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Gathie Falk

 (born 1928)
Gathie Falk is active/lives in British Columbia, Manitoba / Canada.  Gathie Falk is known for ceramics, painting, conceptual and performance art, printmaking.

Gathie Falk

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Gathie Falk
Gathie Falk CM, OBC (1928)

"This very ordinary thing will be made very special," - Gathie Falk (1)

An important Canadian sculptor, painter, ceramist*, printmaker, muralist, and performance artist, Gathie Falk was born in Alexander, Manitoba (about 140 miles west of Winnipeg) and has lived in Vancouver, British Columbia since 1947. She is discussed in virtually every recent comprehensive Canadian art history book, her works have been included in dozens of landmark exhibitions, and her paintings and sculptures are in the permanent collections of many major Canadian museums. She is also the recipient of numerous awards and honors including one of her country's highest - the Order of Canada*. (2) (3)

Her mediums include oil, acrylic, watercolor, tempera*, charcoal, ink, colored pencil, graphite, found objects*, collage*, chalk, clay, wood, papier mache*, serigraph*, lithograph*, Plexiglas, bronze, assemblage*, installations, live performance, video, and mixed mediums. Her subjects include social commentary, dreams, fantasy, allegory*, symbolism*, whimsy, autobiographical events, self portrait, still life, landscape, interiors, gardens, fruit, vegetables, shoes, clothing and household items. Her styles include Conceptual Art*, Dada*, Expressionism*, Fauvism*, Realism* and Surrealism*. The AskART images are good illustrations of her work.

Falk's formal art education began when she was a child or early teen with classes for a brief period at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. In Vancouver she attended teacher's college (Normal School) and worked as an elementary school teacher at Douglas Road School, Burnaby (a Vancouver suburb) from 1953 to 1965. From 1955 to 1964 she studied art part-time and in the summer at the University of British Columbia, the Vancouver School of Art and elsewhere under various teachers including J.A.S. MacDonald, Bill West, Lawren Phillips Harris, Jacques de Tonnancour, Audry Doray, Bill Mayrs (1932), David Mayrs, Ron Stonier (1933), Roy Oxlade and Ian McNairn (1919 - 1973).

From 1964 to 1967 she studied ceramics at the University of British Columbia under Glen Lewis. She participated in performance workshops at the Vancouver Art Gallery with Deborah Hay (1941) in 1968 and with Steve Paxton (1939) and Yvonne Rainer (1934) in 1969. She also notes the influence Allan Kaprow and of Tom Graff (producer, curator and designer) in the medium of performance. In 1965 Falk quit teaching elementary school and became a full-time artist; however, she taught in the Fine Arts Department of the University of British Columbia on two occasions after that (1970 - 1971 and 1975 - 1977). (4)

Her travels include Europe (1965), New York City (1972), Paris, France (1974) and Padua, Italy (1977).

Falk was a member of the British Columbia Society of Artists (1965) with whom she exhibited with in 1966 and 1967, she also exhibited with the Canadian Group of Painters* in 1967.

She exhibited at the "B.C. Annual", Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (1960, 1965 and 1966); the "Northwest Annual", Seattle Art Museum, Washington (1961 and 1971); the "Spring Vernissage", Burnaby Art Gallery, B.C. (1964); and at the "5th Burnaby Print Show", Burnaby Art Gallery, B.C. (1969).

