Saturday, 15 December 2012

Linda and Marianne Brown at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery

The Chronicle Journal: Oct. 7, 2007
Two surprisingly distinct and wonderful environments have been created at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery with works not generally exalted as bona fide art – small works of craft. Light, shadow and natural debris surround these works of craft adding importance and focus, encouraging the viewer to reflect on parts that make the miniscule so much more delightful to dip into - and so much more valuable as art. The two shows organized by curator, Glenn Allison, feature the works of local artist Linda Brown and her sister Marianne Brown, from Cowichan, B.C.. Their exhibit is in the central gallery for a show titled “Well Tempered.” From Red Deer, Alberta, internationally known Canadian artists Trudy Ellen Golley and husband, Paul Leathers are featured in the main gallery for a show titled “Confluens: Flowing Together.”
Awesome small surprises of precious detailing make each piece from both shows individually grand, with a few occasional bold statements; look for the phrase “…the delivery of beauty is the teeth of risk” in the “Confluens” show and you will be happily rewarded. Look for the results of risk and beauty made with the florets of the hydrangea plant in Linda’s vessels and you will be awestruck by the malleability of metal.

In Confluens, ceramic works by Trudy called Reliquaries are inhabited by miniature metal works by Paul. The combination of talents into these Reliquaries mimic ancient Stonehenge monuments and Neolithic homes of stone, complete with doorways, awnings, and peeling stucco walls. The inhabitants have the gall to advertise their wealth with small stands in the doorways displaying layers of plates of precious metals, as in one work, the colours and pattern repeat the lavender and green web-work detail of the stone home’s outer walls. On the artist’s part, this is a welcome deliberate flaunting of beauty and technique. And, look for the gold! The use of gold in many of these works intentionally throws reflected light onto the gallery walls; cutting through dark shadows, and creates interesting mirroring effects.

Spirals are always eye grabbers. The spiral, used here as symbolic of Chinese cloud patterns, is a theme that is never redundant, so looking for spirals becomes a delightful game to see how they are incorporated: as a precious item to be kept in a jewelry box, as a gathering of clouds, a wave when perpendicular, or a cliff of reflecting interiors when horizontal.

Made worthy by their environment, vessels and jewelry created by Linda and Marianne respectively, become valuable on a par with any other art form. The instillation of actual tree branches, pinecones, and paper leaves within plexiglass boxes give an otherworldly feel. You could only hope to stumble across such a find in the bush. It’s a refreshingly novel way to display craft works. Linda jauntily recounted what a trial it was to get the displays set up and the effort was well worth it. The encasing of the works add a protective quality to the show, as if to suggest that when the lights go out at night at the gallery the security lasers are turned on.

The vessels are hammered and folded into shapes where the natural creases in the folds seem skin-like, often contradicting what metal usually suggests – strength. In these works delicacy intrudes so much into the metal that the details, the lines and etched elements, etherealize the works. This effect is also achieved with Marianne’s jewelry, slung across branches, at first seems ingloriously cast aside, but also suggest that the owners of the works have fled, and we are seeing only a portion of the time-encased results of some great transition of people of an ancient culture forced to dispense with their possessions to save their lives.

Although the works in both shows are for sale, they don’t appear to be, and this is a compliment in itself. Since the majority of craft I’ve ever seen has a price tag near and is usually displayed at a kiosk or fair, the works in these two shows appear cherished, owned or previously owned by someone who has great taste, and loves the work.

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