Women of the Photographers Gallery. Collection of Frances Robson

Thelma Pepper: Ordinary Women

Online Panel Discussion

Join an online panel discussion with Sandra Fraser, Curator (Collections), co-curator Leah Taylor and artists Frances Robson and Sandra Semchuk as they discuss the exhibition Thelma Pepper: Ordinary WomenA Retrospective, currently on view at Remai Modern. The conversation will focus on the history of women photographers in relation to the former Saskatoon artist-run centre, The Photographer’s Gallery (TPG). The artists will reflect on their own roles at TPG as well as Pepper’s influence within that ecology. The panel will also consider the major themes found within the exhibition, offering a deeper look at the meanings of strength and resilience in the context of the work, and the visual and conceptual threads that run throughout the exhibition.   

Thelma Pepper: Ordinary Women. A Retrospective  highlights the life’s work of one of Saskatchewan’s preeminent senior artists, Thelma Pepper (1920-2020), an important photographer, feminist and activist. Known for her black and white photographs, Pepper documented the lives of Prairie women and men, putting their experiences and resilience into focus. Connecting through shared stories, Pepper illuminated the critical roles women held within their seemingly ordinary, everyday environments.


Panellist Bios:

Leah Taylor is curator of the Kenderdine Art Gallery and College Art Galleries at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, situated on Treaty 6 Territory and homeland of the Métis. Taylor earned an MA in History in Art from the University of Victoria and a BFA from the University of Saskatchewan. In 2018, Taylor was awarded a six-month curatorial residency with the Banff International Curatorial Institute (BICI) at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Taylor has actively curated exhibitions since 2006, both nationally and internationally. Her curatorial credits include Lori Blondeau: Grace, A Survey, Catherine Blackburn: with these hands, from this land, Tau Lewis: when last you found me here, Amalie Atkins: Wundermarchen. She also co-curated Curtis Santiago: constructing return, The Shadow of the Sun: Ross Bleckner and Zachari Logan and Thelma Pepper: Ordinary Women, A Retrospective. Taylor’s curatorial research has focused on contemporary art in relation to issues of art and resistance, the archive and cultural diasporas. Taylor currently sits on the Editorial Committee for BlackFlash Magazine. Her writing has been published in a number exhibition catalogues and art publications. 

Frances Robson lived in various Saskatchewan small towns and cities until, at the age of ten, she settled with her family near Loon Lake on her maternal grandparents’ homestead quarter. Her dad, a school teacher, then retired and turned to organic farming. She considers Loon Lake her hometown and returns there often to visit family and friends, the farm, the lake, hiking trails and scenic country roads.  

Robson earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1985. She has been awarded numerous Saskatchewan Arts Board and Canada Council grants and recently spent four months at artist residencies in Australia and New Zealand. Her photographic work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions in Canada, the United States, Australia and elsewhere, and is in numerous public and private collections. She is currently making books of her past photographic work and creating portraits with an 8”x10” camera. 

Since 1987, Robson has been a sessional photography instructor in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Saskatchewan. She has also mentored artists through CARFAC Sask and taught art and photography to children.  

In her work, Sandra Semchuk asks us the question: what leads towards deeper recognitions across generations, cultures and species? A photographer and scholar, Semchuk is a second-generation Ukrainian Canadian and Governor General Award recipient in Visual and Media Arts (1918).  Semchuk has focused her photographic and video work on relationships between herself, her family and her community. In 1975, she exhibited photos of the people in her hometown, Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, on the town’s main street where everyone from the community could stop and discuss them. She is a co-founder of The Photographer’s Gallery in Saskatoon, taught at Emily Carr University in Vancouver for three decades and has exhibited nationally and internationally. She collaborated with her late husband James Nicholas, Rock Cree writer and orator, on photographic, text and video works to disrupt myths that have shaped settler relations to First Nations. A major exhibition of these collaborations is currently showing at the McKenzie Art Gallery in Regina and will travel nationally. Her artist’s book, The Stories Were Not Told, Canada’s First World War Internment Camps (U of Alberta Press, 2018)) creates a space for internees and descendants to tell their stories. This book considers legislated racism and the intergenerational consequences of Canada’s first internment camps. 


About the talk

This is an online conversation hosted on the Zoom Webinar platform. This talk is free to attend. We will be posting the link to register for this webinar soon.


Thelma Pepper

Ordinary Women


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Thursday 10 AM - 5 PM
Friday 10 AM - 9 PM
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