Clay sculp­tor cap­tures In­side Sto­ries at Musée des maîtres

The Canadian Jewish News (Montreal) - - Jewish Life - by Heather Solomon See more ex­am­ples of her work at www.

Clau­dine Ascher feels right at home at the Musée des maîtres et ar­ti­sans du Québec, 615 Ste. Croix Ave., St. Lau­rent.

That’s be­cause her show, on in the choir area of the for­mer church un­til Feb. 26, of­fers an un­con­ven­tional desk and van­ity that fit the mu­seum’s man­date to show fur­ni­ture as part of its hand­made Que­bec oeu­vre.

The dif­fer­ence is that Ascher’s fur­ni­ture and other smaller sculp­tures are made of clay and have in­her­ent mes­sages, ergo the show’s ti­tle His­toires in­térieures/in­side sto­ries, which de­scribes the theme of the ma­jor­ity of this artist’s work.

The desk is a two-thirds scale replica of her own at home, com­plete with her favourite books be­tween book­ends, all made of clay, a clay lamp, tele­phone, and even clay ver­sions of the sketches for the piece it­self, ren­der­ing it “self-per­pet­u­at­ing. I call it Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy,” she says.

The work drew so much at­ten­tion when it was shown at Ste­wart Hall in 2014 that Que­bec’s lieu­tenant gov­er­nor, J. Michel Doyon, came to see it for him­self.

The van­ity is more like her other mag­i­cal-sur­re­al­ist work. The usual ac­cou­trements of a woman’s beauty reg­i­men, in­clud­ing per­fume bot­tles, nail pol­ish and other vials bob like flot­sam and jet­sam in the tex­tured, choppy wa­ters of the van­ity ta­ble top while, in the mir­ror, is the im­age of a woman’s hand sink­ing be­neath stormy waves.

“It’s called If Nar­cis­sus could see me now! She’s drown­ing in all these prod­ucts to make her­self beau­ti­ful and sink­ing un­der the weight of all this stuff,” says Ascher.

Fur­ni­ture is a di­rect link with her past, Ascher’s fa­ther hav­ing been a fur­ni­ture de­signer and Ascher hav­ing started her ca­reer as a set de­signer for the the­atre, a vo­ca­tion that was re­placed by art when the an­glo­phone ex­o­dus shrank the stage scene here.

Her par­ents fur­ther fig­ure in three con­nected sculp­tures fol­low­ing the course of the cou­ple’s 64-year mar­riage. A small woman climbs about the shoul­ders and head of her much larger mate, a nod to the an­cient clas­si­cal tra­di­tion of mak­ing the male big­ger and more heroic.

This con­trast was pur­pose­ful since Ascher then re­versed the roles.

“She is the ac­tive one and he is pas­sive, be­cause even­tu­ally he be­came in­ca­pac­i­tated with de­men­tia. He only out­lived her by eight months, be­cause he was lost with­out her,” she says.

These sculp­tures and a few of the oth­ers are ac­com­pa­nied by the artist’s po­etry and texts.

Her child­hood fu­els mixed me­dia works that in­cor­po­rate clay like­nesses of dolls and child­hood dresses and shoes, ac­com­pa­nied by her draw­ings of ob­jects that are lo­cally un­usual like a Ja­panese face carv­ing from her fa­ther’s col­lec­tion and a lucky figa arm from Brazil where Ascher grew up af­ter leav­ing Egypt with her par­ents as a baby in the ‘50s.

She ar­rived in Mon­treal at the age of 12 and has cre­ated more than one work in this show about feel­ing like “the other.”

Once Refuge is of a per­son still grasp­ing onto their house as a tur­tle moves its foun­da­tions for­ward. An­other work is ac­com­pa­nied by a dia­logue text show­ing how in­sen­si­tive we can be when speak­ing with refugees and im­mi­grants.

“The pres­sure is to move on and leave the past be­hind you, but you’re formed by it and have to re­tain the mem­o­ries,” says Ascher who fit well with her new home and has been di­rec­tor and cu­ra­tor of Ga­lerie de la Ville at the Dol­lard Cen­tre for the Arts for the past 29 years.

“If that child grew up in a place that was painful or dif­fi­cult, it’s not some­thing we should ever aban­don or give up. As op­posed to a re­place­ment men­tal­ity, I pre­fer ad­di­tion where you add things to your life,” she says.

“Im­mi­grat­ing is adding di­men­sions to your­self that you wouldn’t have if you stayed in one place and that has to be cel­e­brated.”

Im­mi­grat­ing is adding di­men­sions to your­self that you wouldn’t have if you stayed in one place and that has to be cel­e­brated.


Clau­dine Ascher re­veals per­sonal sto­ries and uni­ver­sal truths in her clay sculp­tures at Musée des maîtres et ar­ti­sans du Québec un­til Feb. 26.

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