Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Upcoming Exhibitions

March 3- April 25, 2008.
Elemental Connections: An Exhibition of Sustainable Craft
, FCP Gallery, 100 King St. West, Toronto, Ontario

March 13-April 30, 2008.
Eyelevel Re-Shelving Initiative: 3
, Eyelevel Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia

April 1-15, 2008.
Insecurity Blanket (solo), Fly Gallery, 1172 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario

Pictured: Wing Study- Brewer's Sparrow (2007)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cheap Date Pins

A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by Becky of The Sweetie Pie Press to be a part of her ongoing Artist Commissioned Pin project. Because I had just finished a rather epic poster illustration for a friend, I killed two birds with one stone by donating select aspects of the illustration- 6 portraits drawn from a university yearbook from 1962- to make up a pin set titled "Cheap Dates." Thanks for doing these, Becky...they look SO great. If anyone is interested in purchasing a set, check out Becky's Etsy store, look for The Sweetie Pie Press at local craft fairs and events, or ask me, as I'll have some sets of my own to sell real soon...


Becky also tagged me in her blog, meaning I have to list 7 random facts about myself on MY blog, so here it goes...

1. I can't swim or whistle.
2. I have horrible teeth. HORRIBLE. I've had 4 root canals (3 in the past three years) and have also had two teeth break on me in this time. What is wrong with me, you ask? I swear, I'm not a disgusting person with a really bad lifestyle or anything...maybe it's just bad British (via NFLD) genes. Either that or the year and a bit I spent managing a candy store. Ugh....
3. I've lived in 6 places in my entire life- two in Scarborough, three in Parkdale, and I'm currently near Trinity Bellwoods Park. I am a total house-mouse, and rarely travel. I've been to Switzerland, New York, Niagara Falls, Florida, St. Lucia, and the Bahamas. That's about it...and that all happened between the ages of 7 and 17.
4. Things I generally don't like: dogs, babies, actors, the TV, carrots, people who think they're above social skills, and the telephone.
5. I play organ in a band.
6. Right now, I am in the middle of reading Kobo Abe's "The Woman in the Dunes." I want to read Charles Schulz' biography next...
7. If I wasn't an artist, I would probably be a music writer.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Zines + Bookworks Exhibition

Zines + Bookworks

Opens February 15th, 2008
Freedom Clothing
939 Bloor Street West


Friday, February 15th

Tara Bursey has been making zines for over ten years. She is also a visual artist whose diverse practice encompasses sculpture, installation, drawing, multiples and craft. Tara’s sculpture and installation work in particular is characterized by an often obsessive use of repetition, pattern and delicate materials such as eggshells, onion skin and paper. In the past two years, Tara has exhibited extensively in a broad range of venues, from storefront installations and telephone poles to the Ontario Crafts Council Gallery and the Textile Museum of Canada. Her most recent projects include From Russia with Love- a storefront window installation, acting as Curator of She Said Boom! Window Space, and working as one-third of the Toronto Zine Library Collective. In addition to her work as a fine artist, Tara operates actively within Toronto’s independent music and small press communities as a writer, illustrator and designer whose commissions have included countless event posters, album cover/sleeve art and merchandise design. She currently lives and works in Toronto, Canada.

For more information, contact:

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Elemental Connections + Making Matters Symposium

From R.A.U. Feels' Owen Sound Art Review

The following is the second instalment of a three-part recount of the symposium
Making Matters: Sustainability and Craft Practices held at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery January 19, 2003.

Arlene Gehring, "Elemental Connections"

Independent Canadian curator and writer Arlene Gehring focused her attention on a recent exhibition she curated at the Ontario Crafts Council. Mounted between September 27 and November 12 2007,
Elemental Connections: An Exhibition of Sustainable Craft brought together artists and craftspeople from across the country whose work makes use of naturally-occurring, handmade and, in one sense or another, renewable materials. A comprehensive list of the artists that took part in the exhibition appears below.

