Sunday, 31 August 2014

Curator: Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy and Midwife all rolled into one

This show is a co-curatorial project with Sharon LeRiche as my partner in crime.
I am not sure what I like best about being a curator: the intimacy with the artists and their process, building bridges of perception to the viewing public, or, or, or…?  It really could be so many things.  If you do it well, it is a little like making dreams come true.  A combination of being Santa Claus and the toothfairy.  Most often I liken it unto being a midwife –you don't have the baby but you help it be born. This year is the first year I have ever been a co-curator. For this show I am sharing the curatorial load with Sharon LeRiche.

Group shows are a different animal from solo shows or retrospectives and each pose their own challenges.  But I will say up front that I hate shows with weak concepts, that are irrelevant to society's needs and basically what I call dog and pony shows or Noah's ark show (2 of this and 2 of that).  A show is an opportunity to say something, so think, clear your throat and don't waste the opportunity.  In my books waste is the only sin.  (Which I believe the Prophet Mohammed said or at least that's the common attribution).

The Spirit of the Caribou has been especially satisfying to work on because of the depth of the concept and the vigour with which artists responded.  It's always a good sign when the artists come to you and ask to be considered because they are busting with something to say and an itch to make something about it.  The best concepts will elicit good work and not be sterile art theory (which I loathe).  In the case of this show, I can honestly say without exaggeration that some of the best artists have produced work that I fully expect will stand the test of time.  They will look back and say, "yes, that was my best and I am proud of it."
This is Kelly Jane Bruton at work on two pieces that are in the show.
Incredible work! What I love about Kelly is that she takes her work, but not herself,
very seriously.  Work ethic, research, technical skills and humour, she has it all going on.

Here's the intro from the catalogue essay:

The Spirit of the Caribou

Less graphic than the puffin, nor as political as the seal, the caribou nevertheless rivals the cod as a cultural icon in this province.  When the Craft Council Gallery put out the call for The Spirit of the Caribou it was clear that a nerve was touched.  It had a direct resonance with craftspeople and artists of many communities and interests:  historical and military, ecological and environmental and let's not forget pure childhood fantasy. The caribou has fed our bodies, souls and imagination for generations. But First Peoples first.

This show has 15 artists in it and I was allotted only about a 1,000 words, so saying something meaningful about the work was a real challenge.  I decided to dwell on the various aspects of the theme and how I saw them manifest through the works.  That way I was commenting on the work rather than setting myself up as an expert, which I never feel comfortable doing.  My job is to make viewers look more closely and keep thinking.  Eventually, I want them to reach their own conclusions.
This is a proposal sketch by David Hayashida.
 If you come to the show you will see how much it changed in the process.

Here's a list of who's in the show:  David Hayashida, Shirley Moorhouse, Jerry Evans, Deb Kuzyk & Ray Mackie, Kumi Stoddart, Nicola Hawkins, Kelly Jane Bruton, Jennifer Morgan, Maxine and Frances Ennis, Terry Nicholls, Jane Sasonow White, Curtis Jones and Susan Furneaux.

Make sure you join us next weekend at the Craft Gallery in St. John's.  There's going to be quite a herd of us.  I believe Joan Sullivan is doing a piece about it for The Newfoundland Quarterly.  Hurray for team Caribou!

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