Category Archives: Canada

Jordan MacLachlan – Unexpected Subway Living

03jm2009detailAnother 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.

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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! JordanMacLachlan_162

Waaait a minute… is that Santa? Or is it Noah waiting for the animals to hop into his sack?JordanMacLachlan_185

And then, thankfully, there’s the Buddha, the sole figure of serenity in this glorious jumble of humanity.78(1)

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

Jordan MacLachlan

1347670712-94I 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.

 

 

 

Martine Birobent (d. March 30, 2016)

160406_779lc_martine-birobent_sn635It 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.

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The degree

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I’m happy to announce that I have completed my Master’s degree. The thesis is called Outsider Art:  Forty Years Out, referencing the chaos that ensued with outsider art terminology after Roger Cardinal published his book Outsider Art in 1972.

Next step? A book about outsider art in Canada, of course!

Lonnie Holley, the musician

2015-10-23 14.11.53When Lonnie Holley came to Vancouver for an art workshop (see previous blog), it was pretty much what I expected. I was familiar with his work from books and websites and enjoyed meeting him while I was creating my (small and peculiar) mobile from found objects.

HOWEVER, Lonnie is also a musician. And from seeing him perform, I think music forms as much of his DNA as art. Lonnie and his band performed when he was here in Vancouver. While I might be able to explain counterpoint in a piece of classical music, I simply don’t have the expertise or vocabulary to describe Lonnie’s improvisational music to you. It was very much like his visual art: an assemblage of ideas and forms. And, like art, Holley is a self-taught musician.

Before going on stage, I wa26holley1-master675tched Holley fidget like a Kindergarten child – he was almost vibrating with anticipation and excitement. The introductory lecture and endless set-up were clearly a torture to him. He was visibly relieved when he was finally called up on stage. With no introductory words, he began to play.

Holley performed with two percussionists – one played a keyboard; the other played every percussion instrument in a musician’s repertoire. If you appreciate the complexity of jazz, you would understand the woven tapestry of Holley’s pieces. I learned that Holley doesn’t perform the same piece twice (why bother because it’s already been done?) and his performance was pure improvisation, for both him and his accompanists. Like all professional musicians  they were completely connected to Holley during the performance and I doubt that anything could have distracted them from the urgency of the moment. Holley played on a keyboard and sang; they responded with riffs and diversions that could only make sense to one completely plugged into the moment of music. It made traditional jazz look like a contrived and staged undertaking.

I am at a loss for words to tell you about Holley’s performance. It was like sung/spoken poetry. It was about slavery, the universe, his personal dreams. It was entirely foreign to me, but I settled into it. Watch this video, and you can decide for yourself:

I don’t know anyone else like Lonnie Holley, and I doubt I will ever meet another like him.