Category Archives: Martine Birobent

Martine Birobent and Jordan MacLachlan at Norway Exhibit

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?

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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La Galerie des Nanas and Martine Birobent

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Holy smokes! It has been a very long time since I sat down to write a blog. Far too often, life (and academic work) takes over. I left you waiting for news of outsider artists in Quebec and I have a lot to tell you. So let’s get started.

I took a trip from Montreal to the town of Danville, Quebec, to meet up with Jean-Robert Bisaillon at La Galerie des Nanas. His wife, artist Martine Birobent, was in France getting ready for an exhibit, so I didn’t get a chance to meet her. Jean-Robert and Martine are the owners of the gallery and they have an interesting view of outsider art, calling it insubordoneé (insubordinate, defiant, disobedient) and féministe (feminist) art. Its aim is to exhibit art that is contrary to established norms and, in particular, art created by women. Because women artists have been neglected and ignored throughout art history,  the gallery focuses its efforts on promoting their work. With the exception of one male artist (Olivier Blot), the gallery is packed with vibrant artwork of international and Canadian women – paintings, sculptures, drawings, dolls and masks.  That in itself was a novel experience.

A lot of Martine’s work is on exhibit at the gallery, and for those of you who are freaked out by dolls, I suggest you stop reading now.

In addition to large anthropomorphic sculptures, Martine has Sculpture-Zled-Dolls-Trio-Gold-detaillo-150x150a passion for dolls. She knits them into outfits that cover their entire bodies. My first impression was of  women veiled for propriety, but these veils are quite different. Although they bind the dolls tightly, they cannot SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAhide some things: babies pop out of bellies, breasts are far-too-obvious beneath taut clothing, and eyes peer out from web-like masks.

 

The dolls are quirky but not amusing. They are no longer things to play with. (Or are they?) pinkThese classic children’s toys have been turned into lifeless and trapped objects. They are disturbing and disquieting images:  frozen and mute women who are unable to communicate their own stories of imprisonment.

One of my readers observed Birobent’s subversive use of traditional female items (dolls and knitting) as a way to expose the male, patriarchal,  gaze.  It’s not just a sense of physical confinement that we witness, but one of cultural confinement, too. Well said.

(Images are from La Galerie des Nanas website.)