The Esker Foundations third exhibit, Splendid Isolation, is an immense showcase of photographs taken over 30 years by four Alberta photographers: Olga Chagaoutdinova, Miruna Dragan, Orest Semchishen and George Webber. It features more than 140 prints shot in different locations between 1976 and 2013, from the prairies of Canada to the United States, Mexico, Cuba and Russia. The images range in size from a row of small photos to mural-sized images covering entire walls.
Olga Chagaoutdinova, Leninas Kitchen (2005), detail, colour photograph [Esker Foundation, Calgary AB, Jan 19-Apr 21]
With unifying themes of home, privacy and daily life, the photographs afford glimpses of an empty sadness in pictures that are simple yet timeless and memorable. Webber and Semchishen use a classic documentary style to capture portraits of the prairie in all its splendour and isolation. Webber has been photographing the people and landscape of the Canadian west for over thirty years. Chagaoutdinovas work examines domesticity and globalization in several countries, including Cuba and Russia, while Dragans images reflect themes of dispersion and transcendence.
Despite profound differences in era, many of the prints share striking similarities in tone and execution. The solitude and beauty of country life, unassuming domestic rooms and settings, abandoned buildings and ruins are frozen in time. In the words of artistic director Naomi Potter, Splendid Isolation offers an intense look at the politics of landscape, history and isolation.
Free public programming for the exhibit includes several artist talks, workshops and a panel discussion, with guided tours of the exhibit every Friday noon.