FUN ISLAND – REBECCA BOURGAULT

MAIN SPACE EXHIBITION
JANUARY 9 – FEBRUARY 7, 2004
RECEPTION: FRIDAY, JANUARY 9, 2004 AT 8 PM

LOCATION – STRIDE GALLERY
722, 11 AVE S.W, CALGARY, ALBERTA

 

EXHIBITION INFORMATION

Come to Fun Island, a fantastic get-away destination. You’ll find everything for everyone. Follow the beltway to the districts of finance, industry, construction, monuments, royal and sacred sites. Don’t miss the major attractions:

The Prince
The earliest construction on the island, he is pure white bread, baked in a fabric cone and dressed in a luxurious organza undergarment with outer petals of blue and gold satin brocade. Admire him on his regal purple pillow throne resting securely on a cake plate.
Bubble
A pink cluster of bread bubbles bonded with modeling paste and corn starch, each with the handwritten names of the artist’s favorite places – Barrow, Leiden, Pangandaran…. Mounted on castors, it travels easily. If you like this, you’ll also enjoy a visit to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York to see Nature Study by Louise Bourgeois.
Poet
The tallest structure on the island, the Poet spews a cloud of polyester smoke through a recycled funnel and a hand knit sleeve. He dominates the industrial zone where you may notice cargo deliveries of sewing thread, coal and incense around the loading docks of the Styrofoam packing base.
Pod
You’ll find many of the construction boys parked in the vicinity of Pearls and Pod. A straight-forward building of shag rug cut and sewn into a large triangular seed head, Pod is mounted simply on a gold plate.

Snake
For a taste of the exotic, visit Snake, a sinuous, sensual form rising from a funnel wrapped in imported Quebecois deerskin. A flaming tongue of human hair darts out of the flexible spout-neck bound in Atlantic cod skin. He hoards collected candle stumps in a wooden bowl turned on a lathe by the artist herself.

Buddha
Serene, the neeswax Buddha encrusted with chocolate kisses is poised on a lovingly built wood saffold atop an easily accessible round platform of immaculately laminated wood from Vietnam via Ikea. Don’t miss other sacred sites near by: Mosque, Ear and Little Drop.

Queen
The post-Martha Stewart aesthetic of the design is impressive. Frozen whole wheat buns rose through five brass rings to produce an incredible number of breasts. Speared through the heart with bamboo skewers, the Queen has the quality of a St. Sebastiana.

Fun Island is stop-over in a larger universe. You can see a netherworld in its shadow, a satellite in its orbit, and offshore, a lighthouse tower of colourful, Belgian cakes.

 

ARTIST BIO

REBECCA BOURGAULT received a B.F.A. from Concordia University in 1990 and completed her M.F.A. at the University of Calgary in 1994. She currently teaches at the Alberta College of Art and Design as well as Mount Royal College in Calgary. Rébecca also works as a part–time tourism editor for the American and Canadian Automobile Association.

 

EXHIBITION TEXT

Rebecca Bourgault is from the third generation in a proud family legacy of woodcarvers living in St-Jean-Port-Joli, Quebec. As a girl, she was excluded from the woodshop, but now she extracts materials from the kitchen, the sewing room, the junk pile, the parts department, the shop, the studio and stores, with the enquiring mind of a scientist and a poet’s instinct for metaphor. In preparation for Fun Island, she bakes bread and deftly assembles her materials, sometimes playfully, until each sculpture takes on an enchanted character.

In the fall of 2001, she made the first stupa, and now there are more than twenty. The idea for their form was inspired by Buddhist stupas, the original mountain-like architecture of funerary repositories, the later structures that were built not to enter, but to circumambulate in prayer, and the more modern intimate, domestic shrines of Tibet. In the way that poets find a form that best suits their voice, Bourgault has found a form in the stupas that can give shape to biography, emotion and her fascination with faith.

Bourgault has an abiding interest in the juxtaposition of traditional religious rituals, especially the Catholicism of her childhood, with contemporary beliefs and aspirations. Credo, 1993, is made of three candle altars each dedicated to a typical Canadian relationship with the natural environment: “recreation”, “extraction” and “planification.” Offerratorio, 1993, offers a collection of small boxes, each with one of Alberta’s natural resources such as tar sands, sulphur, grains, and coal. We Had a Vision is a 1994 reworking of the 14 Stations of the Cross and There is Nothing Outside, 2000, inspired by Timothy Findlay’s character, Mrs. Noah, is a stain glass painting with a gold-leafed, skeletal boat.

She follows her curiosity with enthusiasm, and a spark of interest in Buddhism led to meditation, T’ai Chi, a survey course on Eastern religions, and research about Calgary artist and monk, Ron (Gyo-Zo) Spickett. In the process, she found visual inspiration in a beautiful book of photographs of Buddhas in Thailand, and she discovered the Persian mystic, Rumi (1207-73). One of his poems, translated by the American writer, Coleman Barks, is written on her wall:

Outside, the freezing desert night.
This other night inside grows warm, kindling.
Let the landscape be covered with thorny crust.
We have a soft garden here.
The continents blasted,
Cities and little towns, everything
Becomes a scorched blackened ball.
The news we hear is full of grief for that future,
But the real news inside here
Is there’s no news at all.

Rumi’s teachings led to an understanding of the spinning nature of the world, and the dance of the whirling dervishes. Bourgault folds her identification with his ideas and her own experience as a traveler into this piece. In the last eight years, she has driven over 300,000 kilometers as a travel guide reporter. Although that job seems very different than that of making art, Bourgault brings the spirit of a traveler and a cultural interpreter to both. Edge City Tours, 2003, a collaborative work with Gregg Casselman, documents the spread of Calgary’s new communities and provides a guide book to the city’s perimeter. Fun City invites you to another realm.

