Inside Out, 1977 - 78, Wool tapestry, 100 x 50 x 4”
The Mann Art Gallery (MAG) is pleased to share news of a notable donation to its Permanent Collection. In November 2017, the gallery received a 100 x 50” wool tapestry titled Inside Out by Margreet van Walsem (b. Zutphen, The Netherlands, 17 January 1923; d. Prince Albert SK, 14 July 1979). The piece was created in 1977-78, and was generously donated by Carin van Walsem, the daughter of the artist. Inside Out complements the MAG’s collection of paintings, textiles, and batiks by van Walsem, while significantly adding to its holdings of tapestry by contemporary and historical Prince Albert artists.
Margreet van Walsem was a central figure in the local arts community after moving to Prince Albert in 1973. She worked alongside Aganetha Dyck, Andrée Felley-Martinson, George Glenn, John F. Penner, and Winona Senner, and had close ties with Lorraine Malach and Beth Hone in Regina. Margreet was also President of the Prince Albert Arts Council. In this role, she initiated the Annual Winter Festival Juried Art Show. Margreet arranged for fellow tapestry artist Ann Newdigate Mills to be the guest juror of the first show. The Winter Festival exhibition was such a success that it still runs in Prince Albert, and will enter its 42nd year in 2018 at the MAG.
Margreet began weaving in 1969 under the instruction of Anton Skerbinc. She delved into the entire process, beginning with the washing, carding, and dying of raw wool. Margreet used roots, barks, flowers, berries, leaves and lichens in her natural wool dyes. She then handspun the wool using either a Navaho spindle or a Cowichan spinner. Margreet wove her tapestries by hand, using a loom only for support. She quickly became one of the most prominent fibre artists in Saskatchewan, in addition to teaching batik, weaving workshops, and summer courses.
In 1973 Margreet studied in Lausanne, Switzerland at the 6th Biennial Exhibition of Tapestry. Here she viewed an exhibition of weavings that inspired her to regard the medium as a sculptural form.* This introduced her to newfound possibilities within weaving. Margreet’s respect of the natural materials with which she worked and her openness to experimentation resulted in many of the characteristics evident in Inside Out, such as emphasis on surface and texture, incorporation of three-dimensional forms, and play between light and shadow. Aptly named, Inside Out is an example of how Margreet thoroughly explored all aspects of her artwork.
Special thanks to Jan van Walsem and Carin van Walsem for providing information about this piece and Margreet’s art practice.
*Nancy Russell, “Weavings Show Growth,” Saskatoon Starphoenix, Accent on Art with Nancy Russell, 11 June 1976, pg. 29.