One of the first things Gehring pointed out was the range of approaches artists in the exhibition have to the whole idea of craft. Elemental Connections did not privilege only the aesthetically- or conceptually-innovative. Sure, there were works that blurred the presupposed boundaries between craft and art, either by using recognized craft materials in non-traditional ways or by producing traditional craft objects in unorthodox ways. And many of the contributors clearly thought and made not only outside established traditions of craft production, but some also embraced both suggestive and subversive themes. With the stark and precise presentation sense of a true-blue ornithologist, Tara Bursey (www.tarabursey.blogspot.com) fashions physiologically-correct replicas of actual bird wings using onion skin. The wings at once seem to flutter against the paper they are mounted to, and to stain it. Chantal Gilbert's (www.chantalgilbert.com) Bestioles series, in which she mounts her handmade pocket knives onto armatures resembling insect bodies, merges exquisite craftsmanship with a kind of sci-fi feminist-surrealism to produce irresistibly threatening fetish objects.

But Bursey and Gilbert's contemporary and thematically-driven use of craft methods and materials were not the only approaches witnessed in
Elemental Connections. Given the underlying premise of the exhibition - craft demonstrating the knowledgeable interaction between the artist's hand and naturally-occurring and renewable media - there was, for Gehring, no reason to exclude craftspeople working in what she called "older traditions." By older traditions she was referring to those whose work reflects the unsullied application of established techniques - bowl-turning, or weaving for example - toward producing the mostly functional objects commonly associated with those techniques - bowls, baskets, etc. Examples of such works in the exhibition included the turned burl-bowls of Don Stinson and the woven kelp-gourd bowls of Anne Boquist.

However, most of the pieces stood somewhere between the unorthodox and the older traditions, incorporating both. The corn dollies of Daniel Kramer, for example: woven since Antiquity out of the last sheaf at the end of harvest as a way of containing the field's spirit, corn dollies were then ploughed back into the earth the following season to ensure prosperous harvest the following year. Seen today, they resonate as at once a sort of harbinger of potential environmental collapse and also remind us that powerful symbols can come from the most modest of means.

Apart from the craft and art work she introduced, my interest and curiosity was piqued also by a two-part claim Gehring made (which was subsequently reiterated by the symposium's keynote, Eric Nay). Gehring stated that an ideal "common cause" exists among craftspeople to produce objects that are environmentally sustainable. She then went onto say that, at its root, "craft production is inherently about environmental sustainability." I was, at first, confused and incredulous; was she saying that there are no craft methods and materials that are ecologically invasive or detrimental to the biosphere in some way? The very fact that craft materials cannot always be obtained locally, and that some materials and by-products are notoriously toxic seems to cast doubt on this assertion. Or was she simply speaking comparatively, in relation to the world of industrial manufacturing?

What I think Gehring meant when she linked craft necessarily to sustainability was that, considered at its anthropological root, craft knowledge is fundamental, basic, essential: it is a knowledge gained from working with one's own two hands on and with the earth. In other words, it is a knowledge embodied, and therefore a knowledge borne from the body's interaction with the direct and immediate environment. With this sort of knowledge comes a keener sensibility about the value of resources.

At least I think that's what Gehring meant.

This sounds well-and-good, but it also makes me a bit uneasy. Gehring is not simply offering a contingent definition of what craft happens to be; she is making an aesthetic value judgement about what good craft ought to be. Or rather, she is building the ethical obligation to make craft environmentally sustainable into the sensual or aesthetic appreciation of the craft object. Given her understanding of what craft is, any object manufactured in ways, or using materials, which contradict the sustainability clause is simply excluded from the possibility of being good craft. Are we really ready to exclude all objects made using some form of petroleum by-product from the pale? What about inherent toxicity of some of the materials inherent to particular craft traditions? Moreover, would it be possible to draw hard-and-fast lines between things made by hand and those disconnected from the hand? I couldn't help but feel that what Gehring was trying to offer up with
Elemental Connections was a radically puritanical understanding of craft. This is not necessarily a negative criticism of either her or the exhibition. The pieces and the curatorial selection of those pieces seemed exquisite. I'm more intrigued than anything that someone has the wherewithal to insist on a necessary connection between the value of something as craft, and the way that something was produced.

Elemental Connections
included work by Anne Boquist, Tara Bursey, Karen Cantine, Joanna Close, Paul Gray Diamond, Phyllis Erwin, Mary Fox, Chantal Gilbert, Andrea Graham, Vivienne Jones, Daniel Kramer, Nancy Latchford, Ryan Legassicke, Julie Lockau, Les Manning, Kirk Mceathron, Catherine Paleczny, Bernadette Pratt, Ann Schneider, Don Stinson, Ione Thorkelsson.

Pictured: Tara Bursey, Wing Study- House Sparrow, onion skin and adhesive on paper (2007)