Beyond Wilderness

Beyond Wilderness: The Group of Seven, Canadian Identity, and Contemporary Art

JOHN O’BRIAN
PETER WHITE
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 400
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.cttq939v
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  • Book Info
    Beyond Wilderness
    Book Description:

    "The great purpose of landscape art is to make us at home in our own country" was the nationalist maxim motivating the Group of Seven's artistic project. The empty landscape paintings of the Group played a significant role in the nationalization of nature in Canada, particularly in the development of ideas about northernness, wilderness, and identity. In this book, John O'Brian and Peter White pick up where the Group of Seven left off. They demonstrate that since the 1960s a growing body of both art and critical writing has looked "beyond wilderness" to re-imagine landscape in a world of vastly altered political, technological, and environmental circumstances. By emphasizing social relationships, changing identity politics, and issues of colonial power and dispossession contemporary artists have produced landscape art that explores what was absent in the work of their predecessors. Beyond Wilderness expands the public understanding of Canadian landscape representation, tracing debates about the place of landscape in Canadian art and the national imagination through the twentieth century to the present. Critical writings from both contemporary and historically significant curators, historians, feminists, media theorists, and cultural critics and exactingly reproduced artworks by contemporary and historical artists are brought together in productive dialogue. Beyond Wilderness explains why landscape art in Canada had to be reinvented, and what forms the reinvention took. Contributors include Benedict Anderson (Cornell), Grant Arnold (Vancouver Art Gallery). Rebecca Belmore, Jody Berland (York), Eleanor Bond (Concordia), Jonathan Bordo (Trent), Douglas Cole, Marlene Creates, Marcia Crosby (Malaspina), Greg Curnoe, Ann Davis (Nickle Arts Museum), Leslie Dawn (Lethbridge), Shawna Dempsey, Christos Dikeakos, Peter Doig, Rosemary Donegan (OCAD), Stan Douglas, Paterson Ewen, Robert Fones, Northrop Frye, Robert Fulford, General Idea, Rodney Graham, Reesa Greenberg, Gu Xiong (British Columbia), Cole Harris (British Columbia), Richard William Hill (Middlesex), Robert Houle, Andrew Hunter (Waterloo), Lynda Jessup (Queen's), Zacharias Kunuk (Igloolik Isuma Productions), Johanne Lamoureux (Montreal), Robert Linsley (Waterloo), Barry Lord (Lord Cultural Resources), Marshall McLuhan, Mike MacDonald, Liz Magor (ECIAD), Lorri Millan, Gerta Moray (Guelph), Roald Nasgaard (Florida State), N.E. Thing Company, Carol Payne (Carleton), Edward Poitras, Dennis Reid (Art Gallery of Ontario), Michel Saulnier, Nancy Shaw (Simon Fraser), Johanne Sloan (Concordia), Michael Snow, Robert Stacey, David Thauberger, Loretta Todd, Esther Trepanier (Quebec), Dot Tuer (OCAD), Christopher Varley, Jeff Wall, Paul H. Walton (McMaster), Mel Watkins (Toronto), Scott Watson (British Columbia), Anne Whitelaw (Alberta), Joyce Wieland, Jin-me Yoon (Simon Fraser), Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, and Joyce Zemans (York).

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7558-5
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-2)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 3-7)
    JOHN O’BRIAN and PETER WHITE

    THIS BOOK IS ABOUT THE REINVENTION of landscape art in Canada. Since the 1960s artists have investigated social relationships within landscape as a way of moving beyond the legacy of the Group of Seven. Historians, critics, and curators have likewise engaged in rethinking the connections between landscape, Canadian identity, and art. The art and writings we have selected challenge traditional meanings of “landscape” and “nation” by placing them in a different relationship to one another from that associated with the Group.Beyond Wilderness,the book’s title, indicates its dominant theme. The images and the ideas are reflected in the content...

  4. Chapter 1 Wilderness Myths Out of the Woods
    (pp. 8-37)
    PETER WHITE, JOHN O’BRIAN, PETER WHITE, JOHN O’BRIAN and PETER WHITE

    THIS PUBLICATION HAS ITS GENESIS in a contradiction that is if not at, the heart of how Canada has conventionally understood itself. While the strongly romantic vision of the Canadian epitomized by Tom Thomson, the Group of Seven, their and contemporary acolytes may be acknowledged to dated and limited vehicle for the representation of national and feeling, emotionally this perception nonetheless to retain a powerful hold on the national imagination. whether it is measured by the unrelenting flow of exhibitions and books on these artists; the extraordinary, continuously appreciating financial value of their works; the myriad Canadian films, and television...

  5. Chapter 2 Extensions of Technology
    (pp. 38-95)
    JEFF WALL, MARSHALL MCLUHAN, MICHAEL SNOW, GREG CURNOE, NANCY SHAW, IAIN BAXTER, N.E. THING COMPANY, JOHANNE SLOAN, JOYCE WIELAND, JODY BERLAND and RODNEY GRAHAM

    MARSHALL MCLUHAN ASSERTED that art has a special capacity to interpret the messages of technological change. “Each new impact shifts the ratio among the senses,” he wrote inUnderstanding Media,published in 1964. “No society has ever known enough about its actions to have developed immunity to its new extensions and technologies. Today we have begun to sense that art may be able to provide such immunity.”

