March 21, 2018

University of Calgary mourns passing of Calgary artist, alumna, friend and donor

Mackie legacy lives on through rich collections donated to Libraries and Cultural Resources

Author

Jennifer Sowa, Libraries and Cultural Resources

The June 2017 opening of Pressed: Four Decades of Prints by D. Helen Mackie, RCA in Nickle Galleries. Back row, from left: David Mackie, Becky Williams-Freeman, Jamie Mackie. Front row, from left: Brenda Mackie, Kerry Williams-Freeman, Dora Helen Mackie, Sandy Mackie, Leah Mackie. Photo by Dave Brown.

The June 2017 opening of Pressed: Four Decades of Prints by D. Helen Mackie, RCA in Nickle Galleries

Photo by Dave Brown

Dora (Helen) Mackie, BFA'73, member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Artists and admired printmaker, has left a legacy that will forever enhance the university’s collections, programming and engagement with audiences on campus and within the broader community. The well-known Canadian artist passed away on Feb. 18, 2018.

  • She is pictured above with her family. Back row, from left: David Mackie, Becky Williams-Freeman, Jamie Mackie. Front row, from left: Brenda Mackie, Kerry Williams-Freeman, Dora Helen Mackie, Sandy Mackie, Leah Mackie

Just last year, Mackie donated one of every print series she created over her studio career of more than four decades — in all, more than 350 prints using a wide variety of media, including etching, intaglio, woodblock and stencils. Individually and as a collection, the prints give testimony to the talent and dedication of this cherished artist.

Her prints were the foundation of last summer’s feature exhibition Pressed: Four Decades of Prints by D. Helen Mackie, RCA.

“Helen was so much a part of the art community in Calgary, as a collector but much more so as one of its most accomplished printmakers,” explains Christine Sowiak, chief curator at Nickle Galleries. “Her facility with the different processes, her beautiful drawing skills, came together with her genuine connection to all of her subject matter. She produced a body of work as accessible to all viewers as it is personal and reflective of her own rich life.”

Three years earlier, Mackie had donated to Nickle Galleries a collection of more than 130 drawings by Canadian artists, which formed the core of the 2014 exhibition Fine Lines: Drawings from the Nickle Collection and the Mackie Donation.

Ruffled Grouse, 1990, ed. 50, linoblock/paper. Featured in Pressed: Four Decades of Prints by D. Helen Mackie, RCA.

Ruffled Grouse, 1990, ed. 50, linoblock/paper.

Featured in Pressed: Four Decades of Prints by D. Helen Mackie, RCA.

Over many years, Helen and James Mackie — who served on the university’s Board of Governors for two consecutive terms from July 1, 1980 to June 30, 1986 and as chair of the Nickle’s board — collected the drawings by more than 100 different artists, predominantly from Western Canada, spanning a period from the 1800s to today. The collection also includes works by artists from across Canada and the drawings range from preparatory sketches to finished works of art.

“We are eternally grateful for this donation of her personal collection, which is exceptional both for the quality of the art itself, and the importance of how it will be shared with the community. Helen and her family took great care to bring this collection to the university, where it will benefit students and researchers for generations,” remarks Sowiak.

In addition to strengthening the collections of Nickle Galleries, the Mackie family also donated the Mackie Family History of Neuroscience Collection, the majority of which is housed in the History of Medicine Room in the Health Sciences Library at the Foothills Campus. This collection of international significance contains nearly 2,500 books and journal articles spans over 350 years in the development of neuroscience. Highlights include Rene Descartes’s classic 1662 work De Homine and the rare first neurological text Cerebri Anatome, published in 1662, written by Thomas Willis — the “Father of Neurology” — and illustrated by Christopher Wren.

“The generosity of Helen Mackie and her family has strengthened the University of Calgary’s collections and will have a tremendous impact on the campus community well into the future,” says Tom Hickerson, vice-provost (libraries and cultural resources). “We are so proud to have exhibited Helen’s work in Nickle Galleries and it is an honour to be the custodians of the collections she donated to the university over the course of many years.”