Emily Carr (1871-1945) is best remembered as a painter, one of Canada’s first Modernists, who after studying in France, brought a Fauvist and Post-Impressionist style to her depictions of the landscapes and cultures of the Pacific Northwest. She extensively documented Indigenous communities, and her writings and paintings serve as valuable historical documents. Carr did not have much success until late in her life, though she is now considered one of Canada’s greatest artists.
Using humor and creative license, artist Jessica Campbell is reinterpreting the life of Canadian icon Emily Carr. Chicago Works: Jessica Campbell, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, shows Campbell delving into Carr’s biography, relating to her life, revering her works, and reinterpreting them as they relate to her own. Through textiles, drawings and comics, Campbell uses humor to shed light on her experiences and Carr’s, both female artists striving to express themselves in a world dominated by male voices.
Jessica Campbell, who lives and works in Chicago, is, like Carr, a native of Victoria, Canada. Her cartoons, paintings, and textiles are often autobiographical and address the joys and frustrations being a female artist. She has published many comics, a graphic novel, and the 2016 book Hot or Not: 20th-Century Male Artists, an art historical survey from the vantage point of the female gaze.
For this exhibition, Campbell debuts a large fresco-inspired mural comprised of textile panels depicting scenes from Carr’s life and her own. Campbell pairs this with Carr’s own writing, providing context and showing Campbell’s reverence for Carr’s own voice. By interlacing her stories with those of Carr, she sheds a light on the fact that while much has changed, much has stayed the same for women in the arts.
Chicago Works: Jessica Campbell is on view at the MCA Chicago through July 7, 2019.