High Fidelity

Marc Courtemanche sculpture

Marc Courtemanche, Toolbox of Tools (detail), 2010, stoneware and metal, to scale

There is, as a lot of people might remember from their art history classes, the renowned story related by the Greek writer Pliny the Elder concerning the artist Zeuxis, and of the claim that his painted representation of grapes achieved such fidelity to their subject matter that the birds attempted to eat them. Continue reading

Flicker and Border Blur

Jennifer Angus Sculpture

Jennifer Angus, Black wings

Like a lot of people, I suspect, I’m fascinated and utterly engaged by that in the world which I’ll call the “neither/nor”. That is, I’m taken by things – primarily works of art, but also literature, film, theater and even the more mind-boggling realities revealed by science – that are not tidily assigned to very specific categories, things that don’t fit into convenient intellectual or aesthetic boxes, that aren’t amenable to easy labeling and categorization. I’m talking about the equivalents, I suppose, of littoral zones, those ecological areas that straddle the meeting of land and sea – areas that are really neither/nor – and which are, intererestingly, fecund with life. Nature, it seems, often prefers such areas; hedgerows in farmed areas, the edges of forests – all are extremely amenable to the creative process that is life. Continue reading

Dawn MacNutt: Resisting the Monumental

columns-twined-feature

Dawn MacNutt, Columns, twined willow

You know how often I reference the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) in my blogs? A lot, actually, in part indicative of my familiarity with and respect for the institution (having lived and worked in Halifax for a number of years, and having curated and written about a number of its faculty and graduates). But mainly it’s indicative of the importance of the place; in the late1960s artist and teacher Garry Neill Kennedy utterly transformed a staid, provincial art school into a veritable power house that came to have international prominence. Conceptualism became indelibly linked with the institution, and even departments traditionally considered realms of “craft” (like weaving and ceramics) felt, even embraced, its impact. NSCAD is long past its heyday when it was arguably considered the best art school in the world (perhaps exemplified in John Baldessari’s lithographic print I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art, done at NSCAD in the early 1970s), but the reverberations of what happened half-a-century ago continue to shape its path as it struggles for survival and relevance in the 21st century. Continue reading

Occultation: Denial in Sculpture

sculpture

Judith Scott, Oakville Galleries exhibition installation detail

No, this has nothing to do with Aleister Crowley and his ilk dabbling in the ridiculous “black arts,” but has, instead, everything to do with real science. “Occultations” are a part of the realm of astronomy and astrophysics, and refer to the passing of one heavenly body in front of another, the former obscuring, blocking, hiding, “occulting” the latter. There’s much science to be had in such events, bucket-loads of learning about the workings of our universe that occurs because of them. Occultations provide, and, interestingly, they can provide within other contexts as well. It’s the aesthetic that concerns me, here. Continue reading

Brandon Vickerd: Liminal States

Brandon Vickerd Sculpture

Brandon Vickerd, Sputnik Returned

Clichés being what they are, I’ll nevertheless risk one and say: it’s an image that looks like something out of a bad science fiction movie. A late-model car, otherwise innocuously (if somewhat illegally) parked in a No Parking Zone, has been, well, “cleaved” shall we say, by, of all things, a satellite. And not just any old satellite. Resting atop the remains of the vehicle’s badly dented roof, it’s Sputnik, the very first satellite, put up into orbit by the Soviets in 1957, circling the earth and emitting a beeping sound that was monitored by amateur radio operators around the world (oh, and the highly annoyed US military as well). Continue reading

Niall Donaghy: Iconology

Niall Donaghy Sculpture

Niall Donaghy, Superfortress

How many sculptors got their start in model-making? I’m talking kits, here, the making of model airplanes or cars or ships or, hell, even figures. Maybe they might’ve started off building those plastic kits that were once so ubiquitous (and which, as with so many of my boomer generation, I grew up with), and maybe, just maybe, they then moved off to something more a bit more sophisticated, maybe something that led them deeply and irrevocably into art. Continue reading

Shape-Shifting: The Need for Sculpture

Laura Moore Sculpture

Laura Moore, One Man’s Junk (installation photo by Paul Cimoroni)

I want to talk a bit about context – specifically, what sculpture can do to our experiences and expectations of public and private spaces. It’s all about shape-shifting.

I’m drawn back to this because of an exhibition recently opened at the Maclaren Art Centre in the city of Barrie, Ontario, just north of Toronto. Laura Moore’s One Man’s Junk is a seemingly simple and understated installation: essentially a wooden shipping pallet carefully stacked with a number of carved limestone sculptures – 1:1 scale – of old cathode-ray tube computer monitors. The contextual part of this has to do with the work’s placement in a small, interior courtyard at the gallery that is shared with an adjacent café. There are plants in concrete containers, and a few tables and chairs. Moore’s work sits off to one side atop a concrete slab. Continue reading