In­side Port Union’s teddy bear house

The Packet (Clarenville) - - FRONT PAGE - BY MARK SQUIBB THE PACKET

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.

MARK SQUIBB/THE PACKET PHO­TOS

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.

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