As Canada’s famous rodeo extravaganza, the Calgary Stampede, fires up this week, only a mile away the historic first settlement of Fort Calgary will be hosting a special equine show of its own.
While the world-renowned Stampede in downtown “Cowtown” has the full-on Western intensity of rodeo and chuckwagon events, pancake breakfasts, Stetsons and cowboy gear in and out of offices, there is much, much more.
Fort Calgary’s Edge Gallery is hosting a month-long show from internationally recognized wildlife photographer and artist Maureen Enns, from July 9 to August 6. On show is her latest eclectic collection of Alberta’s very own wild horses that roam the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies a hundred miles westwards.
Fort Calgary is also where the Stampede’s Friday parade gets under way, with hundreds of horses, floats, riding clubs dressed to the nines competing for the best group display, and, best of all, native First Nations riding in knockout full ceremonial costumes.
Nearby is the very first original main street of historic Inglewood, its stores now transformed into upmarket restaurants and antique galleries.
This Saturday (July 9 from 1-4pm) Enns will be in attendance – and one very good reason to connect up with this supremely passionate advocate for wild horses. She has thousands of photographs tucked away at home, taken over the last six years documenting her extraordinary observations about horses and wolves definitely having one heck of an oddly close relationship, a partnership almost.
Enns’ work stretches back decades, to previous exhibitions at Masters Gallery and international Fairmont Hotel showings, as well as illustrations and photographs co-authored with bear expert Charlie Russell of the West Coast’s renowned spirit bears. Later they launched into remote wilderness areas of Russia’s Kamchatka working alongside grizzlies for eight-year studies done there. That partnership ended, a breath taken, then into cataloguing the magical intense dance of Monarch butterfly migrations from Mexico to Canada, where three consecutive generations somehow navigate that perilous journey evolved over centuries.
It’s her wild horse work, though, with its tantalising insights into curious sometimes co-partnerships with wolves that’s she written of, painted, and photographed with evidence from hidden capture cameras that’s really up there, different.
This exhibition captures too the unique adaptive behavior of true ‘wildies’, these ‘re-wilded’ herds tucked well away from humans into hidden high, wild locations.
Her charcoal drawings capture defences developed over decades of learning behavior from whitetail and mule deer. These herds needed to – this is a predator rich environment of cougars and grizzlies, wolf packs too, along with extreme weather seasons. Stallions ‘peer’ from behind protective tree shelter; others ‘nose’ the air on still days to mix the smells, checking if predators lurk near-by. Her mixed media photo-paintings, using both oils and acrylics, are extravagant, large, bright tango dances of colour – a bear-pawprint tucked into a corner, of secret encoded messages.
It has taken Enns 10 years to create the body of work on show at Edge Gallery. “My drawings boldly reflect the wild and the free in the horses and their incredible pride reminiscent of images of First Nations peoples at the beginning of the 20th century,” she says.
“My paintings have a utopian quality, reflecting upon a positive future for the Ghost wild horses and their wolves.”
Enns’ work takes you into an equine world of truly re-wilded behavior patterns, shadows and sunlight, subtle nuances of body language as a mare curves around her herd companions. Unforgettable. And very collectable.
Maureen Enns at Inglewood’s Edge Gallery. The exhibition runs from July 9 to August 6 2016. The artist will be in attendance that first Saturday July 9th from 1-4pm. Further details at: The Edge Gallery, 1416 – 9th Avenue SE, Calgary. Ph. 403-233-7490 and at www.edgegallery.ca.