Introduction for Gerta Moray

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The highlight of the presentation ceremony is the introduction of the authors by distinguished individuals.

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Ian Thom OC, author, curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery and past curator at Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and McMichael Canadian Art Collection introduced Gerta Moray's book Unsettling Encounters.

Good afternoon, it is my distinct privilege to say a few words about Gerta Moray and her remarkable book, Unsettling Encounters: First Nations Imagery in the Art of Emily Carr. Dr. Moray, who is a professor of art history at the University of Guelph, has made a particular study of the role of women within art history, beginning with a major book on the Canadian artist Mary Pratt in 1989. She has written and lectured extensively about, to use her own words, "gender issues in art history and on women's art production." More importantly, she has written about these issues in clear and elegant language which allows an enormous range of readers' ready access to her body of knowledge and makes learning something new a pleasure.

This book, rather like Emily Carr's own story, is the result of a long and complex journey. Dr. Moray's work on Carr began over two decades ago when in the course of her graduate studies at the University of Toronto, she decided to examine something that many in the Canadian art world knew about, indeed perhaps they took it as something that was so well known that it did not require close examination - the enormous body of work that Carr had produced, throughout her career, which took First Nations people and their artistic heritage as its subject. Indeed she set out to research and document all of these hundreds of works. The great English art historian Sir Kenneth Clark, once remarked that all great art invites reinterpretation by successive generations and while this is true, it is also true that art does not exist in a vacuum - there are contexts for the production of any art object - social, political, aesthetic and cultural to name but a few. It is the singular achievement of Dr. Moray in this book, based on her doctoral dissertation, that she has brought fresh eyes, new knowledge and insight into an area that too many took for granted and thought we understood. The story of Carr's relationship with First Nations peoples and their culture is not a simple one and Gerta Moray weaves together the complex strands of history, biography, culture, politics, government policy, ethnology, museums, and art history to tell a compelling story of Carr's involvement with First Nations culture and art. It is an exemplary example of careful scholarship and a major contribution to our understanding of Carr's work. As I noted in another context, Unsettling Encounters, will become an indispensable resource for everyone who wants to know more about this fascinating aspect of Carr's career. Indeed it is already so. To many Carr's involvement with and use of First Nations subject matter is problematic and Dr. Moray does not shy away from these issues but equally she foregrounds the truly exceptional achievement of Carr in producing these works.

When Carr set out to depict First Nations peoples and their cultures she was acutely aware of the threat that faced all First Nations within this province and she wanted to celebrate the power, dignity, and culture of people, who, in her day had few legal, social or political rights. This book is important because it demonstrates how key Carr is to understanding issues that continue to be of vital interest to us today - the relationship between all people who live in British Columbia today - First Nations and non-First Nations - to each other and our relationship to this land that we all call home.
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