Museum  December 21, 2018  Chandra Noyes

A Canadian Icon Revisited Through Humor and Textiles

Photo: James Prinz, courtesy of Western Exhibitions

Jessica Campbell, House of All Sorts, 2018

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.

Photo: James Prinz, courtesy of Western Exhibitions

Jessica Campbell, Self-Portrait, 2018

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 She extensively documented Indigenous communities, and her writings and paintings serve as valuable historical documents.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.

Jessica Campbell, Nirvana, 2018
Photo: James Prinz, courtesy of Western Exhibitions

Jessica Campbell, Nirvana, 2018

Jessica Campbell, Alive, 2018
 Photo: James Prinz, courtesy of Western Exhibitions

Jessica Campbell, Alive, 2018

Jessica Campbell, Woo, 2018
Photo: James Prinz, courtesy of Western Exhibitions

Jessica Campbell, Woo, 2018

Jessica Campbell, Victoria Inner Harbour, 2018
Photo: James Prinz, courtesy of Western Exhibitions

Jessica Campbell, Victoria Inner Harbour, 2018

Jessica Campbell, Edge of the Forest, 2018
Photo: James Prinz, courtesy of Western Exhibitions

Jessica Campbell, Edge of the Forest, 2018

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.

Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Installation view, Chicago Works: Jessica Campbell, MCA Chicago December 18, 2018 – July 7, 2019 

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.

About the Author

Chandra Noyes

Chandra Noyes is Managing Editor for Art & Object.

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