Galloping Grotesques Give Glimpse of Oft Ignored
The work of multimedia artist Diana Thorneycroft is usually a mixture of shock, humour, and melancholy, although such adjectives as “tasteless,” “decadent,” and “creepy” are also tossed about. Her newest travelling exhibition, Herd, will undoubtedly generate a wide range of reactions to the artist’s work during its run at the Shenkman Arts Centre from Sept. 23 to Nov. 13.
The centrepiece of Herd is a 40-foot-long upwardly sloping ramp containing 154 plastic horses, each about six inches high, all galloping (some are actually limping) in the same direction. Half of the horses have been altered in macabre ways. Some are fitted with prosthetic limbs or deformed by high heat or impaled with a cluster of small nails — Thorneycroft’s apparent cruelty knows no bounds. The other half of the “herd” is untouched.
The widely exhibited Winnipeg artist has also created dioramas of these horses being abused by whip-wielding “herdsmen” who are really “mutants” — evil-looking creatures that are part human and part animal. Photographs of these dioramas are also destined for the Orleans show. And then there are “the thalidomide GI Joes.” Familiar soldier action figures, their arms have been amputated and replaced by tiny thalidomide arms. Oh dear. So what is this all about?
It began a few years ago when Thorneycroft visited China and saw many people with severe, disfiguring handicaps. After returning home, she started manipulating toy plastic horses, creating stand-ins for disabled people. An early version of her work was exhibited in the fall of 2014 in various places, including nearby Almonte. Those shows were just the teasers to Herd.
Thorneycroft wants viewers to examine the horses closely and then think of the disabled people we tend to ignore. Like much of her work over the years — pricking the Canadian conscience — Herd is difficult, even horrifying. Viewers will have to decide for themselves whether she has pushed the envelope too far.
OTTAWA ARTIST TO WATCH FOR Lisa Creskey
grew up in nearby Buckingham, hometown of Gaetan Hart, a three-time Canadian lightweight boxing champion during the 1980s. “He was quite the hero,” says Creskey, a ceramicist now based in Chelsea. “The population connected with him.”
Creskey also feels a connection to Hart even though she finds boxing “disturbing” and has never met the former fighter. That connection is so strong that Creskey’s solo exhibition Match, at the Gatineau gallery
uses ceramic figurines of Hart and miniature ceramic buildings to tell the story of Buckingham and the artist’s love affair with their shared hometown.
“I see Gaetan Hart as an artist figure, a stand-in for me,” Creskey said during an interview this past summer in her studio, which is filled with such highly unusual ceramic works as a real working miniature electric train, flocks of birds whose wings are made of resined cattail stalks, and Gaetan Hart figurines in different sizes and posed in a variety of boxing stances.
Always expect the unexpected from Creskey, who is known for her narrative installations that often tell stories about people and nature and who continually pushes ceramics in new and bold directions.
As she said last summer: “I have enough ideas now to keep me going for another 10 years.”
Oct. 23), Art-Image (Sept. 9 to
Melanie Authier’s abstract paintings are known for enticing the viewer into an imaginary, sublime world of swirling colours and joyous emotion. But as of late, Authier has also been experimenting with her palette, creating paintings of black and white. Some of them will be unveiled in her nationally touring exhibition Contrarieties & Counterpoints, will be at the Ottawa Art Gallery from Oct. 2 until Jan. 1, 2017.
“My paintings bring visual contradictions together into one imaginary space,” explains Authier. “Each painting presents a brimming jostle of pictorial oppositions.”
Authier is definitely an Ottawa painter on the rise. The National Gallery has started collecting work from this University of Ottawa instructor. Her current touring exhibition, which began this past summer at Thames Gallery in ChathamKent, is organized by one of the most towering figures in Canadian art, Winnipegbased critic and curator Robert Enright. Paul Gessell is a contributing editor to Ottawa Magazine and a former writer with the Ottawa Citizen, Maclean’s, and the Canadian Press