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Joe Fafard, "Ford," 1976, earthenware, acrylic, glaze, wood, 40.5 x 43.8 x 38.3 cm. The Saskatchewan Arts Board Permanent Collection 1977-302.
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"John's Mountie Boots"
Marilyn Levine, "John's Mountie Boots," 1973, ceramic with nylon fibre, fabric laces, mixed media, 16.2 x 33.6 x 33.2 cm (left), 15.0 x 30.3 x 33.1 cm (right). MacKenzie Art Gallery, University of Regina Collection 1973-12 (A&B).
REGINA CLAY: WORLDS IN THE MAKING
MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina
Nov 19, 2005 — Feb 26, 2006
By Ruth Chambers
Regina Clay: Worlds in the Making examines an exceptionally vital nexus of ceramic-based art production occurring in Regina from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. The momentum generated in that brief period by an impassioned group of individuals — linked primarily by how they used the medium of clay to resist the modernist orthodoxy that dominated the city — launched them into experimental and conceptual innovations in ceramics practice and consequently into the foreground of postmodern investigations of place.
The initial impression of Regina Clay is of a nearly overwhelming quantity of diverse and exuberant works by 14 artists: Lorne Beug, Victor Cicansky, Joe Fafard, David Gilhooly, Ricardo Gómez, Beth Hone, Ann James, Margaret Keelan, Marilyn Levine, Lorraine Malach, Maija Peeples-Bright, Jack Sures, David Thauberger, and Russell Yuristy. Above all, the exhibition presents a sense of youthful energy, irreverence and intensity by artists who had the ambition and confidence to claim a place for work that was marginal on several levels — it was anti-formal, it was gendered and regional, and it employed a medium and forms traditionally associated with craft. Ties to concurrent and sympathetic Californian production helped to bolster and nourish what was happening in Regina. A funk sensibility, fostered by the inter-relationships between the artists, is threaded organically (and inevitably) throughout the exhibition. In addition to thematic and aesthetic inter-lacings, the work is similar in scale; most of it is small sculpture with the occasional wall-relief or pot. In brief, there are enough works and ideas in the exhibition to comprise multiple curatorial propositions, and the insights provided by bringing these artworks together in a single body are significant.
By illustrating a comprehensive picture of the activities of this group of artists, MacKenzie Art Gallery curator Timothy Long provides new information that illuminates and expands our understanding of their individual production, as well as the extensive range of intersections and cross-fertilizations that were occurring between artists in Regina and their colleagues elsewhere. For example, the scope of the investigations by Jack Sures into the medium at that time is revealed as exceptionally broad. It is also fascinating to trace the way Marilyn Levine's work cross-references Sures's, Ric Gómez's, and Vic Cicansky's development. Additionally, the exhibition includes and re-thinks the group of women who were working alongside the more highly profiled men.
Regina Clay explores a body of work that, until now, has been under-theorized. Curator Long's exhibition catalogue essay refutes an interpretation of the artworks in the exhibition as simply representative of regionalism versus modernism. He discusses how a more complex understanding of the ways regionalism functions can be applied to these works. Additional catalogue essays further problematize regionalism (David Howard), consider the work of Regina Clay's women artists in light of feminist theory (Julia Krueger), and outline the context and interdisciplinary aspects of Saskatchewan-based ceramic art production (Sandra Alfoldy).
Regina Clay opened at Museum London, March 11 — May 29, 2005, then travelled to the Burlington Art Centre, August 14 — October 2, 2005. It will be shown at the Kelowna Art Gallery, April 8 — June 10, 2006. The MacKenzie Art Gallery and curator Long are to be commended for addressing a significant gap in regional and national research and generating an invaluable scholarly and cultural resource.