Your intrepid #artcriticfromhell

This is a blog that I began in response to how many art exhibitions and events in my city (Saskatoon, at that time), and sometimes beyond, didn’t get the coverage they deserved (whether positive or negative).  Episodes of the radio show, also called the A Word, that I’d hosted / produced with CFCR 90.5 FM in Saskatoon from 2006 to 2015, with guests as diverse as Steve Loft, Rhiannon Vogl, David Clark, Jeff Thomas and David Thauberger, were also made available at this site.

As I’ve relocated to Southern Ontario, the focus of this blog has changed, and this is reflected in who, and what is covered in this current incarnation of my site.

The A Word is still primarily a forum for critical responses to art (sometimes in conjunction with The Sound: Your Source for Arts and Culture in Niagara), though there are also podcasts available that I’ve done since my arrival in the Fall of 2015, with guests such as Stuart Reid, Elizabeth Chitty, Donna SzőkeAnna SzaflarskiAmy Friend, Catherine Parayre, Sharilyn Ingram and Martin Van Zon. These have been part of my work at CFBU, with Niagara Voices and Views: contemporary issues in the Niagara region.

Sometimes I’ll also link out to pieces I’ve written that are published elsewhere: this feature in Hamilton Arts & Letters, A Confluence of Geographies, is one I’m particularly pleased with, and it also is relevant as it speaks of leaving / arriving, from Saskatoon to St. Catharines. A more recent article, responding to the exhibition of early works by Michael Snow, at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, can be found here.

I’ve published with Canadian Art, FUSE, Galleries West, PrairieSeenHamilton Arts & Letters, BlackFlash, Long Exposure (UK), ti< un journal de critique / creation texte-et-image  and Magenta. Longer pieces include a catalogue essay for Niagara Artist Centre‘s upcoming book on Thomas Craig Oliver, another for the exhibition Jouissance at Gallerie de Serge Blais in Montréal, as well as a commissioned book chapter for Mona Holmuld’s Art From The Margins: New Perspectives on the Visual Culture of Saskatchewan (McGill / Queen’s Press). The last can be read here, as I received permission to publish it online, at my own site.

A personal favourite among my recent writing is this contribution to Anna Szaflarski’s ongoing LTTE: Letters To The Editor series, Augmented Reality: my brief non fiction text On Leaving [paris of the prairies] can be downloaded here.

Past curatorial projects include REGION (Contemporary Saskatchewan Painting) and Personal Geographies (an overview of The Photographers Gallery collection).

I was Editorial Chair of BlackFlash Magazine (3 years), and for approximately 14 years was the visual arts critic for Planet S Magazine. For more than a dozen years I taught at the University of Saskatchewan, specifically digital media: I’m a founding member of paved, and have served on boards and worked at galleries in Saskatoon and Windsor, ON.

Currently I’m a regular contributor to The Sound in St. Catharines, though anything of interest that I publish with them I will always post here, too. I have been, over 2019, a regular contributor to New Art Examiner, and published a longer, critical response to Joseph Beuys’ work at the AGO, from this past Summer (here) in there Falll issue.

I was recently  ‘Writer in Residence’ at AIH Studios in Welland in late Winter 2019, and it was an exciting opportunity to focus upon cultural instigators in that space, but further my idea of Niagara as a more unifed, but still individually unique, cultural conglomerate. I often split my time between St. Catharines and Welland. One of the longer pieces I wrote, as part of that residency, can be read here.

Another project I’ve been intimately involved with is the continuing online series (which we share to social media, as well) Artists You Need To Know ( #AYNTK) at AIH Studios’ site. Those can be enjoyed here, and currently new artists are added every week.

A new space that I’ve been contributing some writing to, in 2020, is Curated, by the Covert Collective. An article I published with them, in late 2020, is also an interesting response to marking more than five years back in Niagara, especially as recent events with COVID have made the city and region more so resemble the Niagara I knew in the early 1990s, when I last lived here. That piece, titled Hometown, can be read here.

My interests focus on sites of contested narratives, both in the immediate areas that I live in, and in the larger national theatre.

My art practice is an activity that has changed significantly since my relocation to Ontario. I’ve often described my past work as making inappropriately beautiful images. A past solo exhibition at the College / Kenderdine Art Gallery can be seen here, and a two person exhibition at paved is here. I’ve exhibited at the Mendel Art Gallery, Gallery 44, Platform and Alternator.

My current series is more playful: my ongoing Discarded images can be seen at my Instagram account. There will be an exhibition of these works (spanning back nearly five years, since my arrival in Niagara, and encompassing nearly 5,000 images) at some point, as a planned project on that front was postponed due to COVID.

I can be contacted at bart.gazzola[at] I have a tendency to treat people as they treat me, so please keep that in mind with any and all correspondence.

The wonderful image near the top of  this page is courtesy Emily Spanton as I reclined on a brothel worthy couch just off the downtown, during a wonderful summer evening in Niagara.  The second shot is from my a visit to Atlas Steels abandoned plant, as part of my time in the ‘rust belt wonderland’ in 2019, and is taken by the artist Jonathan Shaw.The header for this biography page is also of Atlas Steels, one of my favourite sites to visit when I’m in Welland. The image above is among the demolition site of the former St. Catharines General Hospital, which has also been an instigator for writing and consideration about the larger Niagara narrative. This image is also photographed by Jon, and he was generous enough to allow me to accompany him on occasion to the area (he exhibited an interesting body of work, inspired by this site, at NAC in late 2019, and you can read our conversation about that exhibition here).

The image at the bottom was recently taken by Sandy Fairbairn, a photographer and historian whose work I’ve curated in an exhibition titled Welland: Times Present Times Past, at AIH Studios in Welland. This was on display for several months in early 2020. 

I would also add that I was nominated in the Making A Difference category for the 2020 St. Catharines Arts Awards, and this is both a very humbling and flattering experience, and clearly about my advocacy for Rodman Hall Arts Centre. More about my past and current projects can be seen here.