    McLuhan’s promise that art could inoculate society against the effects of technology may now seem misplaced, but his observation that the potential and/or violence of technological change could be self-critically represented through art...

  6. Chapter 3 Post-Centennial Histories
    (pp. 96-133)
    DENNIS REID, NORTHROP FRYE, PATERSON EWEN, BARRY LORD, ANN DAVIS and DOUGLAS COLE

    THE CENTENNIAL OF 1967 and the patriotic enthusiasm it engendered across Canada coincided with a watershed in the kind of research undertaken on historical Canadian art. Until the late 1960s, serious scholarship on the subject was close to non-existent. Dennis Reid remarked in 1970 that much of what was published on the Group of Seven amounted to little more than propaganda, often written by Group members themselves. J. Russell Harper’sPainting in Canada: A History (1966),a book commissioned by the Canada Council for the Arts and the University of Toronto Press for the national centenary, announced a major change...

  7. Chapter 4 Northern Development
    (pp. 134-169)
    PAUL H. WALTON, ROSEMARY DONEGAN, CAROL PAYNE, MEL WATKINS and ELEANOR BOND

    THE CONCEPT OF NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT carries decidedly negative connotations today, conjuring up images of a natural environment bent if not broken by the excesses of industrialization and technology. In the early twentieth century this was not the case, and the resource-rich North was seen, in Paul Walton’s phrase, as the “economic cornucopia” that would underwrite Canada as a modern nation-state. At the same time, northern lakes, forests, and rocks were capable of arousing deeply romantic and patriotic yearnings; such were the convolutions and outright contradictions of Canadian industrial modernism. Quoting anOwen Sound Sunarticle on Tom Thomson’s 1912 visit...

  8. Chapter 5 Contest and Controversy
    (pp. 170-233)
    ANNE WHITELAW, JOYCE ZEMANS, LYNDA JESSUP, LESLIE DAWN, JOYCE ZEMANS, CHRISTOPHER VARLEY, GU XIONG, ANDREW HUNTER, RICHARD WILLIAM HILL, SCOTT WATSON, MARCIA CROSBY, ROBERT FULFORD and GERTA MORAY

    THE LANDSCAPE PAINTINGS of the Group of Seven and their associates generated almost as much controversy at the end of the twentieth century as they did at the beginning of it. In the three case studies that follow – two involving major art institutions and the other concerned with the

    “institution” of Emily Carr – national identity and its representations are at the core of the disputes. All three case studies date from the period 1990–2000.

    In the give-and-take of these acrimonious debates, three questions kept recurring. Who should have the authority to recount the narratives of Canadian art? What forms...

  9. Chapter 6 What Is Canadian in Canadian landscape?
    (pp. 234-293)
    COLE HARRIS, ROBERT FONES, BENEDICT ANDERSON, PETER DOIG, ROALD NASGAARD, LIZ MAGOR, ROBERT STACEY, MICHEL SAULNIER, GRANT ARNOLD, STAN DOUGLAS, SCOTT WATSON, ROBERT HOULE, REESA GREENBERG and JIN-ME YOON

    ENVIRONMENTAL EXPLANATIONS of national character are the product of nineteenth-century European nationalism, imperialism, and often racist, quasi-scientific theories. However spurious, they retained their currency well into the twentieth century. As late as the 1960s in Canada, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, in an anti-American fit of economic wish-fulfillment, revived an appeal to the country’s northern destiny. By that time, though, self-righteous nationalism grounded in geographic northernness was beginning to undergo criticism and debate. In his contribution toNationalism in Canada(1966), a book edited by Peter Russell that played an important role in the debate, Cole Harris argues that a Canadian...

  10. Chapter 7 The Expression of a Difference
    (pp. 294-354)
    EDWARD POITRAS, ESTHER TRÉPANIER, JOHANNE LAMOUREUX, SHAWNA DEMPSEY, LORRI MILLAN, ROBERT LINSLEY, DAVID THAUBERGER, MARLENE CREATES, JONATHAN BORDO, CHRISTOS DIKEAKOS, ZACHARIAS KUNUK, DOT TUER, REBECCA BELMORE, LORETTA TODD, LAWRENCE PAUL YUXWELUPTUN and MIKE MacDONALD

    THE IDENTIFICATION OF CANADA with wilderness landscape may have been faithful to the outlook and interests of a segment of Ontario’s English-speaking population, but as a national myth it has always had grave shortcomings. It has made little accommodation for the values and particularities of Quebec and other regions of the country; it has mocked the values and ways of life of Canada’s indigenous peoples; and it has also refused, as Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan’s Lesbian Park Rangers performances demonstrate, differences of sexuality and gender.

    In the essay that provides the title for this chapter, Esther Trépanier notes that...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 355-370)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 371-374)
  13. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 375-378)
  14. CONTEMPORARY ART PAGES
    (pp. 379-379)
  15. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 380-380)
  16. IMAGE CREDITS
    (pp. 381-382)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 383-391)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 392-392)