Inside Port Union’s teddy bear house
Port Union - It’s been dubbed by many as the “teddy bear house.”
Dozens upon dozens of teddy bears adorn the outside of the dilapidated, old house.
The house is actually an art exhibit, titled Grass in the Sky, curated by Pepa Chan, a St. John’s artist originally from Argentina.
Working alongside Chan are St. John’s artists Mimi Stockland and Kailey Bryan.
“I had collaborated with Kailey before, and I love Mimi’s work,” Chan explained.
“Collaborating with Kailey and Mimi opened so many possibilities. I think they’re amazing, talented artists, and I’ve learned so much from them.”
Chan said the exhibit, which will feature a mixture of sitespecific installations, textiles, sculptures and video, is centered on themes familiar to rural Newfoundland – family, history, abandonment, loss and resettlement.
“But I don’t want to overly explain or say what this means to me because I also want to leave an open interpretation to people to feel what they want to feel and to think what they want to think,” Chan said.
“This sort of work, you can’t give it a summary because it’s so encompassing,” explained Stockland. “It’s about family, history, memory, abandonment. It’s a very large scope.”
The three artists have put to use many materials that had been previously disowned or abandoned – old teddy bears, unwanted dolls, a grandmother’s old dress – a decision they say is very fitting for the project.
“There’s a real culture here of making do with what you have and using creativity with what’s already there,” said Stockland.
“The house had lives in it. It had narratives and stories that have stopped unfolding,” said Stockland. “We’re making them live again and bringing our own experiences to the table. We’re trying to find the ghosts that are still here.
“It’s kind of like a haunted house but the good, friendly kind,” she explained with a smile.
“This project to me is largely about resilience … it’s about the persistence of growth in spite of any specific limitations of the environment,” said Bryan.
Grass in the Sky is an independent project and is not a Bonavista Biennale exhibit, although Chan said their work has an interesting connection to that event.
“The Biennale team is very supportive of this project … it’s like we’re siblings,” Chan explained with a laugh.
Chan said the artists and curators of the Biennale have helped the exhibit by offering rides and by writing letters of reference to help her secure funding for the project. Chan will be working as an attendant at one of the Biennale sites.
The exhibit opened Friday, Aug. 18 and closes Sept. 17. Admission is free.
“I think people relate to different art in different ways, and that’s one of my goals – for people to feel things and feel impacted,” Chan said.
Curator Pepa Chan says the home itself is an art piece.
From left to right, Mimi Stockland, Pepa Chan, and Kailey Bryan.
Pepa Chan describes much of her work as an absurd mix of humour and darkness.