Elza Mayhew at the Outdoor Art Collection for UBC

Artworks enter the Outdoor Art Collection through new commissions or donations of already existing artworks. The last project to enter the collection through donation was Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Bird’s Native Hosts (1991/2007) in 2007. This year, the University Art Committee was pleased to accept the donation of Stela I and Stela II (1963) by Elza Mayhew.

Completed in 1963, this pair of abstract, cast aluminum sculptures are excellent examples of Mayhew’s production at a crucial moment in Canadian art history, as well as in her practice. In 1964, Mayhew would represent Canada (with Harold Town) as one of the first Canadian women to exhibit at the Venice Biennale, bringing her innovations in sculptural methods, use of industrial materials and exploration of the human experience to an international audience. These sculptures were two of the thirteen that were included in the exhibition at the Biennale. They are an integral part not only of Canada’s artistic heritage, but also of the history of how that heritage has been presented to the world.

The Stelae will be sited on campus in the Spring of 2020; a proposed location and orientation for the artworks will be presented at an open house in the new year. We are grateful to the Estate of Elza Mayhew for this remarkable donation and to President Santa J. Ono for his generous contribution to the artwork’s siting. In addition to the ongoing support of the University Art Committee, we extend our thanks to the President’s Advisory Committee on Campus Enhancement for their efforts in bringing this important artwork to UBC.

Elza Mayhew (1916–2004) was born in Victoria, BC. She received a BA from UBC (1936) and MFA (1963) from the University of Oregon. Mayhew was known for her abstract sculptures that were typically carved in polystyrene and then cast in aluminum or sometimes bronze. She worked primarily from sketches, rarely from models, and described her work as highly structured and architectural while always relating to the human form. Mayhew produced commissioned works for international events such as Expo 67, Expo 86 and an international trade fair in Tokyo, as well as for public institutions such as the Bank of Canada, the University of Victoria, the Canadian National Capital Commission and the Royal British Columbia Museum. Her work is included in the collections of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the National Gallery of Canada, Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria. Mayhew was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy, and was an active member of the Limners Society.

Paired with “Stela II”. They were exhibited at the Lucien Campbell Plaza, University of Oregon, Eugene, in 1963. The next year they were shipped to Venice for the 1964 Biennale, and in 1967, the Stelae were part of the Centennial Sculpture Exhibition at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver.

Image: Stela I, 1963, 72” (h) x 20” (w) x 10” (d), Aluminum caste