Arts & CultureCultural Affairs

Exhibit Review: ‘Home & Migration’ at the Art Gallery of Alberta 

This traveling exhibit explores themes of hope, loneliness, and settlement in Alberta.

Where, what, or who is ‘home’ to you? From June 7 to September 3, the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) is hosting the traveling exhibit Home & Migration. Tucked away in the Theatre Lobby of the AGA, the collection of artworks from Albertan artists explores the concepts of home and belonging, particularly within diaspora communities. 

The exhibit was curated by a blind jury after an initial call for submissions by the Alberta Society of Artists (ASA). 

The artworks featured utilize a variety of mediums, including paint, photography, fabric, mixed media, and wood etching. Admission is free for Albertan post-secondary students if you bring your student ID. You can also view the full collection online.

Making a home in Alberta

Alberta as a home has, for generations, been a place of promise, sorrow, alienation, and community. Sharon Rubuliak’s Making a Home at Buffalo Jump celebrates the British women in the early 20th century who found opportunity and freedom in Albertan homesteads. Deborah Lougheed Sinclair’s collection of printed digital images also highlights the experiences of early Albertan settlers. Particularly her paternal Métis ancestors who journeyed from Rupert’s Land to settle in Alberta.

Katie O'Connor Artwork by Tatianna O’Donnell, Liz Sullivan, Mona Sahi, and Asal Andarzipour.

Tatianna O’Donnell’s painting, Women in My Mother’s Village, reflects on the journey of her Ukrainian mother and the community she left behind. O’Donnell created the work to remember her ties to Ukraine, as she notes in the painting’s label that “[migration] leaves holes in the memory of future generations.”

Many of the works explore whether an immigrant can ever feel truly at home again, and feature a sense of liminality — of being in-between places or states. In particular, Mona Sahi’s Floating captures this pervasive theme of pseudo-belonging, depicting an immigrant as a baby bird who is adrift in a stylized womb.

Zehra Tunay Diptych by Sahar Hakimi and ‘House on the Hill’ by Sharon Lensen.

Home & Migration also features multiple Iranian artists who have migrated to Alberta. Sahar Hakimi’s diptych Dream & Nightmare is a striking, surrealist depiction of the disorientation and loneliness that often comes with migration.

Capturing migration from the perspective of those left behind, The Homesick World by Mitra Samavaki is a haunting glimpse of her childhood home in Tehran — now empty after the emigration of Samavaki and her sisters.

Home beyond borders

The exhibit also includes works that imagine ‘home’ as a non-geographical concept. Shea Proulx’s Home envisions the artist at work in her home a split-second after a major shift in Earth’s gravity. E. Ross Bradley‘s Self Portrait is an edited image of the artist at home taken using a pinhole camera. Bradley reflects on the ancient history of pinhole images and the possibilities created by merging ancient and modern art techniques.

Zehra Tunay ‘The Homesick World’ by Mitra Samavaki and ‘A Place in the World’ by Deborah Lougheed Sinclair.

Home & Migration has little Indigenous exploration of the themes of belonging, displacement, and home in Alberta. Lougheed Sinclair’s works offer a fascinating look at early Métis migration, but additional Indigenous representation would have enriched the collection.

This exhibit is timely, as Alberta aims to attract Canadians to settle in Alberta and as Canada takes in refugees from Ukraine, Turkey, Syria, and elsewhere. Home & Migration succeeds in illustrating how fundamental migration is to Alberta’s history. Newcomers to the province may be heartened by the shared stories of nostalgia, isolation, and belonging. 

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