Sunday, 30 September 2012

Exploring Alexandra McCurdy's tribute to hardworking women and textile culture

Look for the issue.  Just hit the newstand.

What made you happy during the past seven days?  It is so easy to complain and just get poisoned in the process.  So, instead of fretting about things beyond my control, I will tell you about something that made me smile.

 I was really pleased that the Alexandra McCurdy retrospective that is about to open at the Beaverbrook Museum in New Brunswick got covered in the current issue of VANS or Visual Arts Nova Scotia.  The writer of the article is Matthieu Comeau and he brings a very interesting perspective to the show.  He was not familiar with her work in either clay or textiles, which also means he didn't bring any baggage of expectations when he walked into the retrospective.  Clay in Nova Scotia can be a very political arena.  So, it is great to get some fresh eyes and fresh opinions.  He carefully toured the show with Alex and also spoke with me briefly at the Halifax opening.  VANS refers to the article as a "profile" rather than a review, which think is appropriate.  It is more like an in depth interview than a critical assessment of the work.  However, he does a very good job of establishing a context for McCurdy's work in both clay and textiles and he shares his careful observations with the reader.  For example, he was drawn to my placement of McCurdy's plates with her silk-screened portraits of famous feminists on a blue piece of indigo fabric also done by McCurdy.  Here's my favourite part in the article:

This image is of the white stoneware plates by themselves.

"The pieces bear the faces of strong female artists: Judy Chicago, Barbara Hepworth, Beatrice Wood, Lucie Rie and Georgia O'Keefe.  It is clearly an homage to Judy's Chicago's The Dinner Party.  The simplicity of the work is quietly impressive, but I initially found the choice of women represented a bit puzzling–many of the women represented  produced work that seemed to me so vastly different from McCurdy's, especially those who aren't known primarily as potters.  But McCurdy reminded me that Barbara Hepworth's sculpture often incorporates tensile elements reminiscent of thread, and that Emily Carr did produce some ceramic work.  Her choice of women is determined, however, less by her affinity for their style than by her respect for their "dedication, determination and patience". 

Matthieu Comeau I think you really hit the nail on the head.  And you probably don't how well you described Alex herself for she surely is a woman who is also dedicated, determined and patient.  Personally, I am grateful that Alex allowed me to get a bit creative with my installation.  She was very open.

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