Marlena Wyman: Edmonton, Alberta
Marlena was raised on her parents’ farm near Rockyford, Alberta, which had originally been farmed by her paternal grandparents. She has lived in Edmonton since 1974. History is an inspirational source for Marlena’s creative work, fed in part by her long-time work as Audio-Visual Archivist at the Provincial Archives of Alberta. She left the Archives in 2011 to more fully pursue her work as a visual artist.
Marlena served as the City of Edmonton’s 5th Historian Laureate, 2018 – 2020. She studied visual art, history and education at the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta. Her work has been exhibited in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Newfoundland, and is included in private and public collections in Canada and the United States.
Prairie landscape and sky, the work and heritage of rural life, and primary source archival research all inform her creative expression. The consuming immensity and isolation of the prairie environment is a recurring theme in the diaries and letters of early immigrants to the prairies, and a compelling influence for her artistic vision, underlined by her own memories of growing up in rural Alberta.
In her former work as an archivist, Marlena found that one of the significant gaps in archival collections is that of women’s stories. In particular, the voice of early prairie women is largely excluded from mainstream history.
As an artist, she honours these women’s considerable contributions, advocates for their rightful place in history, and encourages women to deposit their own and their foremothers’ records in archives.
Marlena is the recipient of several awards including the Edmonton Historical Board Recognition Award for her contributions to archives and visual arts. She has been awarded artists’ residencies in Newfoundland and Saskatchewan, is a co-founder of Urban Sketchers Edmonton, and served as the Secretary of the Women’s Art Museum Society of Canada.
Marlena’s art practice is an investigation into the concepts of memory and our relationship with the natural world and the material culture of our society. It is an examination of human passage and migration, uprootedness, the perception of what is home, and the longing for the familiar of the past. Her artwork is expressed through works in encaustic and oil painting, image transfer, drawing, 3-dimensional mixed media and installation.
Marlena Wyman CV
Solo Exhibits (selected):
2018 Regarding Mary Bleeding Heart Art Space, Edmonton, AB
2018, 2016 Illuminating the Diary of Alda Dale Randall 2018: Okotoks Art Gallery, Okotoks, AB 2016: Provincial Archives of Alberta, Edmonton, AB
2017 Headwind Ortona Gallery, Edmonton, AB
2016, 2013 The Effect of Collected Memory on the Adorned Body 2016: Mile Zero Spazio Performativo, Edmonton, AB 2013: The Works Art & Design Festival, Edmonton, AB
2014 Landing Hard Prairie Wind & Silver Sage Gallery, Val Marie, SK
2014 The Sisterhood of Longing Jackson Power Gallery, Edmonton, AB
2013 The Effect of Collected Memory on the Adorned Body The Works Art & Design Festival, Edmonton, AB
2006 The Tablets of Memory Ortona Gallery, Edmonton, AB
2005 Ortona Gallery 10th Anniversary – Marlena Wyman Retrospective Ortona Gallery, Edmonton, AB
2004 Hothouse Heart Ortona Gallery, Edmonton, AB
2001 The Body Botanical Ortona Gallery, Edmonton, AB
1999 Cabinets of Curiosity Ortona Gallery, Edmonton, AB
1998 This Mortal Coil Manifesto Gallery, Edmonton, AB
1997 Metamorphology Old Court House Gallery, Red Deer, AB
Group Exhibits (selected):
2020 You Are Not Alone Penticton Art Gallery, Penticton BC
2019 – 2021 Real Women Art Gallery of Alberta/Alberta Foundation for Arts TREX program (traveling exhibition: NE and North Central Alberta)
2018 Archived Land Jackson Power Gallery, Edmonton, AB (September 14-29)
2017 In/Hospitable SkirtsAfire Festival, Nina Haggerty Gallery, Edmonton, AB
2016 Voices for the Vote Borealis Gallery, Alberta Legislative Assembly Visitors’ Centre, Edmonton www.voicesforthevote.ca
2015 Women Portraying Women Visual Arts Studio Assoc., St. Albert, AB
2014 Bread Basket Visual Arts Alberta/CARFAC members exhibit, Edmonton, AB
2013 InSight 2: Engaging the Health Humanities Fine Arts Building Gallery, University of Alberta
2012 InSight: Visualizing Health Humanities Fine Arts Building Gallery, University of Alberta
2010 For Gilbert The Works Art and Design Festival, Edmonton, AB
2010 The Boxn’t T-Shirt Project The Works Art and Design Festival, Edmonton, AB
2010 Ortona Gallery 15th Anniversary Exhibit Ortona Gallery, Edmonton, AB
2008 The Useful Lessons of Plants The Glenrose Hospital Gallery, Edmonton, AB
2006 September’s Work St. George’s Church Cultural Centre, Brigus, NL
2004 Have a heART The Works Gallery, Edmonton, AB
2002 The Print Farm Show U of Alberta Extension Gallery, Edmonton & Milner Art Gallery, Stanley A. Milner Library
2002 Anatomical Gardens/ Shadows of Mortality Ironworks Gallery, Vancouver, BC
Publications and Other Projects:
2019 – 2020 Sketching History: Rediscovering Edmonton’s Architectural Heritage through Urban Sketching Curator of exhibit featuring artworks by Urban Sketchers Edmonton https://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/edmonton_archives/sketching-history.aspx Prince of Wales Armouries and Edmonton Public Library branches
2004-2018 Art jury member for various galleries
