During her life, Emily Carr toiled under often supremely difficult conditions: poverty, isolation, ridicule – artistic and otherwise. Her talent was often not recognized, or acknowledged. But she persevered, "an isolated little old woman on the edge of nowhere," as she once referred to herself.
Now, 67 years after her death, is making history again , becoming the first Canadian artist to be exhibited posthumously at dOCUMENTA (13), the important contemporary art fair held every five years in Kassel, Germany. This is an honour that has not been bestowed upon any other historical Canadian painter – not Tom Thomson, not any members of the Group of Seven.
"It's stupendous to see her work in dOCUMENTA," said Daina Augaitis, chief curator and associate director at the Vancouver Art Gallery, which provided seven Carr works for the exhibition. "It really is the ultimate in the art world."
"She's on the world stage here," she said from Kassel. "It really is the ultimate in the art world."
dOCUMENTA(13), which opens Saturday, has placed an emphasis on female modernists from the early part of the 20th century, who in many ways have paved the way for the contemporary artists generally associated with dOCUMENTA. Among the Canadians at the exhibition this year are Brian Jungen, Geoffrey Farmer, Gareth Moore, and Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller.
It's a remarkable vindication of the "struggle that she spent so long with here in B.C.," says VAG senior curator Ian Thom, who accompanied the works – in secrecy – to Kassel last month. "Occasionally she looked at herself as this person literally in the middle of nowhere. And to be embraced by what is one of the major artistic events ... in the world would be, I think, a really remarkable vindication for that struggle that she spent so long with here in B.C."