Since becoming a full-time artist her works have been included in numerous important regional and national themed exhibitions such as "Younger Vancouver Sculptors", U.B.C. Fine Arts Gallery, Vancouver (1968); "The New Art of Vancouver", Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, California and the University of California, Santa Barbara (1969); "Survey 70", Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Quebec (1970); "29 Pieces", Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (1970); "Works Mostly on Paper", Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (1970); "Contact: The Northwest", Seattle Centre, Washington (1971); "Canadian West Coast Art", National Library of Australia, Canberra (1971); "Realism, Emulsion & Omission", Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, Ontario (1972); "Ceramic Objects", Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto and the New York Cultural Centre, New York City (1973); "Pacific Vibrations", Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (1973); "Fired Sculpture", Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, B.C. (1974); "Chairs", Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1974); "Some Canadian Women Artists", National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, (1975); "Westcoast Waves", Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba (1976); "Four Places", Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (1977); "From This Point of View", Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (1977); "Other Realities: Surrealism in Canadian Art", Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston (1978); "Nationalism in Canadian Art", Victoria Art Gallery, B.C. (1979); "Aspects of Canadian Painting", Glenbow Museum, Calgary (1980); "Curnoe, Ewen, Falk, Moppett", Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina; Nickle Arts Museum, Calgary (1982); "Vancouver Art and Artists - 1931-1983", Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (1983); "Reflections - Contemporary Art Since 1964", National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1984); "Aurora Borealis", Montreal Centre for Contemporary Art (1985); "British Columbia Women Artists, 1885 - 1985", Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, B.C. (1985); "Tables Turned, Aspects of Furniture as Visual Art", Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Banff, Alberta (1987); "Hidden Values: Contemporary Canadian Art in Corporate Collections", touring - Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Edmonton Art Gallery, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1994 - 1995); "The Lavalin Collection: Sharing a Vision", Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1994); "Making It New!: The Big Sixties Show", Art Gallery of Windsor, Ontario and Glenbow Museum, Calgary (1999); "ABCs of Pop Art", Appleton Museum of Art, Ocala, Florida (2000); "Vancouver Collects", Vancouver Art Gallery (2001); "Dress: Signal", Art Gallery of Mississauga, Ontario (2003); "75 Years of Collecting: British Masters, Group of Seven and Pop Icons" Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (2006); "Paint: a psychedelic primer", Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (2007); "Visions of British Columbia: A Landscape Manual", Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (2010); and currently "Fashionality: Dress and Identity in Contemporary Canadian Art", McMichael Canadian Art Collection (May 5 to September 3, 2012).

Her first solo exhibition was at "The Canvas Shack", Vancouver in 1965. Since then the pubic venues for her solo shows and retrospectives have included the Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris, France (1974); National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1976); Edmonton Art Gallery [now Art Gallery of Alberta] (1978); Glenbow Museum, Calgary (1980); Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, B.C. (1985); Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, Ontario (1985); Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario (1985), Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon (1985); Vancouver Art Gallery (1985, 2000); Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax (2000); Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina (2000); Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (2000); Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Ontario (2000); and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, N.B. (2000). (5)

Her works have also been included in solo and group exhibitions at numerous prominent commercial galleries including Equinox Gallery, Vancouver; Douglas Gallery, Vancouver; Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver; Downstairs Gallery, Edmonton; Wynick/Tuck Gallery, Toronto; Issacs Gallery, Toronto; and Galerie Rene Blouin and Lilian Rodriguez, Montreal.

Falk's works are avidly collected in Canada, they are frequently traded on the Canadian auction market, and they are in many corporate and museum collections.

According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* and individual museum websites, her works are in the permanent collections of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario), Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), Mackenzie Art Gallery (Regina, Saskatchewan), Maltwood Museum (University of Victoria, B.C.), McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario), Mendel Art Gallery (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (Quebec), Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery (University of British Columbia, Vancouver), Museum London (Ontario), Museum of Anthropology (University of British Columbia, Vancouver), Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario), Simon Fraser University Gallery (Burnaby, B.C.), University of Lethbridge Art Gallery (Lethbridge, Alberta), Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.), Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba), the Yukon Permanent Art collection (Whitehorse, Yukon) and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa).

The titles and locations of Falk's public space art projects include Veneration of the White Collar Worker #1 and #2 [two murals], Department of External Affairs Building, Ottawa (1971); Multiple Purpose Thermal Blanket [mural quilt], BC Central Credit Union, Vancouver (1979); Diary [8 painted panels, each about 7'10" X 2' 5" arranged over 20 linear feet] Canadian Embassy, Washington, D.C. (1987); Development of the Plot  [7' X 20' oil on canvas], Cineplex Odeon, Park and Tilford Garden, North Vancouver, B.C. (1988); and Salute to the Lions of Vancouver [metal sculpture], Canada Place, Vancouver (1990).

Among her numerous honors and awards are five Canada Council grants (1967, 1968, 1969, 1971 and 1980), the Gershon Iskowitz Prize* (1990), the Order of Canada* [CM] (1997), the Order of British Columbia (2002), and the Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts (2003).

