School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Agnes Etherington Art Centre: Current & Upcoming Exhibitions

Agnes Etherington Art Centre

Georgia Carley

Exhibitions at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston

Pauline Johnson's stage costumes.
Photo by Paul Litherland

There is nothing quite like the thrill of standing in front of a historical object that you have spent months researching, finally getting to see it in person for the first time.

When I first looked at Mohawk poet Pauline Johnson’s stage costume – featured in the Agnes Etherington Art Centre’s “The Artist Herself” exhibition – I was surprised. I had studied the dress extensively, and had been looking forward to this day since hearing that the dress, which rarely leaves the Museum of Vancouver, was coming to the Queen’s campus.

What I saw in front of me told me more than any black-and-white photograph or written description ever had. In person, I saw that the dress had striking red accents, and that the buckskin skirt was much stiffer than I had imagined. Suddenly, I knew so much more about this turn-of-the-century performer, and about how she had felt wearing this outfit on stage.

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre is full of such moments of delightful insight.

“The Artist Herself,” one of the Agnes’ five current exhibitions, is the first exhibition examining women’s self-portraiture in Canada. But what is a self-portrait? In the gallery, dresses, dolls, quilts and needlework samplers are displayed alongside self-portraits in the more expected mediums of drawing, painting, photography and print.

Alicia Boutilier, Curator of Canadian Historical Art, likens this expanded definition of self-portraiture to the diverse forms of self-expression found today on social media.

She and Tobi Bruce, co-curators of the exhibition, sought as many artworks and objects as possible that could be considered “self-portraits” by women artists in Canada when preparing the exhibition. The result is an incredibly moving exploration of the means of self-representation.

I enjoy “The Artist Herself” as a critical intervention in the idea of portraiture; I enjoy it also because it is pretty. The exhibition is filled with beautiful and carefully-wrought pieces.

This contrast suggests the importance of this campus art gallery. The spaces in the Agnes are quiet and contemplative. They offer beautiful works of art to enjoy – including works by Rembrandt that are permanently on display. For a graduate student, spending time in this space, away from labs and books, is a refreshing interlude.

But the exhibitions at the Agnes are also enriching and provoke critical reflection.

An upcoming exhibition this fall will be a travelling show from University of Toronto’s Hart House gallery. It features the works of Canadian artists from the interwar and post-war periods – not least the Group of Seven and Tom Thompson. Boutilier highlights that there is much to learn about these artists as we enjoy the beauty of their works.

The Agnes features a rich variety of works from different artistic traditions. Other artists featured in the Agnes’ fall season include contemporary artists Judy Redoule and Ulrich Panzer, and the seminal Carl Beam. The Agnes’ “Artists in Amsterdam” and exhibition of the art of West and Central Africa will continue to be on display.

The Agnes’ Fall Season runs from August 29 to December 6, 2015. The season launch, in September, is open to students. Free tours of the exhibitions are offered on the third Thursday of each month at 12:15pm.

Admission to the gallery is free to all Queen’s students, staff and faculty, a further incentive to drop in.

Look to the Agnes’ website for full information about admissions and opening hours. 

Photo by Tim Forbes

People looking at art at the Agnes

Visitors admire the artwork at one of the many exhibitions at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

Photo by Tim Forbes