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Critics to swarm Saskatoon for Mitchell art exhibition Print-ready version

Saskatoon StarPhoenix
June 11, 2000

Lots of Sask. content featured in pop icon's first Canadian showing

About 6000 people from across Canada, the United States, Australia and Europe are expected to gather at the Mendel Art Gallery later this month for the opening of Joni Mitchell's first retrospective exhibition.

The New York Times has even expressed interest in coming to review the pop icon's show, which opens June 30.

"We have received e-mails from people saying, 'I can't find Saskatoon on the map, but I'm coming,' said gallery director and exhibition curator Gilles Hebert.

Eighty-one photographs, paintings, and other works of art covering 35 years will be in the exhibition, which is entitled voices: Joni Mitchell.

The artwork will be complemented with selections from Mitchell's extensive music collection plus enlarged written versions of her poems and lyrics.

The exhibition runs until Sept. 17.

Mitchell, who lives in Los Angeles but was raised in Saskatoon, will be at the Mendel on opening day. She has never held an exhibition in Canada.

A private showing, public tour and outdoor receoption are planned for the first day. The outdoor event will take place in large tents behind the gallery between 8 p.m. and midnight. Admission is free and tickets are not required.

A limited-edition catalogue with a 1,500 word statement from the artist will also be available.

"Frankly, when they see how much of the work has Saskatchewan and Saskatoon content in it, they will be pleasantly surprised to see what a connection she still has to this place," said Hebert.

One locally inspired painting on display will be Road to Waskesui, while another is called 40 Below Zero. There are also a series of 30 photographs from the 1980s of farm buildings superimposed with images of Mitchell.

"These are all paintings that she did coming out of her more or less regular trips to Saskatchewan. She goes to the country, takes photographs, and foes to L.A. and paints Prairie landscapes," said Herbert, who sorted through more than 400 pieces to compile the exhibition.

Hebert -- one of the few people to have seen Mitchell's collection -- said he was impressed at the calibre and diversity of the work. Mitchell created many of her album covers including the latest release, Both Sides Now, which features a self-portrait of the artist smoking a cigarette.

"She has changed musically but she has also changed in terms of her palette and the way she approaches visual art. I was very impressed with how prolific and dedicated she is to painting right now and visual arts in general, Hebert said.

Dave Alexander, a local painter who has been featured at the Mendel said a Joni Mitchell showing is long overdue in Saskatoon considering this is the city she calls home.

"I think that Saskatchewan has been amiss in not recognizing her as she should have been as a person who came from here, someone who has contributed to the world's art," said Alexander.

He said the thousands of people the Mendel expects for the opening will be there for "the right reasons and the wrong reasons."

"The wrong reason will be to come for the celebrity and only that. She has painted for how many years. I hope the credit and the criticism will be based on the artwork," he said.

Premier Roy Romanow and federal Heritage Minister Sheila Copps are expected to be among the dignitaries attending the showing.

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Added to Library on September 29, 2000. (8002)


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