Feb. 11, 2019

The Anatomy of a Glass Menagerie: Altaglass

New exhibition in Nickle Galleries plays with science, photography, and history of craft in Alberta

Mireille Perron is a Calgary-based visual artist, writer and scholar. Her practice and research projects (typically under the auspices of the Laboratory of Feminist Pataphysics, which she founded) are conceived at the crossroads of scientific, sensual/sensorial material, social, personal and collective imaginaries. 

The Anatomy of a Glass Menagerie | Altaglass continues these explorations with a focus on specific glass histories as well as her concern with how humanity — driven by a wide range of motives — has brought so many animals into our intimidate acquaintance, both domestic and agrarian.

Through her works, Perron simultaneously explores histories of glass art from the collections of both the Corning Museum of Glass and Medalta, and the use of photomechanical means of scientific illustration by producing cyanotype images, a nod to her interest in the pioneering work of English botanist and photographer Anna Atkins (1799–1871). Following in those footsteps, Perron has treated the glass objects as specimens to be discovered and documented, the “anatomies” of various glass blowing methods revealed by sunlight.

Another piece in the collection.

Mireille Perron: Anatomy of a Glass Menagerie: Altaglass, installation views.

Dave Brown, Libraries and Cultural Resources

“Altaglass objects are in total harmony with mid-century modern design,” says Perron. “Their clean and flowing lines are part of their invigorated design, signaling a post-war transition from past to present. Altaglass contributed to the deployment of modernity in Canada and across the Prairies, with all that this implies.”

Historically, artists have drawn inspiration from museums and their diverse collections — archaeological, ethnographic, material and popular culture, medical, botanical and zoological — as a base for research and finished works. More recently, renewed models of collaborations have opened up a wealth of new meanings for and interpretations of objects beyond their traditional museological presentation. Through The Anatomy of a Glass Menagerie: AltaGlass, Perron contributes to a reactivation of meanings and examinations for AltaGlass by presenting 113 selected objects from the collection alongside cyanotypes.

“For Perron,” says Christine Sowiak, chief curator at Nickle Galleries and the exhibition curator, “her interaction with the stores of Altaglass animals and objects in the collection of the Historical Society of Medicine Hat and District at Medalta reflects not only her specific interest in the endearing animal ornaments — it also echoes her way of working as an artist and her practice that laces together aesthetic production, research, critical theory, craft histories — particularly in Alberta, feminism, and an insistence on working collaboratively.”

Another piece in the collection.

Mireille Perron: Anatomy of a Glass Menagerie: Altaglass, installation views.

Dave Brown, Libraries and Cultural Resources

Mireille Perron was born in Montréal. Since 1982, her installations have appeared in solo and group exhibitions in Canada, Europe and the United States. She is the founder of the Laboratory of Feminist Pataphysics. LFP promotes social experiments that masquerade as artworks/events. She has also written and published on a variety of subjects related to representation. She now lives and works in an old converted dépanneur (grocery store) in Calgary, where she recently retired from teaching at the Alberta University of Arts, formerly known as Alberta College of Art and Design.

The exhibition runs until April 13 and was organized by Nickle Galleries, curated by Christine Sowiak with catalogue essay by Julia Kruger. Mireille Perron acknowledges her collaboration with Medalta, Historical Society of Medicine Hat and District, Corning Museum of Glass, and all the known and anonymous AltaGlass makers.

The weekly Nickle at Noon event series will feature related talks and gallery tours. All events are free and open to the public.

Learn more by subscribing to updates from Nickle Galleries.

Artist’s Tour and Catalogue Launch