Art Attack is the source for a variety of arts news in Halifax: Nova Scotian visual arts, theatre, dance, comedy, literature and more. Contact email@example.com to send a tip.
To an outsider, the group’s name, Unit II, has an air of mystery to it. “And we are very mysterious,” says one of its members, Tonia DiRisio, playing along.
The Anna Leonowens Gallery director is among more than 30 technical staff at NSCAD exhibiting work in Too, which opens Friday, January 7, with a reception at 6pm. It runs through Saturday, January 15.
This marks the first group show by Unit II, or “education resource personnel,” as DiRisio reveals the official term to be. But, Too is the latest to illuminate the art practices of NSCAD workers outside the classroom. Certainly Unit I, the university’s faculty, has had its turn to show this other side of themselves. For the past two years, DiRisio says, the NSCAD community has made greater efforts to show itself. And the intended audience has taken notice.
“I found students like to see what other people make here,” she says.
All three gallery spaces at Anna Leonowens will be occupied by Too. The work covers many disciplines and types of production, including painting, sculpture, photography and the NSCAD library (in the form of journals). There’ll be ceramics from the likes of Doug Bamford, textiles by Anne Pickard and jewellery by Ann Pocket. Along with her own multimedia work, DiRisio’s gallery co-workers Eleanor King, whom DiRisio says “does everything,” and Aimée Brown, whose practice combines printmaking and performance, also contribute.
While there’s no single concern or universal theme intended or expressed in this large and diverse collection of work, says DiRisio, a subtext to it all does exist. “You’re almost divided into two people,” she says of being a Unit IIer.
There’s the work persona, the technical staff person who teaches, guides and aids students with everything from conceptualization to operation of equipment. And there’s the practicing artist who creates and exhibits his or her own work in galleries across the city, region and country, indeed throughout the world. But, adds DiRisio, these two personas come from the same source. To make art and to teach one keeps current in knowledge and practice, she says. In that way, perhaps, Units I and II are one. “We’re all teaching all the time.”
DiRisio doesn’t ever feel distanced from her own work, or too busy with and burnt out from the day job to do anything else. “I have a pretty active practice, like most of the staff here,” she says.
Disclaimer: Back before I became arts editor here, I was co-chair of the board at Eyelevel Gallery. During that time, I helped find locations and assist in two moves; one from Barrington and another move on Gottingen. I say this only because I know how disruptive it is to move a gallery, and how difficult it is to find affordable space in Halifax as a non-profit. Last year I went to a educational seminar at Bloomfield on the subject, and the place was packed with social justice, educational, cultural and recreational groups struggling to find decent space.
That said, Eyelevel is settling into their new pad at 2159 Gottingen Street, just a block up from their old location, so stop by in the new year when they have their first exhibition.
As you're lugging that overstuffed bag through Robert Stanfield International Airport, take a breather and check out maquettes from NSCAD's Sculptural Propositions class (located conveniently just past the Burger King). Led by Steve Higgins, eight students imagined a public sculpture for the airport, taking into consideration appropriate materials and budgets.
Above: a piece by Jessica Carlile, which "connects the idea of flight and constant change with the idea of travel." One hundred aluminum birds would be seen by visitors leaving the airport, but not arriving. "The piece will be in rising motion to emphasize the feeling of flight."
You know James White is talented, you voted him Best Visual Artist for the second time in this year's Best of Halifax readers' poll. Well, BoingBoing thinks so too: they picked up a fan-poster he made for the upcoming Green Lantern film.
It may not be the popular stance, but I love Jeanne Beker and her diva divineness. She may be the closest this country comes to an André Leon Talley. So I was happy to hear that she's taking over hosting duties for tonight's Sobey Art Award, which sadly are in Montreal at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal this year. No offense to former host, Seamus O'Regan, but his polite, well-tailored suits are no match for Beks.
In a press release Beker states: "Visual art has always been at the heart of what we do at FashionTelevision—it's been the wind beneath our wings, inspiring us all, and the world of high fashion at large...At a time in our country when there's such a dire need to get behind our artists, these prestigious awards help support and celebrate one of Canada's most precious commodities."
