Collective Memory | Mémoire collective
An exhibition celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Yukon Permanent Art Collection, featuring 2021 acquisitions
On Display at the Yukon Arts Centre December 6, 2021 to February 25, 2022
2021 marks the 40th anniversary of the Yukon Permanent Art Collection. This exhibition, Collective Memory, celebrates this milestone. An extensive selection of pivotal works from the past four decades showcases the depth and diversity of the collection. Among them, viewers can enjoy the newest additions, shown with insights from each artist.
During a symposium on Indigenous collections, Anishinaabe fibre artist Renee Dillard described her experience accessing historic collections to retrace the weaving techniques of her ancestors. She said “I have to remember with my hands.”* Her simple and profound words spoke of an artist’s ability to instinctually connect with transformed materials. They also suggest the potential for memory to inhabit finished works of art.
These ideas resonated with me as I considered this exhibition. Memory is a common thread, running through the years, media and genres of the collection. It creates an interconnectedness between the incredibly diverse individual works of art. We see an array of materials, techniques and voices represented. The works offer powerful visual experiences and messages that we respond to with our own perspectives. But beneath the surface, what other memory does each piece hold?
Stories and teachings shared around tables covered with beads, thread and hide. The repetitive motion of hands and tools in contact with materials. The deep historical connections of, and to, those materials. Skills that were once essential to survival and are now used in honour and to keep traditions alive. The translation of stories and experiences through stylized designs onto surfaces.
The understanding of a place, formed over years of observing its rhythms and cycles. New connections and responses formed during travel and residencies. Personal journeys and narratives that guided the artist's
trajectory. Deep experiences of trauma and adversity, as well as healing and transitions, processed through creating.
These histories, events and motivations live within the works of art. They are the memory of each artist's voice and process. Together they create the collective memory of artistic responses to the Yukon experience. This multidimensional record offers us meaningful opportunities: to engage, learn, witness, reflect and discover. We invite you to enjoy this celebration of the collection with us and to imagine what is possible for its next 40 years.
*Quote included with respect and permission from Renee Dillard.
The Yukon Permanent Art Collection
In 1981 a group of passionate Yukoners had a shared vision. There was a vibrant community of artists creating exceptional, northern-inspired artwork, and they wanted to create a place for it to be gathered, shared, , and preserved. The Friends of the Gallery Society was founded and the groundwork of creating the Yukon Permanent Art Collection began.
The first two works of art acquired were by Lilias Farley, and Ted Harrison. Both were cherished mentors and early champions of the collection. These formative pieces created a foundation, and the collection grew quickly, responding to the diverse and evolving work of Yukon visual artists.
The Friends forged the existing partnership with the Government of Yukon, that provides funding, care, and curation of the collection for the benefit of all Yukoners. A succession of board members and government art curators have been instrumental in its development. The selection of artwork has been critical and purposeful. Each additional piece has reflected the current moment and contributed to a legacy for the future.
40 years later, the collection holds more than 500 original works of art. It forms a survey of First Nation traditional and contemporary art, prints, photographs, carvings, sculpture, textiles, paintings, drawings, and mixed media representative of artists and regions throughout the territory. Each year new works are selected by the board of the founding society, now known as the Friends of Yukon Permanent Art Collection.
The collection is displayed in public spaces across the territory so that Yukoners and visitors can encounter and enjoy the artwork in their everyday lives. Works are also showcased in special curated exhibitions and loaned to other institutions.
The stewardship of the Yukon Permanent Art Collection by the Friends and the government will ensure that this extraordinary record will continue to grow and evolve. The many artists who have shared their vision and
passion through their art have made this collection possible and this work is in their honour.