Published on the occasion of the first comprehensive exhibition of his paintings, A Sublime Vernacular: The Landscape Paintings of Levine Flexhaug is a 160-page book that features 121 colour reproductions of Flexhaug’s paintings, historic photographs, interpretative essays, and an extensive chronology of the artist’s life.
The essays in the book explore the critical significance of Flexhaug’s art, his relationship to the tradition of ideal landscape painting, the Prairie influence on his art and career, and his place within both the history of “market-driven” art and the tradition of Canadian landscape painting.
A Sublime Vernacular: The Landscape Paintings of Levine Flexhaug is published by the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie in association with Figure 1 Publishing of Vancouver.
Introduction: There was Magic in his Brush
Levine Flexhaug and the Ideal Landscape
A Mountain Fantasy’s Prairie Roots
Making Art for the Market: Flexhaug in Context
Wayne Morgan and Sharilyn J. Ingram
Imaginary Postcards: (Flex)ible Storytelling of a (Lost and Found) Canadian Mythmaking
Nancy Tousley is an art critic, arts journalist, and independent curator. She was art critic of the Calgary Herald for more than thirty years and has been a contributing editor of Canadian Art since 1986. She has organized exhibitions for public art galleries across Canada. In 2011 she received a Governor-General’s Award in Media and Visual Arts for her contributions to contemporary Canadian art. She lives in Calgary.
Peter White is an independent curator and writer. He has organized exhibitions of contemporary and historical art for public art galleries in Canada, is author of It Pays to Play: British Columbia in Postcards – 1950s-1980s (Arsenal Pulp Press, 1996), and co-editor of Beyond Wilderness: The Group of Seven, Canadian Identity, and Contemporary Art (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007). He lives in Montreal.
Wayne Morgan is a former curator/director of the Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan. He currently lives in Grimsby, Ontario, where he conducts research and actively pursues projects in popular culture.
Sharilyn J. Ingram is on faculty at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts at Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario. She came to academia from a career in cultural management, including senior positions at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Saskatchewan Western Development Museums, the National Museums of Canada, and Royal Botanical Gardens (Canada). She lives in Grimsby, Ontario.
Elena Lamberti teaches North American Literature and Media Studies at the University of Bologna, Italy. She has published essays on English and Anglo-American modernism as well as Anglo-Canadian culture of the late twentieth century. Her book Marshall McLuhan’s Mosaic: Probing the Literary Origins of Media Studies (University of Toronto Press, 2012) was a finalist for the 2013 Canada Prizes. She lives in Bologna.
Flexhaug’s performance revealed his process of image making and conjured its magic at one and the same time. His paintings offered their viewers an engaging, perhaps even mentally steadying, focal point, a verdant oasis for the eye and mind. They were a refreshing if mythical retreat from the trials of drought, the Depression, and war.
Though Flexhaug began to work as an artist during the Depression … his career played out during the recovery and growing prosperity of the post-war years, a period in which old ways lingered even as the Prairies were recast in terms of modernity and modern life. … his experience provides an invaluable pathway through some of the lesser known but vital social history of the region with which it is intertwined.
Flexhaug implemented the Four Ps of marketing – product, place, price, promotion. His product proved appealing to a wide range of people, for whom it would often be their only work of hand-made art. …In pricing his product, he clearly understood his target market: $5? $10? While his promotion might seem rudimentary in relying on direct selling and word-of-mouth, it worked – he apparently sold whatever he produced, and he continued to sell over a relatively long period of time.
Wayne Morgan and Sharilyn J. Ingram
Flexhaug’s paintings hung in a variety of places (restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, people’s homes, and more) and grew into a peculiar landscape themselves: they became part of an everyday scenario reminding people of what Canada should (ideally) be.