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Features / November 29, 2013

Slideshow: Mary Pratt’s Luminous Still-Lifes

Since debuting in May, Mary Pratt’s touring retrospective organized by the Rooms and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia has been gaining well-deserved praise. On view at the Art Gallery of Windsor until January 5, 2014, it is slated to travel into 2015, making stops at Kleinburg’s McMichael Canadian Art Collection (January 18 to April 27, 2014), Regina’s MacKenzie Art Gallery (May 16 to August 24, 2014) and Halifax’s Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (September 12, 2014 to January 11, 2015).

Pratt’s laborious paintings—to view some, click on the Photos icon above—often capture aspects of domestic life: food preparation, place settings, housework, the moment before a meal in which presentation is everything.

In a parallel vein, they capture the construction of femininity, the rituals of grooming, dressing and undressing, interactions between artist and model, and the sensuality of the everyday.

Mary Pratt grew up in Fredericton and graduated from the fine arts program at New Brunswick’s Mount Allison University in 1961, studying under Alex Colville, among other artists. A few years later, Pratt moved to a small town in Newfoundland with her then-husband, painter Christopher Pratt.

As author Lisa Moore, recent winner of the $25,000 Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award, describes in the Winter 2014 issue of Canadian Art, Pratt’s life in small-town Newfoundland was replete with domestic tasks, and the roles of mother and homemaker came to profoundly influence her painting.

Moore in particular notes Pratt’s remarkable treatment of the “drama of light,” which exists alongside a sometimes darker content in her works.

“The light in Pratt’s paintings,” Moore writes, “seems sentient, a living thing, a pulsation or emission, imbuing the paintings with an erotic and almost mystical desire.”

For more on Mary Pratt’s life and work, pick up the Winter 2014 issue of Canadian Art, available on newsstands, on the App Storeand on Zinio from December 15, 2013 to March 14, 2014. To get each issue delivered straight to your mailbox, visit