For over thirty years, Jan Wade has been creating mixed-media paintings, textiles and sculptural objects, drawing upon her lived experience as an African Canadian person and her mixed cultural heritage. Jan Wade: Soul Power brings together the artist’s diverse body of work alongside new pieces made specifically for the exhibition.
Personal experience and sustained research inform Wade’s unique practice, which she conceptualizes as an ongoing journey—one that is philosophical, cultural, intellectual and embodied—as she explores the places and practices of her ancestors alongside contemporary political concerns and social issues.
Political, social, spiritual and material transformations are integral to Wade’s practice, and she often uses found objects and recycled materials in her works. Picked up in alleys, given to her by friends and sourced from thrift stores, these objects are used to point to a “generational ecological consciousness practiced by the disenfranchised.” In other words, Wade’s unique aesthetic was born out of necessity as well as social conscience.
Both Wade’s materials and processes reflect a continued interest in the traditions of making as handed down from generation to generation. This sense of continuity between past and present informs all aspects of her art making. Painted wood, text, symbols and common everyday objects including buttons, figurines, Scrabble tiles and religious icons are assembled into large-scale sculptures and installations. Textile pieces stemming from the traditions of Black Southern quilting, such as the abstract forms of Gee’s Bend quilts and African and Indigenous textiles, also feature in her practice. Alongside text and painted blocks of bold colours, Wade employs repetition, accumulation, open-endedness and aspects of improvisation connected to the traditions of jazz and blues in her art. She adds to, paints over and continually evolves works over time.
Organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and curated by Siobhan McCracken Nixon, Assistant Curator