Humble Folk: Barbara Clark-Fleming & Lucy Ogletree
September 23 – November 19, 2023
Opening Party: Thursday, September 28, 7:00pm – 8:30pm
Glenhyrst Art Gallery, Brantford
In this exhibition, the paintings of Barbara Clark-Fleming and Lucy Ogletree speculate on the style and content of contemporary folk art, otherwise known as vernacular art. Vernacular art is often referred to “outsider art,” “naive art,” or “untrained art,” though these labels fail to describe an approach to art making that is imbued with innovation and experimentation. As cultural institutions in Canada address how they sanction certain artists and artworks over others, the work of those who lack visibility in the institutional art system deserve closer attention. Humble Folk is a step forward in this direction. Clark-Fleming and Ogletree are self-taught artists who grew up in agricultural communities in Southwestern Ontario and paint from memories of their early childhood experiences. Their pictures consist of animals, gardens, and activities that reflect everyday rural life, from attending the local fair and Trick-or-Treating, to tending crops and milking cows. For the late Clark-Fleming, painting became a means of recording memories of being with her father, spending time outdoors and in the barn, doing the farmwork they loved together. On a different trajectory, the surrealist pictures of Ogletree energize rural life through uncanny, often spooky iconography that includes psychedelic insects and kaleidoscopic flora. Together, their fantastical landscapes and ebullient vistas reflect a vision of agricultural communities that is both charming and under threat. Research demonstrates that rural Canada experiences rising costs of living, high unemployment, low wages, addiction, land development, pollution, soil degradation, and more. Their paintings ruminate on a way of life that might no longer be viable.
About the Artists
Barbara Clark-Fleming was a self-taught artist who grew up on a 150-acre farm in East Zorra Township, Ontario and lived outside Woodstock, Ontario until her passing in February, 2023. She began painting in 1977 to preserve memories of her early life on the farm. She first exhibited her work in the Oxford County Juried Exhibition and received the Award of Merit, which strengthened her resolve to continue painting. Her work is included in numerous public and private collections in Canada, the USA and Europe, including the Museum of American Folk Art in New York City, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, and the Art Gallery of Greater Vancouver.
Lucy Ogletree is a self-taught artist who grew up in a rural farming community near Thamesville, Ontario where she developed a deep affection for nature, the changing seasons, and a fondness for the simpler things in life. Ogletree has been painting memories of her childhood, her gardens, and her dogs and cats since 1995 and was the co-owner of the popular “folk art environment” Winter Wheat in Sparta, Ontario until 2013. She has travelled extensively to Sudan to organize art workshops for children suffering from the effects of war. In 2012, she was awarded the Queens Jubilee Medal for her work with Canadian Aid for South Sudan.
Glenhyrst Art Gallery acknowledges that we are on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnaabe, and Haudenosaunee Peoples. This land is part of the Dish with One Spoon Treaty between the Haudenosaunee and Anishnaabe peoples and symbolizes the agreement to share, protect our resources, and not to engage in conflict. The City of Brantford is situated on the Haldimand Tract, land promised to Six Nations, which includes six miles on each side of the Grand River.
Glenhyrst Art Gallery is fully accessible and includes an elevator and accessible washroom. The main entrance is accessed by a concrete pathway and may be opened with an automatic door opener. For assistance or questions about the gallery, please give us a call. Admission is free (donations accepted) and everyone is welcome.