Despite the closure of the university in mid-March because of the pandemic, the staff of the UNB Art Centre diligently transitioned its aptly named exhibit, Attending the Apocalypse, online to the delight of New Brunswick art fans.
The exhibit can be viewed online through the UNB Arts Centre’s webpage and features two of New Brunswick’s most talented artists, Janice Wright Cheney and Jennifer Lee Weibe. For both artists, the original apocalypse of their exhibit was the increasing threat of climate change on our planet. However, contemporary world-wide circumstances make the exhibit an even more remarkable one, as citizens throughout the world are prohibited from accessing the natural world and, according to sources, the earth begins healing through the break in industrial pollution. As Marie Maltais, the Director of the UNB Arts Centre and curator of this exhibition, says in her introduction to the exhibit: “It is prophetic to present this exhibition virtually.”
Janice Wright Cheney is a well-known figure of the New Brunswick art world who has gained international recognition for her work with textiles. Her red felted-wool flowered “Widow” bears are held at prominent galleries across Canada such as the Glenbow Museum in Calgary and the Telus Garden in Vancouver. One of Wright Cheney’s most recent group exhibits at the Beaverbrook Gallery, titled Depository Park, was also around the team of nature and centered around the capital’s iconic Odell Park.
Wright Cheney’s portion of the exhibit, Elysium, is housed in the Art Centre’s West Gallery. Her carefully constructed felted funghi, in subtly natural tones of cream and beige, are set on an old rusted crib. The mushrooms’ roots, or mycelium, spread out down and around the installation, creating beautiful white winding pathways of life. It was previously shown two years ago at Art in the Open, in Charlottetown, PEI.
Current president of Connexion ARC, Jennifer Lee Wiebe is a multidisciplinary artist and an arts educator who, like Wright Cheney, teaches at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. In the past, Weibe has had six solo exhibitions along with a number of group shows in notable galleries in North America. She is originally from the United States.
Titled “Scratchcards form the Apocalypse,” Wiebe’s work is presented in the Art Centre’s East Gallery. For her part of the expo, Weibe has chosen to immortalize the United States’ President’s tweets on large canvases with artificial gold colour and gold leaf, typical of the all too popular gambling cards. Her pieces, written in old-school all caps stencil fashion, include Trump’s patriarchal criticism of Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg (“Chill Greta Chill!”) and his enthusiasm for a return to the expansion of nuclear capabilities in the United States. Paradoxically, one of Weibe’s canvasses incorporates a tweet about the COVID-19 threat.
On Friday, April 17, at noon the UNB Art Centre will be holding a virtual talk with the artists moderated by artist Jean Rooney. More information, including the video of the virtual vernissage, can be found by going to the UNB Art Centre website or its Facebook site.
Sophie M. Lavoie writes on arts and culture for the NB Media Co-op.