Wednesday, May 23, 2018
The Church at Yukuot Village
We have a membership for the Art Gallery of Ontario and we regularly head to Toronto for special exhibits. Even though we usually have a purpose for our visits I make a point of going to see one painting from the permanent collection virtually every time. It is by Emily Carr and until recently it was titled Indian Church. It speaks to me powerfully because the modest clapboard structure sits amidst of magnificent trees which are a natural cathedral and full of energy.
We have a reproduction of this painting in our home. As someone who spent a career in Christian ministry as an "insider," leading worship within a variety of church structures, some very beautiful, I have often felt that my soul needs were met as an "outsider," in places where the natural world invoked a sense of awe and wonder for the Creator.
This week the AGO announced that after consulting with the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation in British Columbia, on whose territory the church was located, the name of the painting has been changed to The Church at Yukuot Village. http://www.nuuchahnulth.org/
The church was built by missionaries in the 1890's and the original building was destroyed by fire, but in endured through Carr's painting.
The AGO's move is part of a global trend of removing racially charged language from older pieces of art, a trend which is not welcomed in all circles. If an artist has named a work, as is the case with Carr, how can subsequent generations alter it to suit changing sensibilities? Carr had a fascination with and deepening respect for First Nations culture, even though she was still a product of her time.
The AGO has erected an informational panel beside the painting that details the history of the church and the context behind the name change. That is helpful and I do appreciate the reasons for the decision. I'll attempt to use the new name, although I may lean toward The Painting Formerly Known as Indian Church when my memory fails me, a nod to the late musician Prince.
Any comments about the choice of the AGO to change the name of this work?
Take a click and read my Groundling musings about the Kilauea volcano