(1) Quote: Page 48, Gathie Falk (2000), by Robin Laurence, et al (see AskART book references).

(2) "Gathie Falk was born to Agatha and Cornelius Falk, German-speaking Mennonites…. Her father's death, in 1928, left the family impoverished and they were forced to move frequently among various Mennonite communities in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario…. Gathie's mother remarried when Gathie was five, but left the difficult marriage after two years and settled in Winnipeg with her children…. In 1946, Gathie and her mother moved, first to Chilliwack [a farming community about 50 miles east of Vancouver] and then to Vancouver…." Source: Library and Archives Canada.

(3) From November 1974 until 1979, Falk was married to career felon Dwight Swanson, whom she met and communicated with while he was in prison, and married during one of the brief intervals when he was not in prison. They only lived together for the winter of 1974 and spring of 1975, however during that time she signed her work Gathie Swanson. Source: Gathie Falk (2000), by Robin Laurence, et al (see AskART book references).

(4) All artists mentioned in this biography and its footnotes, except those with life-dates after their name, have their own pages in AskART.

(5) In 1985 the Vancouver Art Gallery held the exhibition titled "Gathie Falk: Retrospective" and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria launched the exhibition "Gathie Falk, Paintings 1978 - 1984". The AGGV show toured, visiting the Art Gallery of Hamilton, the Mt. St. Vincent Art Gallery, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, and the Mendel Art Gallery. - MDS
Canadian Who's Who - 2011 (2011), edited by Lynn Browne and Gwen Peroni (see AskART book references)

The Visual Arts in Canada: The Twentieth Century (2010), by Brian Foss, Anne Whitelaw, Sandra Paikowsky (see AskART book references)

Visions of British Columbia: A Landscape Manual (2009), edited by Bruce Grenville and Scott Steedman (see AskART book references)

Public Art in Vancouver: Angels Among Lions (2009), by John Steil and Aileen Stalker (see AskART book references)

The Gershon Iskowitz Prize, 1986 to 2006 (2009), by the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation (see AskART book references)

Caught in the Act: an anthology of performance art by Canadian women (2006), edited by Tanya Mars, Johanna Householder (see AskART book references)

Canadian Cultural Poesis: Essays on Canadian Culture (2005), edited by Garry Sherbert, Annie Gérin and Sheila Petty (see AskART book references)

Biographical Index of Artists in Canada (2003), by Evelyn de Rostaing McMann (see AskART book references)

The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar (see AskART book references)

Gathie Falk (2000), by Robin Laurence, et al. (see AskART book references)

Stealing the Show: Seven Women Artists in Canadian Public Art (1994), by Gunda Lambton (see AskART book references)

Performance in Canada, 1970 - 1990 (1991), by Alain-Martin Richard and Clive Robertson (see AskART book references)

Art and Architecture in Canada (1991), by Loren R. Lerner and Mary F. Williamson (see AskART book references)

Cineplex Odeon: The First Ten Years (1989), by David Burnett (see AskART book references)

Gathie Falk (1989), by Jane Lind (see AskART book references)

Catalogue of the National Gallery of Canada Ottawa: Canadian Art Volume One A - F (1988), general editors Charles C. Hill and Pierre B. Landry (see AskART book references)

Documents in Canadian Art (1987), edited by Douglas Fetherling (see AskART book references)

Gathie Falk: Retrospective (1985), by Gathie Falk and the Vancouver Art Gallery (see AskART book references)

Some Canadian Women Artists (1975), by Mayo Graham (see AskART book references)

Canadian Heritage Information Network*

Library and Archives Canada

Vancouver Art Gallery

The Governor General of Canada (Order of Canada source)

Government of British Columbia (Order of BC source)

Vancouver Art in the Sixties (website)

Art Gallery of Ontario (catalogue summaries online)
National Gallery of Canada

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

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Biography photo for Gathie Falk
Official OBC photo - 2002.

About  Gathie Falk

Born:  1928 - Alexander, Manitoba, Canada
Known for:  ceramics, painting, conceptual and performance art, printmaking