This glue-gun fiesta is Modern Nativity by Rachel Ryan, which I purchased from her recent solo show, Waking Dreams, at the Craft Council Gallery in St. John's. It was listed NFS but I was smitten and when I had the opportunity to interview Rachel I asked if she was interested in selling it to me. It is a fine example of messy craft, an exuberance of glitz and glam. To me it was funny, irreverent and just what I needed going into the holiday season. Remember what I said, "life is messy so why can't craft be?" Rachel Ryan has been known for superb design sense and finely controlled technique. I was really intrigued when I saw her take on kitsch. Ryan's life over the past few years has been a rollercoaster ride of events and emotions: her mother finally passing away after a battle with cancer, the end of her marriage after several years, etc. She was giving herself permission to color outside of the lines. This is what I wrote in my notebook at the show, "Rachel Ryan has exploded out of her cocoon. Ryan has created a body of drawings and wall hangings and mixed media installations that bristle with bold energy and powerful emotions. Gone are the contemplative landscapes, the icebergs that on closer inspections contained women or the birch tress that housed stately spirits. They have been replaced with equally soulful work but this latest show is extroverted rather than inward looking. Waking Dreams is a centrifugal storm, an outpouring of complex colors, spiraling stitches and layers upon layers of quilted swatches of fabric and paper." Ryan's work was about - as one piece was titled- The Wreckage of Change. Not just her personal life but also the social backdrop of tsunamis, financial crisis and war, which had extra meaning for Rachel as she had been part of a military family, a boat in tow through a succession of postings. So, when the only thing in life that is permanent is your marker maybe what you need is a little kitsch. The occasion for the interview was preparation for a tour I gave in mid October to a cruise group traveling with Adventure Tours. Novelist Kevin Major was their group organizer.
Sunday, 18 December 2011
Saturday, 10 December 2011
What a pair of sourpusses! Back in 1997 before she was a felon, Martha Stewart visited Newfoundland. Bill Gates was picking up the tab as he had hired her to do a piece for an e-magazine he had recently launched. I think it was called Mongopark. Anyhow, Martha brought her entourage and filmed a segment for her TV programme at the same time. Martha was not nice, I remember watching her interact with her crew and I never heard her say please or thank you and she really ordered them around. I thought to myself, "if this is what success looks like I don't want it." But I was impressed with her ability to focus. The lady was like a laser. And she was very intelligent The Craft Council of NL opened up so that Martha could shop privately. A few members were invited to be on hand to answer questions about their work. I was also invited to help with the answers and Martha asked me about hooked mats. In the end she bought a hooked mat with a moose on it. She was disappointed that she did not see one during her visit. Martha did ask questions about Newfoundland's tradition of mat making. It was clear she had done her homework and already knew about Grenfell. I wonder about the impact Martha has had on the state of craft practice. I'll end this post by showing the more public face that Martha usually shows on camera. Life is messy why shouldn't craft be messy sometimes too.
At this year's University Art Association of Canada conference - an annual event for academics and scholars of art history- her name came up more than once during the craft sessions. This year the session of 8 papers focussed on the theme of "messy craft" a term we've inherited from Glenn Adamson in the U.K. It refers to the practice of deliberately flaunting the conventions of masterful technique within craft practice. Think of it as abstract expressionism versus realism. You'd never think of Martha Stewart in terms of messy craft unless, as Sandra Alfoldy pointed out in her presentation, it is to describe an amateur's failed attempt to aspire to Martha's perfection.
Saturday, 3 December 2011
Barb Hunt's The Old Lie
To discuss Canada's early recognition of gay marriage, multiculturalism, language and tolerance I picked Kai Chan's work for its lyricism and nuance. Kai can do so much with subtle grace in his work and he touches on these issues.