Museums & Heritage Services

Gertrude Kearns: The Art of Command

Portraits and Posters from Canada's Afghan Mission
Fort York Visitor Centre
March 5 - June 14, 2015

Since 1991, Toronto artist Gertrude Kearns has explored the engagement between Canada's military and conflicts around the world. In 2005-06, she was embedded with Canadian Forces in Afghanistan while on contract with the Department of National Defence.

Following the DND commission, Kearns has continued to address the Afghan Mission while working as an independent artist.  Between 2006 and 2015, Kearns created the 46 portraits and posters appearing in The Art of Command. Most of these works appear on public display for the first time. 

Drawing on Kearns' unprecedented access to senior Canadian officers who served in Afghanistan, this exhibition focuses on the complexities and consequences of military command in challenging situations.

What's On Display?

The Art of Command contains two parallel but related components. The portrait component comprises 20 large paintings and drawings of individual commanders. The poster component consists of 26 texted art prints. Each poster incorporates an image of a portrait; the accompanying text was developed in consultation with the subject.  

While Kearns has been hailed as Canada's leading active contemporary war artist, her earlier work on Somalia, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia prompted debate about the relationship between art and conflict. As some works in The Art of Command contain provocative images and strong language, this exhibition may not be appropriate for all audiences.

See the exhibit - Stay for a talk

Guided Artist Tours with Gertrude Kearns
April 26, 2 p.m. - Included with regular admission.
May 23 & 24, 12 p.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. - Free as part of Doors Open Toronto.
June 14, 2 p.m. - Included with regular admission.

Artist Talk with Gertrude Kearns
May 9, 2 p.m.
The artist's inspiration and 10 year experience creating The Art of Command. Included with regular admission.

Plain Sight - An Illustrated Talk about Modern Camouflage
Thursday, May 21, 7 p.m.
The exhibition The Art of Command by Gertrude Kearns features senior Canadian officers in modern camouflage clothing. In fact, there is a long history of soldiers "hiding in plain sight." Join Kevin Hebib as he discusses the development and use of disruptive pattern material, like the type exhibited in The Art of Command. Admission is pay-what-you-wish.

Curating Kearns: Understanding The Art of Command
April 25 and May 27, 2 p.m.
Join Wayne Reeves, the City of Toronto's Chief Curator, for a one-hour walk-through of the exhibition The Art of Command. He will provide insight into why and how the exhibition was created and the significance of Gertrude Kearns' military art, and will share stories about her approach and some of her subjects. Included with regular admission.

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