In the essay, “The Invisible Museum”, Laury Leite reminds us that “the world is a strange and unknown place, and that knowledge is nothing more than the search for the marvellous hidden in nature.” (117) Beyond the Gallery invites readers to think about the hidden marvels all around us—the artwork within and outside of the art gallery.
Beyond the Gallery’s subtitle is “An Anthology of Visual Encounters” and it delivers on its promise to provide a vast array of perspectives on art beyond the walls of the art gallery, even in a relatively brief collection of eight essays. The essays in this book will appeal to lovers of art and especially lovers of many different time periods of art history. In Beyond the Gallery, editors Liuba Gonzàles de Armas and Ana Ruiz Aguirre curate an interesting and eclectic group of essays written in Spanish and English by Canadian authors from the Spanish-speaking diaspora. The theme that binds the pieces together is not simply art, but the ways in which we might think about art outside of the typical gallery space, which usually seeks to dictate the way a viewer takes in the piece. They ask, what happens when art breaks free from the traditional gallery space? What kinds of unconventional art forms do we experience in the world? The eight essays in this collection offer a variety of perspectives on topics like classical art, political posters of revolution-era Cuba, and even the boom of artistic expression in tattooing in recent years.
Each piece is written in its author’s signature style (credit here goes to the translators of each essay), and many essays embrace not only an academic approach but play with perspective as well. One notable essay that does this is “El Telón de Picasso/Picasso’s Curtain: A Visual Encounter”, by Marcelo Donato. Donato begins by describing his first, impactful visual encounter of the curtain Picasso painted for a ballet in 1917. The essay then shifts into a creative-nonfictional retelling of the players and circumstances that influenced the creation of Picasso’s curtain. It ends with a section in which the curtain itself speaks. The switching of perspectives is a recurring theme in the entire collection of essays, which demands an open mind as the perspectives and styles shift from piece to piece, perhaps the way that a multi-artist exhibit might ask the viewer to approach different and unconventional pieces with an open mind.
As I was contemplating the essays in this book, I thought of my own experiences of art outside the gallery. This collection calls to mind the “Nuit Blanche” art festivals I have attended when artists take over the streets and other non-traditional spaces of a major city as new and exciting venues for their creations. There is something very energizing about seeing art deliberately taking over a space outside of the gallery. It becomes more accessible and interactive, and the authors of these essays seem to agree that great art can reside in many spaces. The spirit of Nuit Blanche is alive in this collection and it encourages readers to look to the classics, but also to the unexpected for inspiration.
Ana Ruiz Aguirre is a Cuban-Canadian writer and researcher who writes about art through an interdisciplinary and contextual lens. Ana contributed to and co-edited Beyond the Gallery with the support of the Edmonton Heritage Council and the Alberta Public Interest Research Group, and she is currently working on her first monograph with the support of the Edmonton Arts Council. Ana’s doctoral research examining the strategy and impact of cultural diplomacy in North America was awarded a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and she was a Mitacs Globalink Research Scholar at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Ana was part of the Public Diplomacy and the Economy of Culture Research Group at Queen’s University, and has worked at Fondo Cubano de Bienes Culturales, and the Art Gallery of Alberta. She currently serves as Chair of the Fundraising and Advocacy Committee at Latitude 53, one of Canada’s oldest artist-run centres.
Liuba González de Armas is a diasporic Cuban cultural worker. She is both contributor and co-editor to Beyond the Gallery. Liuba holds a Bachelor of Arts in History of Art, Design, and Visual Culture from the University of Alberta and a Master’s degree in Art History from McGill University. Her MA research examined representations of women in Cuban revolutionary posters and was supported by a Canada Graduate Scholarship. Her areas of interest include activist printmaking, public art and propaganda, and cultural policy and diplomacy. Liuba has interned and worked at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Museum of American History, the Art Gallery of Alberta, and various artist-run centres across Canada. Most recently, she served as Halifax’s Young Curator at the art galleries of Mount Saint Vincent, Dalhousie, and Saint Mary’s universities before joining the civil service in Nova Scotia. Liuba approaches visual art of the Americas hemispherically, seeking to foreground spaces of transnational dialogue and solidarity.
Rachel Fernandes was raised in Ottawa, where she completed her Honours BA and MA in English at the University of Ottawa. She is now based in Kingston, where she is a PhD Candidate studying contemporary North American literature. Her research focuses on mixed race identity in various genres, including memoir, poetry, and the novel.
Over the last decade, she has published a smattering of poems through small presses such as In/Words, Joypuke, Coven, and Feathertale, and served on the editorial boards of The Ottawa Arts Review and The Lamp Literary Journal. She loves reading even more than she loves writing, and is excited to share and discuss new Canadian work through The Miramichi Reader.