L.R. Wilson Curator of Canadian Art & Culture
Exhibitions & Galleries: Sigmund Samuel Gallery of Canada
BA, Art History, University of Toronto, 1979
MA, Art History, University of Toronto, 1983
PhD, Art History, University of Toronto, 1995
Arlene Gehmacher is an Art Historian specializing in imagery of Canada from the 18th century to the present, primarily in the visual idioms of Western European art. She studies "Canada" as a subject in its social context, in terms of production, critical reception, institutional histories, and display strategies, as a means to address how identities and historical narratives from national to personal levels are articulated and communicated. In this regard she is also interested in the significance of the development and role of printmaking - particularly chromolithography - in 19th century Canada.
Since the opening of the Sigmund Samuel Gallery of Canada in the fall of 2007, she has been involved in developing researched exhibits for the Wilson Canadian Heritage space. To date she has provided the following exhibits ("Six Elegant Views"; "A Nervous Desire; Major Henry Davis at Niagara, 1846"; "Sitting Still, Faces of Childhood", and "Afterimage: Tod Ainslie's Vision of the War of 1812").
Arlene's research has been centred on the ROM's collections. Her current primary focus is the Canadian watercolours and drawings collection and the publication with Mary Allodi, curator emeritus, of acquisitions made from 1972 to 2010. The catalogue will include extended discursive entries, as well as an introductory essay that addresses the issues on the interpretation of "history" and "document" as it relates to pictorial imagery.
A concurrent but secondary project is the ROM's collection of the artwork and archives and Rex Woods, Canada's premier commercial illustrator from the 1930s to 1950s. The collection of 600+ paintings and drawings, 2000+ photographic negatives, 500+ file folders of personal and business papers, will be researched with a view to publication and exhibition.
Arlene is cross-appointed as Associate Professor in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Toronto. Since 2003 she has taught her seminar course "Collecting Canada," which using the ROM's holdings, focuses on practical and theoretical aspects of the collecting of "Canadiana" imagery. She was elected a member of the Print Council of America in 2006.