Come explore new galaxies at the old planetarium

Through the looking glass: Artist Rocio Graham poses for a photo in front of her piece, Future Memories and Seed Luminous Flux, at the Contemporary Calgary show Planetary in Calgary on Jan. 25. The piece compares the botanical world to the astronomical world. (Photo by Shelby Daughton/The Press)

Contemporary Calgary recently opened their first two shows in their new downtown space, both shows inspired by the building’s history as a planetarium.

Planetary and Museum of the Moon are the two opening shows in the building that many Calgarians remember as the old Calgary Science Centre. Contemporary Calgary has taken over the building and renovated the space into an art gallery.

“This building’s architecture, as well as the idea of the cosmos, it infuses a certain amount of nostalgia and memory,” said Contemporary Calgary’s curator Ryan Doherty.

One of the opening shows, Planetary, is a collaboration with 36 Calgary-based artists who were asked to create pieces with the theme of the cosmos in mind.

“Planetary is a group exhibition focused on the context of sight,” said Doherty.

Doherty emphasizes the significance of all 36 artists being Calgary-based.

“This is an exhibition that is intended to really highlight the talent that we have in the city,” said Doherty. “The remarkably wide and deep pool of talent in our artists is a great way for us to set the tone for this organization’s vision.”

One of the artists is Rocio Graham, who was invited through the RBC Emerging Artists Project to be part of Contemporary Calgary’s studio residence program, Collider.

Graham’s pieces, Future Memories and Seed Luminous Flux, are an intimate experience held within a small structure inside the gallery, which is accessed through a curtain. Two of the walls feature video projections of stars in space, and the third wall features a photographic printing process called cyanotype.

“I am a botanical artist and I’m very interested in the systems that regulate the botanical world,” said Graham. “I find that there are a lot of relationships between all the natural systems. For example, the stars and the universe are subject to the same elements, like pressure, heat, coldness, and explosions.”

Graham says that she attempts to have pieces that are inviting and easy to digest. She tried to connect the pieces to the concept of the botanical world because that is something everyone can understand.

“My hope is that the fun aspects invite people into this space to experience as though they are in an alternative universe,” said Graham. “Once they are interacting with the piece, my hope is that we can engage into deeper conversations about our relationship with the land and our place in the universe.”

Graham’s pieces were inspired by dandelions.

“We have this bizarre fight with dandelions in our public spaces and a lot of people who put chemicals on their lawns to eradicate dandelions, but you can’t,” said Graham.

“All that it takes is one seed from a dandelion, which can travel 10 kilometres away, and then creates a new field of dandelions. I find that the dandelion is a metaphor for stars, because the stars explode, expand, and travel to other systems and create a new universe.”

Graham says she doesn’t often get invited to participate in galleries like this, because she is also a parent.

“There are difficulties when you are an artist as well as a mom with little children,” said Graham.

However, she says her residency with Contemporary Calgary’s Collider was unique.

“There were lots of artists that were moms with little children,” said Graham. “We felt like our children were welcome.”

Graham says that the children were able to run around and play while the artists worked on their pieces, which helped to create a dynamic and inclusive environment.

“I felt supported which allowed me to push my practice in ways I never thought possible,” said Graham.

The other new show at Contemporary Calgary is called Museum of the Moon by UK-based artist Luke Jerram.

The piece features a six metre replica of the moon suspended above an auditorium, accompanied by a selection of music. Audiences are encouraged to sit and spend time basking in the artificial moonlight.

Museum of the Moon received a positive response on opening night, Jan. 23.

“Museum of the Moon has delighted and thrilled audiences all over the world,” said Doherty. “Last night, over 1,200 people showed up, and I think no one left without being delighted by that experience.

Planetary will be showing at Contemporary Calgary until April 26, and Museum of the Moon will be showing until March 15.

Moonlight Shadow: Curator Ryan Doherty poses for a photo in front of Luke Jerram’s piece, Museum of the Moon, at the Contemporary Calgary gallery space on Jan. 21. There are several copies of the six metre moon replica that are currently travelling around the world for different exhibitions. (Photo by Shelby Daughton/The Press)