Mary Ann Barkhouse, "Boreal Baroque," installation view. Image: Robert Mclaughlin Gallery.
The Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon
April 17 to June 7
By Patricia Robertson
“There’s an underlying humour to Mary Anne Barkhouse’s work,” says Linda Jansma, curator at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, Ontario. “She’s bringing nature back into the living room.” Barkhouse’s travelling Boreal Baroque exhibition, whose only Western Canadian stop is at the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon, contrasts the opulence of the Louis 14th period with an animal theme. Bats sleep upside down on elaborate chandeliers, a fox lingers on a chaise longue and beavers consort on a three-sectioned gossip chair. An artist and environmentalist, Barkhouse lives in Haliburton, Ontario, just south of Algonquin Park, where she finds her inspiration. “The works in Boreal Baroque are very much a result of the colours I see out my back window,” she says. “Back in the woods, it often reminded me of upholstery...the rocks covered in moss have a definite plush upholstered look, as do the trees covered in snow. So from that, it was a quick connection to the forest as a living space for all of these different species, and then situating them on suitably fabulous furniture.” While the tone may be impish, Barkhouse’s green message packs a deft political punch as she artfully forges the connection between our fragile ecosystem, and the resources we plunder from it.