This is Self-Portrait with Ruler, oil over tempura on panel, 40×30 inches, by the U.S. (UPDATE: U.S.-born…see my comment in the comments section for more) artist Richard Thomas Davis. It’s one of several extraordinary pieces I saw this weekend during my visit to Calgary. It’s at The Weiss Gallery, a new place that opened nine months ago just off the 11th Ave. SW strip where some of my favourite galleries in Canada are clustered together. That list includes Paul Kuhn Gallery (sadly closed for renovations this summer), Newzones, and Trépanier Baer. In such a crowded neighbourhood, The Weiss Gallery sets itself apart by featuring 19th-century European art as well as contemporary, largely but not exclusively Canadian, art by painters and sculptors who are influenced by classical art techniques. So obviously a lot of it is realist, like Davis’ meticulous portraits, but there are also abstracts with a bit of a classic feel to them.
Who cares? Calgary does. As my column in the next edition points out, more and more Calgarians are concerned about quality-of-life issues, for themselves and for the community as a whole. The city’s economic development strategy (link loads a .pdf document) warns that without adequate “livability, vitality and quality of life,” Calgary will remain “virtually indistinguishable from Denver, Houston or Minneapolis” — horror! — while “another city” seizes “the global position that could — and should — be ours.”