2016-2018 Artist Mentor, Visual Arts Alberta Association/Edmonton Arts Council
2016 Creating an Archival Sketching Diary workshops, Provincial Archives of Alberta
2016 Artist member for panel presentation at The Works Art & Design Festival
2016 Artist member for panel discussion re: Voices for the Vote exhibit
2014 Curator, The Memory Rooms exhibit, Jackson Power Gallery, Edmonton, AB
2014 Section Editor, Women’s Art Museum Society of Canada Sharing Her Experience publication http://www.wamsoc.ca/SHE.html
2013-2016 Women’s Art Museum Society of Canada, Secretary & Archives Committee Chair, Jury member
2012-2013 InSight exhibit catalogues and websites
2011 Urban Sketchers Edmonton Founding member http://edmontonsketchers.wordpress.com/
2011 Brooklyn Art Library, N.Y., The Art House Co-op The Sketchbook Project, artist contributor https://www.sketchbookproject.com/library/2817
2008 Edmonton Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts Event exhibitor/nominee Audience Choice Arts Award
2004 Alberta Heritage Foundation For Medical Research Magazine, illustration for article
2002 Museum Mannequins:A Guide for Creating the Perfect Fit, back cover illustration & poster
(book edited by Margot Brunn and Joanne White, published by the Alberta Regional Group of Conservators)
2001 Art, Science and Education: Connections Within the Lives of Three Artists by Betty Macdonald
(one of three artists studied in Master’s Thesis, Dept. of Elem. Education, University of Alberta)
2018 – 2020 City of Edmonton Historian Laureate
2019 Edmonton Heritage Council project accelerator grant for Sketching History exhibit
2013 Wallace Stegner House Artist’s Residency, Eastend, SK
2013, 2006 Edmonton Arts Council, Travel Grants
2011 Edmonton Historical Board Historical Recognition Award in archives & visual arts
2010 Archives Society of Alberta, Honourary Lifetime Membership
2006 Pouch Cove Foundation Artist’s Residency, Newfoundland
2003 Association of Moving Image Archivists, Hollywood, CA: Dan & Kathy Leab Award
2001 Alberta Foundation for the Arts – Art Acquisition
Visual Arts Alberta Association/Canadian Artists’ Representation/Le Front des artistes canadiens
Edmonton Arts Council
Harcourt House Artists’ Run Centre, Edmonton, Alberta
Women’s Art Museum Society of Canada
Artists in Canada
Archives Society of Alberta – Honourary Member
Edmonton Heritage Council
Friends of the Provincial Archives of Alberta Society
Truth and Reconciliation:
I wish to acknowledge that the land on which early prairie immigrants settled are the traditional meeting grounds, gathering places, and travelling routes of the many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit whose footsteps have marked these lands for centuries.
Because of the subject matter of my Prairie Series, I feel I must speak to truth and reconciliation. It is not my place to tell the story of indigenous people through my artwork, but because my subject matter lands soundly in the midst of that, I offer my support. This is not an area of expertise for me, but I am trying to learn.
My words are guided by my friend Joseph Naytowhow, an interdisciplinary artist and Nehiyo/Cree knowledge keeper from the Sturgeon Lake First Nation Band in Saskatchewan, and a kind and good man. I thank him for his guidance.
Much of the focus in my art practice is about the first women to immigrate to the Canadian prairies and about their lack of freedom and rights. It is therefore about settlement, which took over indigenous lands and disregarded treaties. When speaking of women’s rights and treatment, indigenous women have always carried the heaviest burden of oppression and harm.
Settlement is part of my heritage. My paternal grandparents were part of the government’s prairie settlement plan, coming to farm at Baintree, Alberta in 1916. My parents farmed there after them, and that was the land where I spent my childhood. My grandparents left few photos, and almost no written legacy, so I have no idea what their attitude or interaction was with indigenous people, for good or bad. I suspect that, as is the case with many settlers, they likely were not aware that they were part of a bad deal for indigenous people; that they were a part of the government’s scheme to have the west populated in order to protect it from perceived American threat. Nonetheless, they were the beneficiaries of what was done before they came here, as am I.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, immigrants were lured to the prairies by government propaganda promising a utopia that sadly did not exist. Their lack of knowledge about living within the harsh prairie environment caused these families poverty, starvation, and for some, death. What is not told is that indigenous people often came to their aid, sharing meat or fish, and showing them how to use the plants on the land for food and medicine.
The true story of settlement is very different than the glowing picture that government propaganda conveyed. These settlers fought to tame the soil that was often not suited for cultivation, and the wind then took the soil from them. The percentage of homestead failure among early settlers was 57 percent in Saskatchewan and 45 percent in Alberta. However, for the settlers, theirs was a suffering of neglect, not of intent. Not only was great harm done to indigenous people of that time, it continued for generations. It is time for a renewed and honourable relationship.