Above Ground: Mining StoriesJuly 12, 2002 - July 12, 2002
Guest Curated by Rosemary Donegan
Above Ground: Mining Stories explores the experience and imagery of mining towns and camps in a collection of photographs, paintings, drawings, books and maps. This experience is a central chapter in the larger history of work, labour and industrial capital in Canada. The images in the exhibition are mementos of local cultures and mining communities that no longer exist except in memories and documents of the period.
Mining was one of the pivotal industries in Canada’s development that attracted artists and photographers. The photographs of coal mining communities capture the social hierarchies and oral traditions rooted in the European mining culture of mutual support and collective action. The mining industry often produced camps and towns in a flash as claims were laid. Eventually large scale mining operations evolved into company towns. The exhibition examines the symbolic meaning of mining in our culture and gives the viewer a perspective on the origins of Canada’s prosperity as an industrial nation.
From the landscapes of A.Y. Jackson to the portrait records of Hayashi Studios on Vancouver Island to the photo essay of the Murdochville strike in 1957, these images tell stories of the strength and endurance of miners and their families living in isolated frontier communities. The visual reports portray complex class and ethnic reality long before the concept of multiculturalism existed as government policy. Photographs of masquerade parties, fishing trips, and local dances are accompanied by images of the fight for union recognition, adequate wages and mine safety. New meanings and understandings of history are constructed as we look at the past from the perspective of the present.
The exhibition is organized around a series of mining communities and includes photographic essays by individual photographers and paintings and drawings by A.Y. Jackson and Yvonne Mckague Houssen. The installation will be designed as a layered and multi-faceted encounter with photographs, paintings, maps, local histories, and films and will be installed as a visually complex assembly of images and stories.