Sunday, 19 April 2015

Wild Talk at the Craft Council Gallery

left to right: Ford's "Fracked" ducks, Furneaux's child-sized dress, Minty's felted vessel, Frances and Maxine Ennis' hooked mat and a detail view of Barb Daniell's spores.

My highlight this week was our curators' presentation for the Wild Pure Aesthetic Wonder show at the Craft Council Gallery. Gallery director Sharon LeRiche introduced Philippa Jones and myself and spoke about how popular the show has been with the public.  Philippa talked about the call for submissions and how the show dovetails with the International Fibre Art conference in Gros Morne this October.  I gave a talk about the works in the show and –I think everyone's favourite part– was the artists' own comments about the work.  Amy Todd, Frances Ennis, Kelly Bruton, Stephanie Stoker were amongst those artists who were able to attend and speak.

There are 21 artists in the show and it is always a challenge to encompass a large group show in a fair and coherent manner.  Philippa and I were intent on avoiding the merely picturesque or the touristic.  In a broad thematic call we asked artists to address "the wild" either internally or externally in order to give visitors to Gros Morne a richer experience.  Rachel Ryan stands out for tackling the wild within and more specifically the loss of her mother to cancer.  Ryan gives visual expression to the primal emotions of loss, longing and eventually finding your way after having one's world turned inside out.

Other artists turned our attention to the microscopic like Barb Daniell's fantastic ecosystem of spores or Amy Todd's knit portrait of lichens.  Margaret Angel took on the challenge of the shifting view of the hiker - from the stones underfoot to the mountain top vista. 

studio shot of Waterman's kinetic sculpture.
The role of women became apparent in the work of Susan Furneaux, Kumi Stoddart, and Frances and Maxine Ennis.  Furneaux's child-sized dress of cotton sacking, adorned with found objects was a lovely salute to the women who lived in the park and were involved in the craft industries.  Kumi Stoddart made a tea doll but infused it with her Japanese heritage with the addition of new teas and indigo but the doll wore trigger mitts!  While the Ennis sisters-in-law made a large circular hooked rug with the image of a mandala composed of a motif inspired by a pregnant woman and Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

The notion of the cycle of seasons and the circle was also seen in Jessica Waterman's kinetic work, which was motorized so its petals and folds gracefully came to life.  Kailey Bryan's video also gave benign technology centre stage as she documented the use of her own body as loom, the warp and weft moving with her breath.  Jennifer Galliott's animal head dresses and Deb Dumka carpet also united audio with felt for an interactive experience of the wild.  Both Dumka and Linda Hope Ponting used the geology of the Tablelands as a departure point.

Judith Martin's work.  For more info, see her blog

The notion of a politicized nature became apparent in several of the works.  Rilla Marshall's weaving spoke of the changes to place and population, Stephanie Stoker chose to isolate the panels of her weaving with Plexi to speak about how we too often value economy over ecology, while Shosohanna Wingate used the lyrical power of ecoprints and poetry to bring access to nature as an inalienable right forward.

a process shot of Marshall's weaving.

I speculated that there was a self-identification with nature as well.  Sarah Minty referred to nature as her skin and bones in her statement that accompanied her felt landscape vessel.  Judith Martin chose to work a large-scale blanket with many stitched marks that both conveyed the intimacy and immensity of the experience of nature.

Rosalind Ford and Kelly Bruton both bravely tackled the theme of fracking and pollution highlighting the vulnerability of the wild.  Ford used her experience as an ornithologist to create life sized eider ducks that were lovingly embroidered and then "contaminated" with "oil".  Bruton created an installation of panels that interpreted the unbroken record of millions of years from fossils to quotes from residents and newspaper headlines.

I tried to end the talk on a positive note by mentioning a work that will only be on view in the second venue - at the Woody Point Discovery Centre.  This is Alexe Hanlon's knit sculpture of a Minke whale, which are regularly seen in the spring.  It is seven feet (the size of a baby whale) festooned with barnacles and details.

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