Brenda Francis Pelkey: A Retrospective
June 23 to September 29, 2018

As an artist-cartographer-photographer, Brenda Pelkey opens multiple possibilities of female subjectivity in public and private spaces and challenges geographies which have been normalized as male spaces. This career-review is the first solo exhibition organized by the Art Gallery of Windsor since Pelkey moved from Saskatoon to take up the position of Director of the School of Visual Arts at the University of Windsor (2003-2012). The exhibition addresses her ongoing contributions to an innovative kind of social geography, one in which the subject’s view is challenged to consider diverse options. The works invite viewers to imagine outcomes of events past, present, and future which may have happened, be happening, and could happen in those spaces.

The exhibition begins with a selection of her early documentary works from the Foundry project (1988) and includes those major bodies of works which have subsequently challenged the documentary role of photography through images infused with rich social and psychological impact. Pelkey’s practice first demonstrated these latter concerns in 1989 when those photographs comprising the exhibition, the great effect of the imagination on the world (1988-89) were shown. Since then, Pelkey has continued to evolve these themes of psychic and social identity with photographs of landscapes, urban sites, and people. The exhibition reflects these projects through selections from dreams of life and death (1991-94), Memento Mori (1994-96), Oblivion (1996-97), As if there were grace (1999-2000), Haunts (2000-01), Spaces of Transformation (2004-05), and her recent work addressing civic subjects such as provincial court room interiors (2005-8) and the Windsor Aquatic Training Centre under construction (2012-15).

Over the past three decades, Pelkey’s works have been the subject of many solo and group-artist exhibitions in Canada and northwestern Europe, including: Museum of Photography, Helsinki, Finland; London Guildhall University, UK; Remai Modern (Mendel Art Gallery), Saskatoon; MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina; Thames Art Gallery, Chatham; and the Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, among others. Her works are held in major public collections including several of those listed above as well as: Canada Council Art Bank, Ottawa; Winnipeg Art Gallery; Confederation Centre for the Arts, Charlottetown; University of Saskatchewan; and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Today, she continues an active role as professor and an established artist working in Canadian contemporary art.