Category Archives: Canada

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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Karine Labrie

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I attended the opening of a new exhibit at La Galerie des Nanas in Danville, Quebec. One of the featured artists was a young woman, Karine Labrie. When I saw her pen and ink drawings, I immediately thought of Madge Gill. The resemblance in their work is remarkable.

Born deaf, Karine is a master of communicating through her hands. She is prolific, creating images from her self-inspired world of fashion – women dressed in extravagant clothing, posed and waiting to be admired. I don’t know much about Karine, but she was at the opening and I met her briefly. Despite being the centre of attention, she seemed to take it all in stride, although she was obviously thrilled to have her work on display.

I saw more of Karine’s work later in Quebec City, at an art organization called Vincent et Moi. (More about this later.) I learned that her work is under review by Collection L’Art Brut in Lausanne, who is likely to add her work to the main collection.

93f9891f91cb4b30546ce9d8e263df35_th3And, in case you have forgotten about British artist, Madge Gill (1882 – 1961)  here is one of her drawings. I am always fascinated to see two artists whose work is so similar. Karine knows nothing about Gill, yet both were compelled to draw intricate images of the classic ‘femme fatale’ in imaginary architectural settings. I have no explanation for this. It is yet another mystery of outsider art.

 

 

 

 

Anick Langelier

ALangelier003I was introduced to the paintings of Anick Langelier at La Galerie des Nanas  in Danville, Quebec. I did not get to meet Anick in person, but I was able to see part of her extensive collection. Anick is a young artist from Montreal who has been painting since her mid-teens as a way to cope with her schizophrenia. You can see the imagery of some traditional masters in her work, but she has developed her own style and imagery on heavily-painted canvasses. She depicts life as she experiences it: strange universes, God, good and evil, and “dreamy-haunting” worlds of childhood.”

If there is one word I could use to describe Anick, it is PROLIFIC! She has hundreds of paintings in her own home and hundreds more with the gallery. Here are more samples of her work (from La Galerie des Nanas website):

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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.)