Manitoba artist Don Proch’s immense body of work includes complex sculptures, silkscreen prints, and life-sized masks. The stunning new book Don Proch: Masking and Mapping follows the course of his career, and provides a rare and intimate look into his working process as well as over 80 plates of illustrations.
Author Patricia Bovey is an art historian and curator who has worked in the visual arts in Western Canada for decades. She is the former director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and is also an adjunct professor of art history at the University of Winnipeg. She has long wanted to do something significant on Don Proch’s work, so she jumped at the opportunity to write this book.
She was the curator of the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 1970 when Proch’s breakthrough sculpture, Asessippi Tread, was a highlight of the Twelfth Winnipeg Show, catapulting him into becoming an important and well-known artist.
Bovey has studied Proch’s work thoroughly since then, reading all that had been written about him, viewing public collections of his work, researching archival materials and exhibition catalogues, and reviewing past interviews she had had with his colleagues. She also reviewed a number of private collections of his work.
In addition, Bovey spent many hours with Proch in his studio, discussing his work, his ideas, and his approaches, and following work in progress.
“It will not be possible for a retrospective exhibition of his work to be coordinated as it is in collections which are far flung and the pieces are fragile.”
Bovey says that Proch was very involved in the creation of this book.
“I met with him at the studio. He was very generous in allowing me to interview him, he organized photographs of his work and loaned me his sketchbooks. He read the text, and we pored over images together.”
Proch’s work is deeply intriguing and multifaceted. “Proch’s masks, grain elevators, sculptures, installations, drawings, and prints evoke the Prairie in all its dimensions, drawing viewers into his beautiful, yet disquieting, creative world,” Bovey says.
“Illuminating the inter-relationship between the land and humankind, Proch’s art encourages respect for the histories and places of his youth,” she continues. “Using foreboding visual elements, he implores humanity to halt the current tides towards ecological devastation and he challenges society to embrace the urgent need to stem climate change and steward the environment. His portrayals of rural icons and vanishing lifestyles steadfastly underline the need to secure rural sustainability.”
Bovey, who was appointed to the Senate of Canada in 2016, wants readers to “see the innovation of Don’s work, the power of his message, his passion and commitment to environmental issues, and his love of the Prairie.”
The book is also the only chance most people will get to see such a comprehensive collection of Proch’s work. “It will not be possible for a retrospective exhibition of his work to be coordinated as it is in collections which are far flung and the pieces are fragile,” Bovey explains.
“Thus this volume becomes an important compendium of his ideas and creative expression in various media.”