NEWFOUNDLAND.- Don Wright (1931-1988) was an inspiring teacher who travelled the province from 1967 to 1983 as art specialist with Memorial University of Newfoundland Extension Service.
Notably, Wright also co-founded St. Michael's Printshop. As an artist, Wright's drawings, watercolours, prints, sculptures and installations reflected his intense involvement with the natural world and its impact on human experience.
Curated by The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery's Caroline Stone, this exhibition is the second in a collections-based series about important figures in the development of the visual arts in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Don Wright was born in Timmins, Ontario, in 1931. Wright was already an accomplished painter by the end of high school. He completed numerous teacher training and art courses that prepared him as a public school teacher. Intermittently from 1959 to 1966, he attended the Ontario College of Art to study printmaking.
In 1967, he moved to Newfoundland where he worked as an art specialist with Memorial University of Newfoundland's Extension Service. He conducted art classes for children and adults on campus and in communities throughout the province.
In 1972, he co-founded St. Michael's Printshop with Heidi Oberheide. The printshop not only enabled Newfoundland artists to produce fine art prints, but also brought professional artists from across Canada and elsewhere to make prints in Newfoundland.
Wright's work almost always dealt with landscape and people's relationships to it. He depicted outport communities and their traditional activities, as well as aspects of the inshore fishery and the natural environment.
In the 1980s, faced with change and his own impending death, Wright's art became increasingly personal and powerful, reflecting on the relentless cycle of generation, life and death, and on people's place in nature. These themes were the basis of the 1987 exhibition Falling at Memorial University Art Gallery. A hemophiliac, Wright contracted HIV through a blood transfusion and died in 1988.
In 1990, Memorial University Art Gallery mounted a nationally-touring retrospective of Wright's work. It was the first exhibition of Newfoundland art to be presented at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.
Wright's art work can be found in private and public collections including that of the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador; The Canada Council Art Bank, Mount St. Vincent University Art Gallery; and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.