Wind beneath our wings. Yes! Our designer label silk wings, perhaps. Beker will present an award to one of these artists: for the West Coast & Yukon, Brendan Lee Satish Tang; for the Prairies & The North, Daniel Barrow; for Ontario, Brendan Fernandes; for Québec, Patrick Bernatchez; and for the Atlantic, Emily Vey Duke & Cooper Battersby.
This year is a really stellar group of shortlisters. If I was a betting lady, I'd put my gold coins on Vey Duke and Battersby for the win. Not just because they're representing, but they've been presenting fearlessly emotional but intellectual art for so long, they deserve it.
Work from all the shortlisted artists is still on display at the AGNS, and if you're not lucky enough to be in Montreal tonight, Bravo!'s The Arts & Minds is airing a Sobey Art Award special on December 18 at 7pm (encore presentation airs Sunday at 8pm).
Frustrated by gallery bureaucracy, Ali Nickerson decided to take matters into her own home: Her exhibition Everyone Knew What Had to Happen is opening at 2387 Gallery (2387 Agricola), which just happens to be her new apartment, and an ideal place to show work that explores “my experience as a bartender and the relationships I developed with the regulars,” Nickerson writes.
The installation is made up of eight chairs that, using textiles and sculptural elements—-”hand-printed and dyed fabrics that are infected with a variety of materials (ceramic insects, fur, resin, hair)”—-represent personality traits Nickerson encountered while bartending. The walls will also be covered in grafitti-stall style illustrations, and even the floor will make you feel like you’ve stepped inside your favourite neighbourhood dive.
Why are there so many songs about rainbows and so little art with Muppets? Well, it’s time to light the lights because The Muppet Art Show opens Tuesday night, 8pm at the Economy Shoe Shop. Ten artists offer up their own interpretations of the beloved characters, in a variety of media.
The show came about after Seahorse Tavern booker Troy Arsenault approached painter Jono Doiron to do a solo show upstairs at the restaurant. Busy Doiron suggested a group show with his fellow artists in the Paragon Collective—-a group of artists who usually show at The Paragon Theatre (eight of the 10 at the Shoe Shop are part of the collective). Justin Lee came up with the concept, and the rest is google-eyed history. Doiron, who did a portrait of hairy ogre Sweetums—-“he’s kinda scary but kind and benevolent; someone you’d want around in a bar fight”—-has worked with the fuzzy subject before. His pop-painting style lends itself well to the Muppet interpretation, in face, he already had a painting of Grover, styled out as Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street.
“It’s the appeal of the childhood nostalgia,” says Doiron. “And there’s a good 40-year fan base. Parents and kids will see this show—-it’s pretty kid friendly.”
Artist and designer Nick Brunt, an Animal fan from way back, isn’t sure what he’ll be showing yet, but his poster for the show is a show-stopper. A gloppy, smeared Kermit on a black background, Brunt says that the frog’s iconic shape was actually a green paint-mixing accident. Other artists in the show include Myndi Arsenault, James Farrell,, Justin Lee, Chris Lockerbie, Mark MacAulay, Colleen MacIsaac, Alex Neonakis and The Coast’s own Muppet rep, Mike Holmes. The show runs until August 29, and all work is for sale.
You may ask yourself, how did I get here?
Although most Haligonians will be lucky to catch a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth II’s hat when she visits next week, artist Kat Frick Miller has been up close to her royal majesty in a more creative way.
The inspiration for Miller’s portraits of Queen Elizabeth came from all directions. The artist, who is currently part of NSCAD’s Community Studio Residency program in Lunenburg, started thinking about the role of the British royal family when Stephen Harper asked governor general Michaëlle Jean—-the Queen’s representative in Canada—-for her permission to end the parliamentary session early. “I considered how I felt, as a person, about that power, even if it’s mostly symbolic,” Miller says. The Ontario-native screen-printer and painter was also developing repeat patterns based on the province’s King’s Highway sign emblem, which has a crown perched on top. Crown symbols are all over Ontario highways, even on the provincial licence plates: “I was surrounded by it, but always in the background, like air,” she says. If you look closely at the portraits, Miller has seamlessly screenprinted the pattern as part of her paintings’ background, like a royal wallpaper.
And on a personal level, Miller relates to Liz as an icon through her 92-year-old grandmother. Although her memory is failing from Alzheimer’s, her grandmother still recalls the 1939 royal visit; lining up her Girl Guide troupe for a salute along the railroad tracks, even though the young Queen and the train would not be stopping. “For that generation, there was such reverence. She was such a role model,” says Miller.
