The Military Museums
Past Exhibits 2023

To Oldman River: New additions to UCalgary’s Military Collection

Oldman River

University of Calgary Founders' Gallery

Oct 2022 - Apr 2023

To Oldman River showcases significant new material in UCalgary’s Libraries and Cultural Resources’ holdings at The Military Museums (TMM) that were formerly located at the Glenbow Museum in downtown Calgary. This show marks the completion of the relocation of these artifacts from the Glenbow Library and Archives to UCalgary. The move concluded in December 2021. The exhibition will remain on view until early 2023.

The exhibition includes firearms, uniforms, medals, relics and archival film from the mid-1800s through to the First World War, encompassing a massive swath of Alberta’s military history.

Artefacts and archives from some of Alberta’s most celebrated military personalities are featured, with a particular emphasis on three: Sir Sam Steele, Frederick Bagley and Wilfrid Reid May. Medals awarded to Steele, horseshoes and spurs saved by Bagley from his journey west as the youngest original member of the North-West Mounted Police, and pieces of Manfred von Richthofen’s (the Red Baron’s) airplane preserved by May are just a few of the fascinating objects on display.

These artefacts, together with those of several other personalities, are witness to diverse conflicts such as the North-West Resistance, the Boer War, and the First World War. Between them, they speak to the development of Canada’s modern armed forces.

Museum objects provide unique portals to the lived experience of individuals, and through them To Oldman River offers an experiential understanding of Canada’s military development from a post-confederation militia model into a permanent armed force capable of full participation in international conflict.

The beginning of this development is set in 1874, in what was known as the North-West Territories – a vast area stretching along the shores of the Arctic Ocean down to the 49th parallel from British Columbia to Labrador, long home to First Nations and Métis peoples – when the first cohort of the NWMP set out from Fort Dufferin in Manitoba to disrupt the illegal whisky trade at “Fort Whoop-Up” on the banks of the Oldman River, in present-day Southern Alberta.

The Glenbow Library and Archives complements UCalgary’s well-known strengths in collections of literature, rare books, music, textiles, coins, architecture and military history. The Glenbow Western Research Centre in the Taylor Family Digital Library is the access point for Archives and Special Collections in UCalgary’s Libraries and Cultural Resources.

Taras Polataiko: DEFIANCE


University of Calgary Founders' Gallery

26 May 2023 - 24 Sept 2023

Tickets for: Defiance

DEFIANCE features Ukrainian-Canadian artist Taras Polataiko, whose critique of cultural representation is in reaction to political instability attributed to the historic and current Russian aggression in Ukraine. Through video, painting, sculpture, photography and text, Polataiko revisits the ubiquity of Russian-Ukrainian conflict associated with land, language, migration, independence, historical revisioning and cultural genocide.

Each artwork is tied to the confrontation of truth and meaning: a proposition to challenge viewers with questions about who we are, how we are socially constructed, and what we understand about our relationship with power against the backdrop of the conflict in Ukraine.

What lingers long after one comprehends the familiar in Polataiko’s art, is the inexplicable visual and emotional impact. Each work is filled with a tension of immediacy, and the incomprehension of a war of perceptual and literal endurance.

Guest curated by Wayne Baerwaldt, assisted by Dick Averns.

Selected Works

The largest body of work in DEFIANCE is Polataiko’s 2014 War. 11 Portraits. These large-format, black and white head-shots of Ukranian soldiers (64” h x 42” w) feature troops injured during Russian assaults in the east, photographed at a military hospital.

At least one of the men is known to have been killed shortly after returning to combat, but as part of the project each patient gave an interview prior to leaving hospital. These transcripts make for compelling reading and are featured in the gallery.

Complementing the photo-series and sculpture is a second large body of work, the Glare paintings. These relationally extend the artist’s intention to incorporate a particular blend of illusion and maximalism in painting without renouncing one for the other.

In doing so Polataiko attempts to dismantle whatever impressions Russian propaganda has made through written art history: an historical record which consciously or unconsciously perverts and subsumes the interests of a minority Ukrainian culture within a domineering Soviet narrative.

Taras Polataiko: DEFIANCE also includes videos, collage, and text, from thirty years of conceptually loaded art practice bridging the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Mounted at a time following the largest invasion and war in Europe since WW II, this exhibition is both daunting and timely: the involvement of Canadian troops, munitions and tax-payer’s money suggest we are all implicated in the current global upheaval.

About the Artist

Taras Polataiko was born in 1966 in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, and worked as a military artist for two years before moving to Canada in 1989 to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in painting, performance and critical theory at the University of Saskatchewan. He has taught at Universities in both Canada and Ukraine, has artwork in multiple collections and is represented by the Barbara Edwards Gallery in Toronto.

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Polataiko returned to Chernivtsi to help look after his parents and contribute towards the war effort by providing humanitarian aid. He continues to exhibit his artwork internationally with exhibitions for 2023 taking place in Toronto, Calgary, Lublin in Poland, and the Ukrainian Museum of Canada in Saskatoon.

Polataiko’s public exhibitions in Canada include the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montreal, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Museum London, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Dunlop Art Gallery and Mendel Art Gallery.

Internationally, the artist has exhibited at venues including the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York, Künstlerhaus Schloß Balmoral in Frankfurt, Antoni Tapies Foundation in Barcelona, Artspace in Sydney, the National Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade, and the 25th São Paulo Biennale.

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