Part­ners in pot­tery

Mau­reen Mar­cotte and David McKen­zie mar­ried 40 years to their art and each other

Toronto Star - - LIFE - REGINA HAGGO THE HAMILTON SPEC­TA­TOR

Mau­reen Mar­cotte and David McKen­zie are pot­ters who work to­gether, shar­ing stu­dios, ma­te­ri­als and kilns. They also live to­gether. And they have been do­ing both for 40 years.

“Work­ing to­gether for 40 years means that we have had to learn to com­pro­mise, even on the mu­sic play­ing in the stu­dio,” Mar­cotte tells me.

“And we see this as a pos­i­tive as­pect,” she adds.

It also means, she says, “be­ing able to di­vide the labour to suit each other’s ta­lents and ex­per­tise. We both don’t have to know and do ev­ery­thing.” There are some dis­ad­van­tages. “Our identity is of­ten linked to the fact that we are a pair, and our in­di­vid­ual iden­ti­ties are not as strong as our col­lec­tive identity,” Mar­cotte says.

Mar­cotte and McKen­zie are celebratin­g their cre­ative part­ner­ship with In Com­mon Un­com­mon, an ex­hi­bi­tion at the Art Gallery of Burling­ton un­til July 28.

The ex­hi­bi­tion of­fers a va­ri­ety of forms, mostly in porce­lain.

“In our early years, we worked ex­clu­sively in stoneware, and made the switch to porce­lain when colour and dec­o­ra­tion be­came pri­or­i­ties.”

But when it comes to shape and dec­o­ra­tion, Mar­cotte and McKen­zie dif­fer. Her shapes are un­com­pli­cated. They are dec­o­rated with pre­cise and repet­i­tive pat­terns.

By con­trast, his shapes and their dec­o­rated sur­faces are more ir­reg­u­lar and com­plex, of­ten with stronger colours. More­over, his pieces of­ten em­body themes, mean­ings and sto­ries.

Mar­cotte di­vides one of her big cir­cu­lar plates into three ar­eas. The cen­tral and outer parts con­tain a va­ri­ety of white leaf mo­tifs against black. The rest of the space is filled with black, white and brown leaves ar­ranged in rows like weaving or knit­ting de­signs.

“This body of work is part of a con­tin­uum based on my love of pat­tern and sur­face dec­o­ra­tion and the ways in which repet­i­tive mo­tifs can be used to en­hance sim­ple pot­tery forms,” Mar­cotte ex­plains. “Much of my in­spi­ra­tion comes from tex­tile arts and his­tor­i­cal ce­ram­ics.”

A whim­si­cal rabbit leaps into the cen­tre of McKen­zie’s Mim­bres Rabbit, a four-sided slab plate. The rabbit boasts a black face, black feet and a body filled with red tri­an­gles echoed by blue lines.

McKen­zie says the rabbit is a new mo­tif for him, its style in­spired by an­cient Mim­bres pot­tery once made in such places as New Mex­ico and Ari­zona.

He likes the rabbit’s tra­di­tional links to “fer­til­ity, good luck, cre­ativ­ity, re­birth and res­ur­rec­tion, but also of a trick­ster and shape-shifter who can live above or be­low the ground.”

The rest of the plate’s in­te­rior is cov­ered with strik­ing blue glazes. And the edges are ragged and un­even, in strong con­trast to Mar­cotte’s neater and calmer shapes.

McKen­zie’s Night Cir­cus, a slab form, is filled with ver­ti­cally stacked com­part­ments, each one dif­fer­ent.

“Night Cir­cus started as a form, then for a while I’d be scratch­ing my head on how to paint it,” McKen­zie says.

“There are never any pre­lim­i­nary draw­ings, I just start some­where and off it goes.

“In this case I would have started with the red and white cir­cus tent mo­tif and, be­cause I think life is like a dis­jointed cir­cus, I would have filled in my story line with ar­che­typal fe­male and male fig­ures like queen and stag, as well as boats and ves­sels to sym­bol­ize the jour­ney.

“The ti­tle would have been the last ad­di­tion to the piece.”

Mau­reen Mar­cotte, Plate with Leaf and Geo­met­ric De­signs, porce­lain. Part of In Com­mon Un­com­mon.

DOU­GLAS HAGGO PHO­TOS

Top: David McKen­zie, Mim­bres Rabbit, porce­lain. Bot­tom: David McKen­zie, Night Cir­cus, porce­lain. Both are part of In Com­mon Un­com­mon, an ex­hi­bi­tion at the Art Gallery of Burling­ton.

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