Category Archives: Canada

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.

Karine Labrie

Karine
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.)