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Thinking About Liz Ingram

Part of what made researching this project on Alberta women artists so compelling is how each individual deals with depicting their subject matter. No one thinks about answering a question in quite the same way. Through art, we’re able to think about the artist’s message, their story, and the ideas they are grappling with. The subject is a connective tissue, in that sense, where all the little pieces are presented to the viewer in hopes that they will form a connection to what they see. Sometimes it is quite simply what we think we see, and other times there is a little clue in the title. Maybe we have to read the artist’s statement and go from there. This week we’re going to look at the subjects used by just one of the fabulous Alberta woman artists whose work is found in the art collection at the University of Lethbridge.

Works for the Drawing Bar (detail), 2016. University of Lethbridge Art Gallery photograph. This exhibition showcased many of the drawings within the collection, including several from Liz Ingram.

Born in Argentina, Liz Ingram is a Distinguished Professor Emerita in the Department of Art and Design at the University of Alberta. She has taught printmaking and drawing there for forty years, with so many of the students within the department's programs having had a chance to learn from her. Her main practice focuses on etching, lithography, digital prints, and installation works. Her own education includes completing an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art at York University (1972) and a Master of Visual Arts with a Major in Printmaking at the University of Alberta (1975). On top of her long career in arts education, Ingram has participated in more than three hundred group and juried exhibitions around the world. In 2008 she was inducted into the City of Edmonton Hall of Fame, so the city clearly knows they have someone special in residence.

Diving a little bit deeper into the idea of subjects, what Ingram captures in her art is incredibly interesting to think about. She looks at the human body, tying it to elements of the natural world like the shimmer seen in bodies of water. The fragility of life is a major component of her practice and is used to build connections between all other life forms in nature. Those two sentences hold ideas that can be a lot to take in on the audience side of things. Another artist could be thinking along those same lines and execute in a completely different manner than Ingram does. That goes right back into the variety we see in art—nothing looks the same no matter how you categorize the artists, with everyone bringing something new to the table.

Figure Drawing (Study)”, 1982, charcoal and chalk, by Liz Ingram (1949- ). University of Lethbridge Art Collection; gift of the artist, 1994.

Personally, I love looking at artists’ sketches. They show little glimpses of how they construct images, their processes, and what interests them. To show off some of Ingram’s work within the collection I chose a charcoal and chalk piece titled Figure Drawing (Study). Figure drawing is a foundational pillar of Western art history and study, so it isn’t too surprising to see that so many artists focus a great deal of time and effort on sketching the forms we see every day. Drawings like this one are so valuable because they can capture not only the personality of the model but the artist themselves. The curve of the hips, the arm curled to cushion the head. Those are carefully rendered features, showing the care and mastery Ingram has over depicting the human figure. We can see her technique and, as a non-artist myself, that is fascinating. The University of Lethbridge Art Gallery has more than a few sketch and study pieces in the collection by all kinds of artists which emphasizes how important they really are.

“Into and Around It”, 1974, ink, by Liz Ingram (Canadian, 1949- ). University of Lethbridge Art Collection; gift of the artist, 1994.

Another collection piece that really captured my attention was Ingram’s abstract print Into and Around It. The translucent layers of shapes, colours, and soft lines say so much about the amount of work that goes into building up the perfect print. It is abstract, but it isn’t thrown together. There is intention behind the splotchy curve of ink in the upper half and in the way elements interact and overlap. The layers in prints like this are what speak to me as a viewer. Constructing artworks like this points to a lifetime honing the skill of thinking of what to say and in which ways to say it, making Ingram’s work so interesting to look through. There are gorgeous images available on her website—including my personal favourite, the “Penetrating Gestures” series that looks at themes of life—that take careful layers and meticulous planning to a whole other level.

Kelsey Black

Collection and Outreach Assistant

Acknowledgements and Sources

Many thanks to Liz Ingram for providing me with further information and allowing the inclusion of her artwork. Check out her website and these other links for more of her work.

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