The Awesome and Awful: Works from the Permanent Collection

John Gould's drawing, Central Casting Picnic, depicts a surreal scene of women in historical costume observing a sky filled with fantastical figures
August 24, 2019 to March 15, 2020

Curated by Linda Perez and Jennifer Bullock

Featuring works by Edward Burtynsky, Elizabeth M. Eastman, Michael Flomen, Judy Garfin, John Gould, Susanna Heller, John Heward, Tom Hodgson, Louis Marius Amorim Ferreira de Moraes


In a moment of awe, you might find yourself forgetting everything else as your attention is captivated by the phenomenon before you. The spectacle could be one of wonder or of calamity – its scope is what overwhelms. This exhibition delves into the Permanent Collection to find varying ways in which artists attempt to capture that sense of awe.

The exhibition was inspired by Central Casting Picnic by John Gould, a work from his Ancestors Series that seems to frame the expanse of time itself. The experiences and memories of the past and present play out on the waves of time while the arrival of an unlimited future is suspended in an air of strange, scary and wonderful possibilities.

The works in The Awesome and Awful capture the imagination, spark memories, and offer reasons to pause and wonder. Some demonstrate the power of nature to dazzle and terrify. Others show the scope of human ingenuity, both constructive and destructive. Still others explore the less tangible world of the inner self and that contemplation of one’s place in a wider cosmos. Each work is an invitation to reflect in the face of immensity and share in a profound experience – for better and for worse.

John Gould (Canadian, 1929-2010), Central Casting Picnic, 1971. Conté on paper, 104.5cm x 155.8cm (framed). Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery Collection. Purchased in memory of Mrs. C. Elspeth Hall Kaufman, 1973. © Estate of John Gould. Photo: Robert McNair.