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Sponsored / June 3, 2019

Victor Cicansky: The Gardener’s Universe

MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, June 8 to October 23, 2019
Victor Cicansky, <em>Wreck Beach Coffee Table</em>, 2003. Collection of Mea Cicansky. Photo: Don Hall. Victor Cicansky, Wreck Beach Coffee Table, 2003. Collection of Mea Cicansky. Photo: Don Hall.

The MacKenzie Art Gallery is pleased to present “Victor Cicansky: The Gardener’s Universe,” curated by MacKenzie Art Gallery head curator Timothy Long and curator and Calgary-based craft historian Julia Krueger. The exhibition runs from June 8 to October 23, 2019.

The artistic universe of Regina artist Victor Cicansky is firmly rooted in his garden. For more than 50 years, ideas for sculptures in ceramics and bronze have grown out of his intimate relationship with the plants and trees of his backyard. His approach embraces both the immigrant knowledge of his Romanian-Canadian family and more contemporary concerns around urban ecology and environmental sustainability. Rooted in local realities, his work speaks to the wider world of the joys and trials of supporting life in an urban prairie space.

This retrospective exhibition brings together more than 100 ceramic and bronze works that present a richly layered picture of Cicansky’s career. Drawn from 39 public and private collections in Canada and the United States, the selections embody the energy of Cicansky’s varied production. Cicansky engages the language of making to celebrate “hand smarts,” as his blacksmith father called them, and in doing so challenges craft expectations of pottery and furniture. From the iconoclastic experimentation of his student days in California, to the recognition of his prairie immigrant roots, to his celebration of shovel-to-plate gardening—Cicansky has unearthed a politics of place using humour, play and provocation.

Cicansky’s work asserts that history and locality are vital sources for healthy creative expression, just as gardens are essential for the health of our bodies and the planet.

Cicansky’s work asserts that history and locality are vital sources for healthy creative expression, just as gardens are essential for the health of our bodies and the planet. This exhibition celebrates a “garden universe”—as Regina writer Trevor Herriot calls it—and marks Cicansky’s lasting contributions to Canadian art and craft history.

Victor Cicansky grew up in a large family headed by Romanian immigrant parents in an area east of Regina known as the Garlic Flats. After studies with noted Regina ceramist Jack Sures, Cicansky pursued his MFA at the University of California, Davis, where he expanded his artistic vocabulary under iconoclastic funk ceramist Robert Arneson. In 1970, he returned to Regina to teach art education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Saskatchewan, Regina Campus (today University of Regina), later moving to the Visual Arts Department, where he taught from 1984 to 1993.

As a leading figure in the Regina Clay movement of the 1970s, Cicansky created memorable ceramic sculptures inspired by his childhood experiences of pantries, outhouses, gardens and working-class people. Major public commissions from the late 1970s and early 1980s include ceramic murals for the Sturdy Stone Centre in Saskatoon, and The Co-operators and CBC buildings in Regina. His achievements were recognized in the 1983 nationally touring survey “Victor Cicansky: Clay Sculpture,” organized by the MacKenzie Art Gallery.

Adding bronze to his repertoire in the mid-1980s, Cicansky gained further recognition for his elegantly constructed bonsai trees, tables and wall works. A longtime supporter of Grow Regina Community Garden, Cicansky contributed two large laser-cut steel sculptures to frame the entrance to the garden site in southwest Regina in 2000. Other public works include major sculptures for the University of Regina: The Great Flower (1997) and Tree of Knowledge (2018).

Cicansky has received numerous honours and awards including the Order of Canada, Saskatchewan Order of Merit and Saskatchewan Lieutenant Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award. His work can be found in major public and corporate collections nationally and internationally. He lives, works and gardens in Regina.

The MacKenzie Art Gallery is Saskatchewan’s original public art gallery—an immersive centre for engaging people through transformative experiences of the world through art. The permanent collection, which includes the University of Regina’s extensive collection as well as the Kampelmacher Memorial Collection of Indigenous Art, contains more than 5,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years of art history.