Gal­lop­ing Grotesques Give Glimpse of Oft Ig­nored

Ottawa Magazine - - THIS CITY -

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

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