In some of the more informal and intimate portraits, in fact, Miller subs in the Queen for her own grandmother. “Part of me was afraid to paint her,” says Miller, knowing that Queen Elizabeth is such a polarizing figure. “But I was more afraid to paint my own grandmother.”
Elizabeth’s role as an iconic figurehead is playfully depicted as she stands among dioramas of an elk, owl and beaver from the natural history museum. In another, a little girl (taken from a photo of Miller as a child) wearing a crown, plays princess in front of a traditional portrait. She has a “devilish look in her eye,” says Miller, “some think that maybe it’s mocking.”
Miller, who shares the year-long studio residency with textile artist Jennifer Green and ceramicist Katherine Thomas, will exhibit her paintings at the end of the term from August 13-19 (40 Duke Street, Lunenburg). Private studio visits can be arranged at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peter Kelly doesn't pick the artists for HRM's second annual Contemporary Visual Art Award (he may be more of a dogs 'n' poker or big boat dude, we're not sure), but he will be in attendance tonight at the opening of the exhibition. But whoever does pick these artists, knows what they're doing.
See work from all the shortlisted artists—David Harper, Jessica Hein, Kyle Monchuk, Sara Hartland-Rowe and Aaron Weldon—at the Nova Scotia Archives (Chase Exhibit Room, 6016 University) from 5-7pm. If you can't make it tonight, the exhibition is open until the 29th (8:30am-4:30pm. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. 8:30am-9pm on Wednesday and 9am-5pm on Saturday).
There’s nothing more ubiquitous than an old pair of blue jeans. It’s our reliable go-to uniform as well as a social status indicator. Cowboys, construction workers and supermodels wear them, but we rarely think about where all that denim originally came from, or where it goes once our favourite pair is completely shredded.
Emma FitzGerald has been thinking and working with denim for awhile now. Her new exhibition, Out of the Blue: A Letter from Lesotho, which opens Thursday, 5:30pm at The Artists’ Quarter (2594 Agricola), explores the myriad of issues that are tucked away in every pair of Levis. The show runs until June 27.
The Halifax artist and architecture grad was born in Lesotho, a small country surrounded by South Africa. This is where Bono started his (RED) campaign, and it’s here where The Gap, Levi Strauss and other manufacturers make 26 million pairs of jeans each year, according to lesothotextiles.com. One denim mill produces an astonishing 1.3 million yards of denim annually. But this development has come with a high cost, especially for the 30,000 mostly women who are employed by the textile industry, which has been accused of poor working conditions, polluting waterways and burning discarded fabric and plastics.
FitzGerald wanted to draw awareness to the terrible situation, so she put out a call for unwanted denim donations. The new Clothing Textile Action Group at the Ecology Action Centre was helpful, as was Frenchie’s. The thrift store donated their “unsellable jeans,” which FitzGerald says would have been eventually shipped to Africa and India, “really highlighting the denim cycle.” Sewn together, sometimes glued until hardened, some intimately marked with pen, the jeans now reflect these women’s traditional homes and weaving patterns, which FitzGerald says are disappearing.
For the installation “See Reverse for Care” (see above), she sewed together 30 pairs of jeans in rows, into a wall. Large stitches through the piece inspired by traditional patterns that the women would use on their homes, a place where FitzGerald says they would “typically have power in their culture,” whether it be celebrating a harvest or engaging in a political discussion. She also uses mirrors—-relating to initiation ceremonies—-but this time, the mirrors reflect the gallery-goers’ own clothing choices.
This part of her larger project is mostly about awareness, but FitzGerald’s vision is “ultimately collaborative: To go work with the Lesotho women and find ways the denim can be creatively reused.” Close to home, Gaspereau Press has made a soft paper out of denim, which she’ll use as a guest book at the show. When FitzGerald contacted The Gap, she discovered their social responsibility website (gapinc.com/socialresponsibility), which details how jeans were being used as insulation in New Orleans. And in the UK, two social anthropologists are examining humanity through a pair of jeans. It’s a fascinating read at ucl.ac.uk/global-denim-project.
