University of Calgary Alumna, member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Artists, and well-known and admired printmaker Helen Mackie has gifted Nickle Galleries an outstanding legacy. In 2017, Mackie donated one of every print series she created over her studio career of more than four decades – in all, nearly 350 prints using a wide variety of media, including etching, intaglio, woodblock and stencils. Individually and as a collection, the prints give testimony to the talent and dedication of this cherished artist.

A background in biological sciences has influenced her life-long fascination with mountain and prairie culture as well as the natural world: the plants, animals, birds, people, the life cycles in nature – a veritable life’s tapestry. Although she denies any poetic approach, Helen visualizes (makes visible) nature’s rhythms and reveals spiritual and symbolic points of reference for our own realities. She takes what is common and everyday and makes for us, through the medium of the woodblock print, etching, watercolor, and charcoal drawing, imaginary worlds of surprise, interconnectivity, whimsy, and joy.

A master printmaker, Helen’s strong images, in conjunction with her use of color (often with a stencil technique), contain high levels of energy and denote her compassionate nature and keen sense of humor.  “While not interested in pure abstraction, she does abstract and simplify all her subjects.”  Referencing various visual techniques from the history of art, such as the registers from illuminated medieval manuscripts and books of hours, Helen’s subjects shift the traditional scenes from the lives of the Virgin, Christ, and any number of saints, to include the activities of sheep, crows, cows, and buffalo, as well as cowboys, children, horses, flowers, and gardeners.

Dora Helen Mackie was born in Tavistock, Ontario in 1926. In 1943, she received a B.Sc. Honours at Queen’s University in Biology and Chemistry and in 1949 she received a M.Sc. in Physiology and Biochemistry from the University of Toronto.  After deciding to expand her understanding of the world via art making, Mackie received a BFA from the University of Calgary in Printmaking and Drawing (1973), where she studied with John Esler and Noboru Sawai.

She states that the art of printmaking “opened my eyes to a new world of images and new opportunities to create.”  For Helen the block of wood and the etcher’s plate kept her “contact with idea, hand, and image very close.”  Helen has also studied at the Banff School of Fine Art, the Alberta College of Art, and the Emma Lake Painting Workshop.

Opening Reception June 9, 3-5pm.

Image: Thistle Crown, 1989, ed.20, woodblock/paper, 24 x 18.5 inches