What's a curator got to do with it

By Laurie Jones

Published April 11 2017

The curator’s job has changed a lot in recent decades. No longer is your average curator peering out from behind the scenes or labouring in the storerooms of museums and galleries preserving for posterity. The challenge to the modern curator is to craft a shared public experience using cultural artifacts works of art objects and stories that is greater than the sum of its parts. Today’s curator is nothing short of an alchemist spinning cultural gold for the cultural economy.

Have you noticed? Curators’ names often get top billing over those of the participating artists. But then to curate is to orchestrate so it is a starring role and besides very few people can tell “good art” from “bad.” Or can they? More and more we see the word curate being used in conversation and especially in advertising where the consumer is urged to curate “your own” collection of images with Pinterest curate content for Facebook curate your wardrobe your children’s playthings your shoe collection or your cupboards. Now more than ever we are all curators. What is a curator to do but follow her instincts and hope for the best.
Being a professional curator is one of those jobs where life experience still counts and I have found (note to reader: I am pushing 60) a varied career is the best preparation for creating accessible experiences; devoid of artspeak and rich with meaning.

Sacred Woods is the title of Rails End Gallery’s upcoming exhibition which runs from April 1 til May 25. As a title it sounds intriguing don’t you think? The inspiration for this project has its roots in my personal experience of the woods as a place where I feel at home and in my personal faith journey from Ayn Rand inspired atheist to Anglican to pilgrim. I had no recipe for Sacred Woods and the ingredients came my way serendipitously. Leanne Baird popped in one fall afternoon portfolio in hand (this is not the way “they” say you are supposed to do it) and I was charmed. I am a painter whose work flows quite freely from my gut to the canvas and so I was intrigued by Baird’s methodical approach to mark-making. She uses repeated forms that glow intensely and pulse with the quiet energy of the woods a kind of sacred energy. Gaia Orion on the other hand meticulously inscribes single leaves on canvas like so much confetti to create gentle movement; or maps out visionary tales of enlightenment according to her inner voice. If there is a common factor between these two artists it is the way I feel when I look at their work – safe and fearless. That is why I chose them or did they choose me?

Sacred Woods: Leanne Baird and Gaia Orion is a cultural experience I have planned for spring at Rails End another in succession of intuitive choices I have made during my brief tenure as a curator at Rails End Gallery and Arts Centre. I hope you come and see the show.
Laurie Jones is the curator at Rails End Gallery and Arts Centre in Haliburton. Find out more at railsendgallery.com or call 705-457-2330.