Jordan MacLachlan goes to Norway

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.

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.

02jm2009installdetail

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.

Danse-et-mouvements-05-270x270thumb (1)

 

Sculpture-Zled-Dolls-War-Witch-sq300dpi-270x270Sculpture-Madonnes-Vierge-aux-aboisdetail

 

 

 

 

Gee’s Bend quilter Louisiana Bendolph

Louisiana_Bendolph,_History_0I was last blogging about  Gee’s Bend quilts and my introduction to the work of the remarkable women who make them. I met two quilters, Louisiana Bendolph and her mother, Rabbit, at Lonnie Holley’s workshop last fall. I sat beside Louisiana, a modest and reserved woman, and looked through a beautiful book about the quilts, as well as the autobiography she contributed to the book.

gees-bend-quiltmakers-mayday-by-louisiana-bendolph

When I closed the book, Louisiana asked me what I thought about it. I was at a loss for words. You see, her biography reads like something I would have expected from an African-American woman over a hundred years ago, not someone who was born in 1960. As I’ve said before, my knowledge of American social history comes from books; I have not lived there or experienced the truth of racial oppression. It looks quite different in real life.

 

But Louisiana was patient and waited for me to speak. I said how sad I felt to learn about her childhood. From age 6, Louisiana worked with her family in a cotton field, from sunup to sundown, every day except Sunday, which was saved for church. She felt wistful as the school bus passed her by. She went to school only on rainy days (not many) and from the end of November to March when it was time to start planting crops again. She didn’t have much of a childhood, and says her life was hard, but they had to work in order to survive.

bendo_l-American-Housetop_web

Louisiana watched the women in her family make quilts, but didn’t make her own until she was 12, and only then because it was something to do. Her life was busy with children, a husband, and a low-paying job. In 2002, she went to Houston to see the Quilts of Gee’s Bend exhibit and admits that she didn’t know what to expect other than seeing some old quilts. She was shocked to see her name in a book beside a photo of one of her quilts. She was profoundly moved when she saw her great-grandmother’s quilt on display, realizing that she had created something important and continued to live through her artwork.

Louisiana had always thought her quilt-making days were over. She had made enough quilts to keep her family warm. But on her way home from the exhibit, Louisiana started having visions of quilts. She says the visions have never disappeared and she keeps making more and more and more quilts. Sometimes she holds the design in her mind and sometimes she draws it on paper. It’s mainly about colour for Louisiana and her quilts are a testament to her exquisite sense of design and colour.

LB imageI met Louisiana and her mother a few days later at a  music event featuring Lonnie Holley. I had a visit with her before the concert began and she told me that she was going to be on stage with Matt Arnett (their manager) and participate in the introductory lecture. She hadn’t planned what she would say; she was a storyteller and the story would unfold as she said the words. Unfortunately, Arnett dominated the session, telling stories about himself and his father who began collecting outsider art many years ago. Listening to him was painful. His words were fuel for his own ego, not for the artists and musicians who were the stars of the event. Time ran out. Louisiana didn’t have an opportunity to speak.

Read paragraph 2 again. Just sayin’.