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News Release

March 14, 2007

Art History Prof Nominated for Prestigious Writing Award

University of Guelph art history professor Gerta Moray was so determined to tell the story of Emily Carr’s relationship with First Nations people and native art that she not only wrote the book but also raised the money to have it published.

In the course of her research, Moray visited nearly every First Nations community where Carr had sketched, including abandoned Haida villages accessible only by boat. She compiled a complete catalogue of the pioneering artist’s ‘Indian’ works as the groundwork for her book Unsettling Encounters: First Nations Imagery in the Art of Emily Carr. She also spoke with native elders and with contemporary First Nations scholars and artists.

Moray’s hard work and dedication paid off this week when her book was shortlisted for the British Columbia Award for Canadian Non-Fiction, the country’s largest prize for literary non-fiction writing.

Other authors nominated are Marian Botsford Fraser for Requiem for My Brother, Noah Richler for This Is My Country, What's Yours? A Literary Atlas of Canada and Dragan Todorovic for The Book of Revenge: A Blues for Yugoslavia. The winner of the third annual award, which carries a $25,000 cash prize, will be announced in Vancouver April 19.

“Emily Carr’s stature as an early modern artist is equal to that of Georgia O’Keeffe,” said Moray, who joined U of G in 1989 and has been researching and writing about Carr since 1986.

“It was time to go beyond the image of her as a crazy eccentric created by her puzzled provincial contemporaries. I wanted to place her with precision among the international currents of colonial image making and modernist primitivism, while also revealing her engagement with local developments in Canada and British Columbia.”

Carr, who lived from 1871 to 1945, is regarded as one of Canada's pre-eminent artists and a pioneer in creating the basis for a national Canadian art. She's known for her late Post-Impressionist style and her vivid depictions of native American people and their carvings, artifacts and villages.

Although Carr has been the subject of two biographies, many art history publications and countless catalogues, films, plays and books, Moray’s book is the first to investigate in depth Carr's commitment to First Nations people and the native art she depicted in her drawings, sketches and paintings.

Moray raised the money needed by the University of British Columbia Press to fund the book mostly from foundations and sponsors of the arts. Academic publishers lack the capital funds to print large illustrated art history books, so Canadian foundations and patrons have to be enlisted, she says.

The book includes maps; photographs of Carr, her family and the First Nations communities she visited; and nearly 100 colour illustrations of her paintings.

“We are thrilled to see Gerta's research getting the kind of national attention it so obviously deserves,” said John Kissick, director of the School of Fine Art and Music. “Being a finalist for such a prestigious prize — especially given that her book is essentially a scholarly publication — speaks volumes about Gerta's consummate skills as a writer and gift as a researcher.”

Prof. Gerta Moray
School of Fine Art and Music
519-824-4120, Ext. 58476

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