The stupas are assembled on a slowly turning, round table. More than 300 mini-vehicles circumnavigate the crowded, Disneyesque city and park around the temples, monuments and shrines. Stand-ins for people, they are overwhelming in numbers, neutral in colour, and come in every kind of car and truck you can imagine. Traffic is at a standstill, but the island keeps spinning, and when you visit, there will be room.

/KATHERINE YITALO received her M.A. from Stanford University in 1973. She has thirty years experience as a museum professional, educator, artist, writer and most recently, horticulturalist. As a free–lance curator, she has worked on projects for the MacKenzie and Rosemont Galleries
in Regina, the Walter Phillips Gallery in Banff, and the Art Gallery of Peterborough. Her most recent magazine contributions have been to Canadian Interior and Alberta Gardener.

***

Rébecca Bourgault est issue de la troisième génération d’une fière lignée de sculpteurs de bois de St-Jean-Port-Joli. Petite fille, elle fût exclue de l’atelier de bois, mais aujourd’hui elle prend ses matériaux de la cuisine, de la salle de couture, d’amas de matériaux recyclés, de la quincaillerie, de l’atelier et du magasin avec la curiosité intellectuelle du scientifique et l’instinct pour la métaphore du poète. En préparation de Fun Island, elle cuisine des gâteaux et assemble adroitement ses matériaux, parfois de manière enjouée, jusqu’à ce chaque sculpture prenne son propre caractère enchanteur.

À l’automne 2001, elle produit son premier stoupa. Aujourd’hui, il y en a plus de vingt. Elle puisa l’idée de leur forme des stoupas bouddhistes, l’architecture de ces lieux funéraires qui ressemblent à des montagnes dont les structures plus tardives furent construites non pas pour y entrer, mais pour en faire le tour en priant et des autels tibétains domestiques plus modernes et plus intimes. À la manière d’un poète qui trouve une forme à sa voix, Bourgault a trouvé dans le stoupa la forme propice à l’expression du biographique, de l’émotion et de sa fascination pour la foi.

Bourgault manifeste un intérêt constant pour la juxtaposition de rituels religieux traditionnels comme le catholicisme de son enfance aux aspiration et croyances contemporaines. Credo (1993) est fabriqué de trois autels de chandelles, chacun dédié respectivement aux activités de loisir, d’extraction et de planification qui caractérisent la relation du Canadien envers son environnement. Offerratorio (1993), consiste en une collection de petites boîtes, chacune d’elles contenant une des ressources naturelles de l’Alberta: les sables bitumineux, le souffre, le grain et le charbon. We Had a Vision (1994) réinterprète les quatorze stations du Chemin de Croix et l’œuvre There is Nothing Outside (2000), semblable à un vitrail accompagné de la charpente d’un bateau recouvert de feuille d’or, est inspirée du personnage de Timothy Findlay, Madame Noah.

Sa curiosité, son enthousiasme et son intérêt pour le bouddhisme la mena à pratiquer le T’ai Chi, à suivre un cours général sur les religions orientales et à s’intéresser à l’artiste-moine Ron (Gyo-Zo) Spickett. En poursuivant cette démarche, elle trouva l’inspiration visuelle dans un volume de photographies de bouddhas de la Thaïlande et plus tard, découvrit le mystique perse, Rumi (1207-73). Un de ses poèmes, traduit par l’écrivain américain Coleman Barks, est inscrit sur son mur:

«Outside, the freezing desert night.
This other night inside grows warm, kindling.
Let the landscape be covered with thorny crust.
We have a soft garden here.
The continents blasted,
Cities and little towns, everything
Becomes a scorched blackened ball.
The news we hear is full of grief for that future,
But the real news inside here
Is there’s no news at all.»

Les enseignements de Rumi amenèrent Bourgault à une compréhension de la nature tournoyante du monde et de la danse des derviches tourneurs. Bourgault intègre sa compréhension de cette idée et sa propre expérience de voyageur dans cette oeuvre. Depuis les trois dernières années, elle a parcouru plus de 300 000 kilomètres comme journaliste et guide de voyage. Quoique cet emploi puisse sembler bien différent du métier d’artiste, Bourgault réussit à apporter à ces deux occupations l’esprit du voyageur et de l’interprète culturel. Edge City Tours (2003), un projet collaboratif avec Gregg Casselman, documente l’expansion des nouvelles communautés de Calgary et devient un guide des périphéries de la ville. Fun City vous invite à une autre sphère.

Les stoupas sont assemblés sur une table ronde qui tourne lentement. Plus de 300 mini-véhicules circulent autour de la ville «Disney-esque» et le parc environnant les temples, monuments et lieux sacrés. Ces métaphores de la présence humaine, surprenantes par leur nombre, de couleur neutre sont des voitures et des camions de toutes sortes. La circulation est bloquée, immobile, mais l’île continue à tourner et lorsque vous visiterez, il y aura une place pour vous.

KARINE RAYNOR completed her B.A. in Art History and Visual Arts at the Université de Montréal in 1997 and received her M.A. in Museum Studies from the Université de Montréal and the UQAM in 2003. An artist and a cultural worker, she was a curatorial intern at the Walter Philips Gallery, Banff, has worked for Le Mois de la Photo, Montréal and more recently has collaborated to projects for the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.

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