Good lives are eclectic: lessons learned from Ian Thom selects

At first look, the exhibit is eclectic. A Curator’s View: Ian Thom Selects at the Vancouver Art Gallery consists of colourful paintings, muted tones and sculptures that seem fairly unconnected.

It takes Ian Thom himself to bring the connections to light. Thom is the recently retired, long time senior curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery, who put together this exhibit as his swan song. The current chief curator introduces him to our tour group, before Thom begins to describe his time at the gallery.

No piece in the collection is without extensive thought. The Warhol Monroe prints are connected to the other adjacent pieces in ways that only Thom would know. His description of items is so substantial that the group isn’t even able to make it through the entire tour.

The exhibit also features local art, including a painting by E.J. Hughes entitled Comox Valley. I recognize it instantly, and tears well up in my eyes as I think of the valleys and mountains of Vancouver Island. I recall how long it’s been since I’ve seen my family, the bucolic waters and fields of my childhood. The addition of this painting within the exhibit rips me from the curated tour and and evokes the feeling of homesickness. It then hits me that this work of art means something to me, just like it means something to Thom. Looking around the exhibit, I can now recognize that this is not just a collection of unrelated art, but a life lived.

“... [C]urators do have legacies,” Thom said, “... I was directly responsible for putting [these things] into this collection. ... I guess the lesson I’ve learned the hard way is that if you really want something, you must keep persevering no matter what and eventually, if you’re really lucky, it’ll happen.”

A good life lived long will seem eclectic. Exhibits like this sort of make you excited to live your whole life.

A Curator’s View: Ian Thom Selects is on from September 22, 2018 to March 17, 2019 at the Vancouver Art Gallery.