21 May to 8 August, 2011
Katie Belcher and Ingrid Jenkner, curators
MSVU Art Gallery, Halifax, NS
In counterpoint to Lucky Rabbit Pottery’s refined installation on view in the lower gallery, Dirt, Detritus and Vermin presents a room resembling an abandoned studio. The artists apply the techniques of fine craftsmanship to degraded materials and subject matter, obtaining effects that alternate between attraction and repulsion.
Cal Lane’s interest in patterning is expressed through lace-sifted garden soil, forming a “carpet” of dirt. Sarah Saunders’ delicate Hankies in fabric draped porcelain are scattered across the gallery floor, as if used and dropped. Saunders has replicated fine lace handkerchiefs in a state of use, insisting on their function in disposing of unwanted bodily secretions. Both remarkable and repellent for the same reasons as the Hankies, Janice Wright Cheney’s cockroaches appear ready to dart back into the shadows.
The artists engage the viewer in a temporary optical illusion which soon falls to pieces. Cal Lane’s exquisite patterning is framed by loose masses of dirt. Its impermanence is suggested by the trace of a broom’s path. The shattered fragments of porcelain that have been swept into a dustpan at first appear to be nothing more than trash. Shards of lace reveal that these are the remnants of a porcelain Hankie. Wright Cheney’s pests are convincingly detailed; their deep amber colour, quivering antennae and sheen perfectly suggest the dreaded household pest. Upon closer inspection we realize that the thick carapace is merely the skin of an onion.
Cal Lane’s work directly confronts this attitude, not only in the application of decorative stencil, but also in the refusal of “Woman’s” role; instead of cleaning dirt off the rug, she lays it down. The performative antecedent of her installation is especially moving. Her action is calm and contemplative, yet her stance is resistant and resolute.
K. Belcher, from catalogue essay, “Ornament and Grime”
Katie Belcher & Ingrid Jenkner, curators
Financial support from Canada Council for the Arts is gratefully acknowledged.
Curatorial – Dirt, Detritus and Vermin
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