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Prairies
Sandee Moore
Frank & Victor Cicansky at the Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery
November 28, 2018

Frank Cicansky, a Romanian immigrant folk artist, and his son Victor Cicansky, a senior artist and one of the founders of the Prairie Funk movement, document their lived experiences in artworks that are collected and currently presented together in the exhibition Frank and Victor Cicansky: Keep on Going at the Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery.



Frank and Victor Cicansky, Keep on Going, installation view

In placing Vic’s ceramic, bronze, and mixed media sculptures alongside folk art paintings and wooden objects crafted by his father, a clear lineage is defined between folk art and the anti-elitist, regional goals of Prairie Funk. Wonky perspectives, an exuberant colour palette dominated by Prairie gold and dusky green, and an earthy humour unite both the elder and junior Cicanskys’ works.

Keep on Going encompasses Vic’s bulging ceramics of the 1970s and the finely crafted porcelain and bronze of his mature work. Through the years, armchairs, fruit, vegetables, and pantries laden with jars of preserves are revisited – more a cast of characters than mere subjects. Ordinary, delightful, and imbued with a faint absurdity, these are the elements around which life revolves. The cabbage is particularly emblematic of the Eastern European immigrant experience: pungent, coarse, and an indispensable food source for many on the verge of poverty in Regina’s East End.

However, while Vic’s sculptural memoirs reflect lovingly, almost nostalgically, on identity and community forged by food, Frank’s paintings depict hardships he experienced in the Dirt Hills area south of Moose Jaw during the depression years. The drought-ravaged prairie dwarfs moonshiners, loners, farmers, labourers, and dead horses. The text panels that accompany Frank’s paintings are particularly captivating and informative; transcribed from recordings in Frank’s spoken vernacular, they give a wry and plainspoken account of notable folks being cheated by farmers and the resulting punch-ups.

The importance of this exhibition lies in its ability to reflect the lived experience of people in this area, making sense of migration, violence, and the establishment of community identity through an authentic voice.


Frank and Victor Cicansky: Keep on Going continues until December 30.
Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery: http://www.mjmag.ca/
The gallery is accessible.


Sandee Moore is a nationally exhibited artist, arts administrator, and occasional art writer. She can be followed on Twitter @SandeeMoore.

 

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