that she began her own photographic work.
Pepper was active with The Photographer’s Gallery, an artist-run exhibition and resource centre dedicated to photography as an artistic practice. At the age of 66, she had her first solo exhibition in 1986, entitled Decades of Voices: Saskatchewan Pioneer Women, which went on to travel across Canada and to Scotland.
Pepper was the subject of a National Film Board of Canada production, A Year at Sherbrooke in 2009, and was the recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s Arts Award—Lifetime Achievement (2014) and the Saskatchewan Order of Merit (2018). The exhibition coincides with the publication of Pepper’s biography, written by Amy Jo Ehman and published by MacIntrye Purcell.
See Thelma Pepper – Ordinary Women. A Retrospective in-person at Remai Modern until October 11.
“Because she was so much about community and relationships it seemed to us to be important to put her in relationship with what [co-curator] Leah [Taylor] and I say are her peers.”Co-Curator Sandra Fraser (Collections)