Friday, April 20, 2012
A white beekeeping outfit, complete with netted veil and hood. A pair of bright red Coleman coolers next to silver sachets of tea. Well-thumbed copies of Euell Gibbons’ Stalking the Wild Asparagus and Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust. Grow lights shining on rows of tiny tomato seedlings; a table overflowing with spider plants; some multi-sided dice resting on a high shelf; and a half-moon bedroom doubling as a wood-fired sauna.
These are just a few of the treats tucked into Walking Studio, the centrepiece work in Diane Borsato’s current solo show at the Art Gallery of York University.
“I was interested in field laboratories as a model for a way of working as an artist,” Borsato explains during a tour of the show. The 11-foot-by-18-foot structure, designed by the artist in collaboration with Adrian Blackwell and Jane Hutton, is “a mobile building that functions as a studio-slash-field-lab” to accommodate practices that are social, site-responsive, peripatetic and relational.
Beyond its immediate appeal as a cute, rustic, cabin-like getaway, Walking Studio may well read as a significant material marker of the way Borsato’s many ephemeral works—from 2001’s Touching 1000 People to 2011’s revolving Walking Studio residencies at Don Blanche—have gelled into a very concrete art career.
To find out more, read on at Canadianart.ca.
(Image of Diane Borsato's Walking Studio by Michael Maranda, via Canadianart.ca and courtesy the artist and the AGYU)
Monday, April 9, 2012
British Columbia is a beautiful place, but the sights that most appeal to Vancouver photographer Anthony Redpath aren't ones you'd see on a postcard. For the past few years, Redpath has been trying to pay homage to the blue-collar side of Pacific coast life in his large, meticulous prints.
With an exhibition on at the Rooms in St. John's, Redpath talked with me about the decline of the fishing industry, the rise of ecotourism and the buildings that tell the tale of both.
The resulting condensed Q&A was published in last Thursday's National Post. An excerpt:
Q How did you get into photography and art in the first place, given that you worked in the national parks in your twenties?
A One of my influences would be my parents; my dad was an amateur photographer. In addition to that, he used to draw a lot; he's an architect.
Plus my mom's a landscape architect. I spent a lot of time looking over their drawings when I was kid. The buildings I photograph are often broken-down structures. They're not great architectural works, but I try to find something in them that's interesting.
Q What else would you like viewers to know about these photographs?
A Probably that these buildings reflect the socioeconomic status of the region, as well as the climate. They wouldn't look like that in downtown Vancouver, because they wouldn't exist; they'd be torn down because the land is too expansive. If they were in the prairies, they wouldn't have the same textures in terms of the paint and surfaces; the air would be too dry. These are buildings that really speak about a place. And I do this work because of an attachment to that place, I guess.
(Image of Anthony Redpath's Trailer Park Party courtesy the artist)
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Why Art is more Foundation than Frill: Profile of TO Curator Marsya Maharani Now Up at Yonge Street Media
In the last of a series of arts-related profiles for Yonge Street Media, I look at young Toronto curator Marsya Maharani.
Though just 25 years old, Maharani is gaining ground in breaking traditional silos between art, craft, design, fashion and DIY.
She is perhaps best known for her monthly exhibitions at Freedom Clothing Collective, but is also branching out this month with an Ontario Arts Council–funded trip to Indonesia to research textiles there.
There's a lot to be impressed about in terms of Marsya's drive, curiosity and organizational acumen, but I was particularly struck by her comments around the value of textile art in particular and the arts in general.
Here's an excerpt:
"The history of textile making has been very gender specific," Maharani explains. "I think that has a lot to do with the fact that it hasn't really been seen as a form of art. Essentially, textiles are beautiful things, and they mean a lot to culture and society."
Maharani knows the depth of textiles' cultural power firsthand. At 14, she faced a huge transition when her family (mom, dad and younger brother) immigrated from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Dufferin and Steeles. Getting involved in fashion events—from organizing Newtonbrook Secondary School's annual show to volunteering at the Fashion Design Council of Canada—was vital to making the move successfully.
"Reconnecting with people through the arts is a big deal," she says. "Being involved in the fashion show [in high school], for example, or collaborating with people in different projects really helped make Toronto my home."
Her response to those who say art is a frill, especially in tough economic times? "But that's when I turn to arts: when it's really hard, you know? I think that's what keeps you going."
To read the entire profile, including Marsya's thoughts on the tough job market young grads like her are facing, visit Yonge Street.
(Image of Marsya Maharani at Freedom Clothing Collective by Tanja-Tiziana for Yonge Street Media)
Monday, April 2, 2012
Over the past five years, the ceramic engine sculptures of Saskatchewan artist Clint Neufeld have won increasing recognition in the Canadian art world.
In addition to being featured in MASS MoCA’s upcoming “Oh, Canada” show this spring, Neufeld has had solo exhibitions at public art galleries across the country and was first runner-up for the 2011 Winifred Shantz Award for Ceramics.
Last week, while he was installing a solo show opening at the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon, Neufeld talked with me on the phone about his military start, farm heritage and more.
Here's an excerpt from the condensed interview published on Canadianart.ca:
LS: Because your engine pieces are often positioned on chairs and couches, I end up feeling like they’re portraits of some kind—that they stand in for figures. How do you respond to that interpretation?
CN: I can respond a few ways.
One way I’d respond is that, you know, I’ve never really liked to be too specific about what my intentions are or what I want people to get out of my art. I think that’s sort of the beauty of art objects, is that they’re really open to all kinds of interpretations.
Part of the reason I went with the furniture was I’ve never really liked the pedestal. It’s never been my favourite display mechanism. And I had these fancy, ornate objects; I thought, What works for displaying these?
I think that the furniture aesthetic or end-table sort of thing that I mashed with them comes from my grandmother, who was an immigrant from England after the war. Being a sort of proper British lady, she had her shelves of trinkets displayed very nicely on doilies or on fancy tables and these kind of things. And for me, that kind of furniture seemed to be a good fit for the objects that I was dealing with.
There’s another thing I like about using the furniture: the engines that I work with tend to be older—they’re mechanical and somewhat obsolete in today’s automotive industry. So I like this idea that they’re sort of lounging or relaxing. And I think you’re right, it certainly lends itself to some kind of personal stand-in. The idea of a portrait is a nice way of looking at it.
To read more, head to Canadianart.ca.
(Image of Clint Neufeld at his Mendel show by Troy Mamer via Canadianart.ca)