Leila Armstrong, "Castor Canadensis," mixed media.
CHAI DUNCAN AND LEILA ARMSTRONG
12 Point Buck, October 2009, Window Gallery, Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge
BY: Katherine Wasiak
Opposing perspectives led two Lethbridge artists to collaborate. “Our different interactions with nature caused spirited debates,” says Leila Armstrong. While Chai Duncan thinks unadulterated interaction is possible, Armstrong disagrees. “I believe all interactions are mediated by other influences, including preconceptions about nature and effects of our anthropomorphizing animals.” Their positions are also complementary — they’re both interested in exploring representations of nature as artifice. “We see the unpredictability, danger and chaos of nature being abandoned for an ideal pastoral retreat where man and beast co-habit in equanimity,” Armstrong says. “This fantasy is sustained through the fetishization of fauna in toys, figurines, statuary and stuffed animals, and flora in landscape photography and painting,” Duncan adds. The artists have produced a series of digital images, called 12 Point Buck, with fantastical, ideological narratives about nature, which like all narratives are ideologically laden. The show was at The Parlour in Lethbridge last March, and in September 2010 goes to Harcourt House in Edmonton. In their first video, Deer Me, they take a deer from the coulees and transform it into a loose narrative about an anthropomorphized creature donning a toy mask and wolf skin coat — it’s all about our fantasies about nature.