In 2010 the Winnipeg Art Gallery acquired The Winnipeg Alphabestiary, a set of 26 works originally conceived on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Winnipeg-based art publication Border Crossings. The project was a fundraiser for a magazine that has had a significant role in showcasing Winnipeg artists in addition to its focus on national and international culture. The criteria for the artist selection were straightforward: all 26 creators called Winnipeg home, whether they were currently living in the city or not, and their work had to be representational. The artists were assigned their alphabet letters randomly and asked to match their letter to an animal subject.
The alphabestiary format has both a long history and a close association with children’s books, assisting children with language development, in particular learning the alphabet. This process lends itself to the formation of letter and image associations. One defining characteristic that separates humans from animals is language; yet it is odd that by using alphabestiaries we have historically involved those very animals to communicate our most basic language components to young people. The animals range from the real to the invented, and as Border Crossings editor Meeka Walsh wrote, The Winnipeg Alphabestiary is about “Beauty and the Beast,” as well as “Beauty in the Beast”. The Winnipeg Alphabestiary has been organized by the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
by Meeka Walsh
Hardcover, 101 pages
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