An artist may stare at the world like any other individual, and like most people, appreciate the attractiveness of light and atmosphere, the curve of the landscape, or the solidity of the built environment. The constantly shifting image of the world plays continually in front of our eyes. It may offer peace and serenity, or perhaps calls forth emotions and feelings, fears and for some, a desire or demand to respond to this stimulus in particular ways.
Successful art brings two conditions into existence - the transformation of a base material into a readable form, and an ability to demand from an audience that we focus our attention on a particular experience: In other words, a picture and a subject. Today, we are pleased to have one of Canada's most distinguished artists in our midst.
It is my very special privilege to honour Wanda Koop. Wanda is one of our own. A graduate of the University of Manitoba School of Art, Ms. Koop is to be recognized as one of Canada's most prolific and enduring artists. Wanda Koop has received numerous accolades for her work and community dedication. A partial list includes the Canada Council "A" Grant, the Paris Studio, the Japan Fund Award and the Manitoba Arts Council "A" Grant. In 2002, she was honoured with the Queen's Jubilee Medal. In 2006, Ms. Koop was named a Member of the Order of Canada.
She remains a resident of Winnipeg, yet her reputation extends across Europe, South America, Asia and Japan. Named by TIME Magazine as one of our country's best artists, her work and career includes over fifty solo exhibitions regularly exhibited nationally, internationally and installed in many private and museum collections including the National Gallery of Canada and residencies in Canada and abroad.
She has a restless eye. Over the decades it has constantly scanned the country from prairie to coast. Looking at her paintings we discover the magical qualities of color. We find animals, bodies and landscapes and things we may not understand, all inhabiting a space familiar and yet unfamiliar. We approach this world with emotions and feelings, thoughts and fears. Her vision is intense and demanding. We are made conscious of our personal knowledge of the external world, our own act of looking, and a painted world that is unusually restricted, offering us curiousity and unease. In her recent project Green Zone she has developed an extended examination of the Iraq War, or rather, the problem of how to represent a conflict that cannot be seen by seizing on the vocabulary of the fragment as-object and subject. This work is currently touring.
Ms. Koop is a champion of the role art and creativity can play in community building, notably in Winnipeg's West Broadway and South Point Douglas neighborhoods. She is also to be recognized for her tireless efforts to give inner-city youth a creative voice in their community. In 1988, she founded the successful Art City Project - an art centre in Winnipeg that continues to provide opportunities for people of all ages, especially inner-city youth, to work with contemporary visual artists to find their own creative vision.
Mr. Chancellor, it is an honour for me to ask on behalf of the Senate of the University of Manitoba that you confer upon Wanda Koop, the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
-citation delivered by mentor, Prof. Paul Hess, Director of the School of Art, University of Manitoba