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William Kurelek: A Prairie Boy’s Summer

June 17, 2007 - September 9, 2007

AWE Gallery

William Kurelek (1927-77) is considered one of the most autobiographical and published Canadian painters. Many of his paintings were produced to accompany books for children, which received the Canadian Association of Children’s Librarians Illustrators Award for A Prairie Boy’s Summer. Kurelek was committed to documenting his personal vision of Canada, his work testifying to a passionate love of the land, and its people’s historical, cultural and religious heritage. In words and pictures, Kurelek celebrates the lives of Canada’s ethnic groups, referring often to his own childhood and Ukrainian ancestry. 

Kurelek was the son of Ukrainian immigrant farmers and the oldest of seven children. He grew up in the cultural setting of the frontier, among resettled people in the New Land during the Great Depression – first on a grain farm in Alberta, and then to a dairy farm in Manitoba. Kurelek discovered his artistic abitlities early, studing the geography around him while growing up on the family farm. He was very skilled at showing the sky on a clear sunny day, at twilight, or in the middle of a storm. He also painted night scenes, including one of the children cathcing fireflies, and another of a family trying to finish haying as the lighting from a coming storm lights up the sky. Kurelek has produced over 2000 paintings in his lifetime.

The twenty paintings in the exhibition were created in a Saskatchewan hotel room in the dead of a fierce prairies winter. They are Kurelek’s remembered stories of farm adventure, an honest and vivd text of what images of long hot days operating farm machinery, performing chores, milking cows, playing baseball, laying in the grass, and swinning in the ditch are example of the series included here.

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