Gathie Falk: Revelations
Gathie Falk, Eight Red Boots, 1973, red-glazed ceramic in painted plywood and glass cabinet. Collection of the National Gallery of Canada. Photo: NGC. © Gathie Falk.

Gathie Falk: Revelations

Audain Art Museum, Whistler, BC - To May 6

by Michael Turner

This career retrospective, organized and circulated by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, under the curation of the McMichael’s Sarah Milroy, pays tribute to one of Canada’s oldest practising artists, a key figure in Vancouver’s vibrant and experimental 1960s interdisciplinary scene whose body of work is both a conversation with – and a history of – that city. Few artists achieve that level of presence. Gathie Falk is one of them and has been for some time.

Born in 1928 of German-speaking Russian Mennonite ancestry in Brandon, Manitoba, Falk moved to the West Coast with her mother, brother and his family to join another brother in the Fraser Valley Mennonite community of Yarrow, BC, in 1946. Though her first love was music (her father, who died shortly after her birth, was an accomplished musician), Falk took visual art classes through her public school teacher training and developed an interest in German Expressionism. Her paintings were included in the 1960 BC Annual Exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery and at the 47th Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists at Seattle Art Museum in 1961.

A timely trip to Europe in 1965 exposed Falk to an up-to-date view of Western art history, and classes with local Vancouver painters followed. But it was her studies with Bernard Leach apprentice Glenn Lewis that opened her eyes – not just to pottery, but to sculpture. In 1967, Falk became a member of the groundbreaking Intermedia collective. The following year, her dealer Doug Christmas enrolled her in a workshop by Judson Dance Theater’s Deborah Hay, who excited Falk’s interest in performance. “The performance process felt very natural,” Falk told the critic Robin Laurence. “It was like music.”

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