Eyelevel Gallery knows all about the art of losing. The artist-run centre’s baseball team has yet to win a game in the four years it’s been playing (yeah, yeah, insert joke, sport-o). And yet the team, recognizable for its green t-shirts and lack of ego, is still as enthusiastic as when it first hit the field.
“We have a lot of fun,” laughs ELG director Michael McCormack, who just played his first game—-and lost to the infamous Propeller crew. But there might be hope in the gallery’s field of dreams: now the Khyber ICA has a team, too.
Khyber interim director Daniel Joyce says that its team has already played and lost two games—-one against the mighty Propellers and another against The Space Cats, a group of “jock guys who love to blast the ball. They creamed us.” But again with the congeniality, Joyce likes the fact that the Khyber’s team, organized by members, is a mix of artists, musicians and other people in the community who might not otherwise get a chance to know each other. Intern Keltie MacNeill (who also curated Eyelevel’s current show, Ranters, Ravers & Raconteurs), scored baseball pants from Value Village, which they wear with red t-shirts, so give the Khyber a holler if you see them on the Common.
Sadly, attempts to start a trash-talking rivalry between the city’s two oldest artist-run centres didn’t work; they are happy cheering each other on. But there’s still time before the two teams face off on August 15, in the final game of the season. And it will be an A-Rod-sized celebration: Joyce says there are tentative plans to turn the historic event into a fundraiser with baseball cards, peanuts, mascots and perhaps a dog show.
Jewellery designing is generally a solitary task, but for the show re:growth at Mary E. Black Gallery, artists Catherine Allen and Greg Sims opened up dialogue around their practices, sharing ideas, materials and tools.
This is conceptual adornment with thought: Sims slyly riffs on traditional, cliched sentiments behind jewellery-giving (think of those obnoxious Jared commercials), with heart lockets made out of resin, and the sparkle of cubic-zirconia. For awhile now, Sims’ work has involved the architecture of jewellery as an object and a status symbol, often designed with playfully concealing containers that hide valuable guts.
Allen’s half of the show is dominated by organic, slightly imperfect deflating balloons. These oceanic-like pods are created by electroformed copper with an enamel skin, punctured with single hole, like they’re slowly deflating. Like Sims, Allen also creates containers, or vessels, of sorts. Some have propellers, others have chains; one has a cheerful chartreuse flower popping out its top.
Best of all, you can take a “seed Pack” home with you. The artists created a series of tiny pins that can be purchased at the gallery for $28.25 each. *re:growth* runs until May 30.
Though Starfish Properties may have the ire of those frustrated by empty Barrington storefronts (read Carsten Knox's interview with Louis Reznick), the development company has been doing their best to align with the artsy crowd: first hosting last year's AGNS party in the gutted Roy building space, and now they've introduced the Starfish Properties Student Art Awards.
Nine graduating NSCAD students, of various disciplines, have been long-listed: Zimra Beiner, Chloé Gordon, Jessica Hein, Amélie Jérome, sol Legault, Noah Logan, Amanda Memme, Amélie Proulx and Zoltan Ric. Their work is being exhibited at the Port Loggia Gallery (NSCAD Port Campus), May 4-16, with an opening reception on Monday, May 3. The winner receives a $5,000 purchase prize, which will be presented at the Starfish Art Awards Gala at the Port on May 7, 7-9pm.
Gala? Our invite must have fallen under the doormat...
When The Pit, the graffiti wall on Lower Water and Morris streets, was recently demolished, a cultural history was destroyed too. Over the years, layers and layers of (technically “legal”) street art built up like icing on a cake, undocumented and often unnoticed. But Meris Mosher was watching. Since 2007, the NSCAD grad, who now runs Point of Departure Jewellery Design, was collecting pieces of the peeling, discarded paint, which she has incorporated into jewellery and now 16 limited-edition belt buckles, available at Utility Gallery. And while they’re for sale ($100 each), the artist mostly hopes that people will want to take a closer look at these wearable pieces of history.
Now this is jewellery you wear with a swagger. Mosher, who is interested in “urban and industrial decaying, worn down by people’s use,” designed these rough-and-tumble buckles with a banged-up copper front plate; pocked, scratched and banged up to mimic the texture of the wall. Peek-a-boo window pockets reveal colourful pieces of paint, sandwiched between the copper and brass backing. “Who knows,” says Mosher, “there could be 30 people’s art crammed in there.