COOL: THE ARCTIC OUTSIDERS in Norway is featuring the work of two Canadian artists: Jordan MacLachlan from Toronto (see previous blog) , as well as Martine Birobent (Quebec). The exhibit is at the Museum of Outsider Art in Harstad as part of the Northern Norway Festival. This photo shows MacLachlan’s sculptures and Birobent’s dolls (hanging on the wall). The first report from the curator is that the exhibition is a great success, with more than 1500 visitors in the first week. Remarkable feedback, too.
Birobent, who passed away too young last year, has two pieces in the exhibit. Both speak to the oppression of women, their bodies bound, their mouths covered, barely mobile in their confined state. Below (top) is Muzzled Milk Chocolate. The other is Muzzled Lilas Verte, which reminds me of Atwood’s eerie foretelling, in The Handmaid’s Tale, of a society of subjugated women, kept for the sole purpose of bearing children.
Visitors are particularly relating to MacLachlan’s sculpture of Marius and the giraffe, which documents the killing of Marius in front of a gawking crowd at the Copenhagen zoo in 2014.
It is wonderful to see two of Canada’s top artists being in the spotlight. And it’s perfect timing for Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations, eh?
COOL – THE ARCTIC OUTSIDERS, is the name of an upcoming exhibit at Norway’s museum of outsider art. Canadian artist, Jordan MacLachlan, was invited to exhibit her clay vignettes at the festival along with works from other participating Arctic countries: Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. (Who knew Canada was an Arctic country?) This makes her an outsider in more ways than the obvious one.
One of the works on exhibit, entitled Marius, is pictured above. It shows the dispassionate response of visitors watching the matter-of-fact killing of the giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo in 2014. Eighteen-month old Marius was a healthy, but genetically unsuitable, giraffe who was fed his favourite breakfast before he was shot, chopped up, and fed to the lions.
This compelling scene is a fine example from MacLachlan’s large body of work, which bears witness to our complex relationship with animals. We use them for food, work, sport, and companionship. We can also, apparently, get rid of them when they outlive their usefulness.
The exhibit is at Sortroms Museum/Trastad Samlinger, Norway’s Museum for Outsider Art. It runs from 20 June to 1 September 2017. The exhibit will take place in a new gallery in the center of Harstad during The Northern Norway Festival.
Another uber-project from MacLachlan is her vignettes of what does or might happen on the subway. Displayed on a 24-foot table is humanity in all its gory detail: a headless pig-walker, a woman giving birth, and a man being attacked by a pack of dogs. In the midst of this chaos sits a pure white Buddha deep in meditation on a subway seat, oblivious to it all, or perhaps, accepting it all as the stream of life. Not, we hope, what we will encounter on our morning commute to work, but certainly possible if all parallel universes happen to collide in one unforgettable moment.
Such is the vivid vision of Jordan MacLachlan, who sculpts her figures with terracotta, plaster, varnish, paints and make-up. I am forever astounded by the quirky humour of this artist who casually drops laugh-out-loud images into the bleakest scenarios. It leaves me gasping for breath… in a good way.
Oh, look, there’s a snowman sweeping up debris!
Waaait a minute… is that Santa? Or is it Noah waiting for the animals to hop into his sack?
And then, thankfully, there’s the Buddha, the sole figure of serenity in this glorious jumble of humanity.
Jordan is heading off to NYC for the Outsider Art Fair this weekend, where her work is being featured by Marion Harris. Kudos to you, Jordan!
I met Canadian artist, Jordan McLachlan, earlier this year. Getting to know Jordan and her work has been one of the greatest pleasures of my research into Canadian outsider art, both because her work is outstanding and because she is a remarkable person. As things sometimes go, I was introduced to her work through my friend, gallerist Marion Harris in New York. She had read an article about Jordan and asked if I knew her work. How is it possible that I had not heard of Jordan before? I thought I had talked to every single person in Canada who was familiar with outsider art. Apparently not.
Since then, I have exchanged many emails with Jordan, and each one reads as if it were crafted by a poet: words roll off the tongue, visual images leap off the page, and emotions bubble into the air to gel as language. I could use the same words to describe her clay sculptures. They touch upon things that are difficult to articulate because they are oh-so-familiar, painful, or cringe-worthy. The word ‘unflinching’ comes to mind when describing Jordan’s view of the world. The above image of her sculpture, Young Woman Attempting to Strangle Herself, is a example of what I mean.
Jordan was born in Toronto in 1959 and, from a very young age, had an affinity for animals. She wove a fantasy family story for herself, choosing to believe she was an abandoned forest creature whose mother had been shot, causing her to be raised by her adoptive human family. She crawled around on all-fours, not wanting to speak, and eating from a dish on the floor. Going to school interrupted that dream, but she spent her after-school hours absorbed in making clay sculptures of animals. That obsession never stopped and a significant portion of her work still features animals in one way or another. They leave you with that uncomfortable reminder that we are, indeed, animals by nature.
Subsequent posts will introduce you to Jordan Maclachlan’s incredible body of work.
It is with great sadness that I write about the passing of Martine Birobent. Her epitaph notes that she died as she lived – fully and deliberately. Suffering from cancer, she chose medical assistance to die on March 30th in her hometown of Danville, Quebec.
I wrote about Martine in a previous blog about my visit to La Galerie des Nanas in Quebec. I didn’t have an opportunity to meet her then, as she was away exhibiting her work in France. I knew, however, how passionate she was about her art and promoting the work of other women artists. She was a trailblazer in Canadian outsider art and we owe much to her personal vision about art insubordinaire (insubordinate art). I can honour her best by showing you images of her quirky and imaginative work. Spend some time on her website at http://www.birobent.com/oeuvres/.
Thank you, Martine.