"Installation view, Copper Thunderbird"
Mary Kerr and Norval Morrisseau, "Installation view, Copper Thunderbird," at Legacy Gallery, Victoria.
MARY KERR, Copper Thunderbird: Invention, Inspiration and Transformation
Legacy Art Gallery, Victoria
July 9 to November 30, 2008
By Brian Grison
This exhibition combines two threads of inspiration. One focuses on Mary Kerr’s designs for costumes, props and stage design for Copper Thunderbird, a play about the life and paintings of Ojibwa artist Norval Morrisseau, written by Métis playwright Marie Clements and directed by Peter Hinton for the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Surrounding Kerr’s work on the walls of Victoria’s Legacy Gallery are about a dozen paintings from three decades of Morrisseau’s work, selected from the permanent collection of the University of Victoria’s Maltwood Gallery. Kerr, one of Canada’s most distinguished theatre designers and a professor at the University of Victoria, has created illustrations in graphite, pen and ink, watercolour and gouache for costumes based directly on particular paintings of magical characters in the cosmology that Morrisseau created. The ten actors in Copper Thunderbird become the mythical characters that activated Morrisseau’s work and spiritual centre. Next to the illustrations, about a dozen large photographs of the play’s set and lighting design are based on a concept Kerr describes as “kinetic sculpture on stage,” with references to Bauhaus composition, Alexander Calder’s mobiles and the theatrical magic of Peter Russell. Her designs for Copper Thunderbird are experiments with architectural concepts, unusual materials and colours, and the mythic presentations of the human condition that Morrisseau made real.