October 24, 2015

The Gardiner Museum

Bone China is actually made from animal bones; specifically a minimum of 30% bone ash, mixed into a paste with calcium phosphate.  Kent Monkman alludes to this fact in his installation entitled The Rise and Fall of Civilization at The Gardiner Museum, where he has created a diorama-like buffalo jump.

20151024_155520

Detail from The Rise and Fall of Civilization by Kent Monkman

The bison approach the precipice as traditional taxidermied animals, shepherded by a glamorous Cher-like beauty of ambiguous gender.  As they leap to their death they are transformed into cubist sculptures and their remains, below, are a heap of china shards (maybe referencing Julian Schnabel’s Plate Paintings of the late 70s?)

20151024_155821

20151024_162738

Detail from The Rise and Fall of Civilization by Kent Monkman

The walls of the installation are covered with large drawings approximating those rendered in the Lascaux caves during Paleolithic times.  The mash-up of iconic imagery from art history next to the buffalo jump scene, (an activity that commenced more than 12,000 years ago on the North American plains) ties history and art history together.  It’s a big subject.

20151024_155310

Detail from The Rise and Fall of Civilization by Kent Monkman

According to Wikipedia, ” The Blackfoot Indians called the buffalo jumps “pishkun”, which loosely translates as “deep blood kettle”.  They believed that if any buffalo escaped these killings then the rest of the buffalo would learn to avoid humans, which would make hunting even harder.  In Kent Monkman’s installation, the bison appear to be resurrected and trot away from the scene of carnage on delicate hooves; flattened, spindly, attenuated ideas of what they once were, appearing now in the style of 20th century sculpture.

20151024_155904

Detail from The Rise and Fall of Civilization by Kent Monkman

A few years ago, while camping in Manitoba’s Riding Mountain National Park I came up fairly close to a massive bison. Maybe it was my imagination but it seemed to me this animal gave me a look of pure hatred.  Is there such a thing as genetic memory?  Did this creature recall that 50 million of his kind where wiped out by white people?  (I also have the weight of global warming on my shoulder.)

bison

In his article titled The Age of Exhaustion, Joshua Mitchell, writing about the current state of politics in the US, comes up with some very depressing conclusions.  It doesn’t matter if we can trace our ancestry directly to “Buffalo Bill” Cody or not, in still Puritan America we are either pure or stained, guilty or innocent.

I am this or I am that; and therefore no reasoned discussion or argument you might offer need trouble me, for deeper than my capacity to reason is who I am, and who you are—‘white,’ ‘black,’ ‘male,’ ‘female,’ ‘heterosexual,’ ‘homosexual,’ ad infinitum

But Joshua Mitchell is writing about the USA.  In Canada we shook off the politics of division and came up with a hopeful alternative.  The US election is more than a year away.   Soon enough Donald Trump may just blow over.

trump

Donald Trump may blow over soon

Strolling through the Gardiner Museum I came upon another artwork with a subtle and graceful cultural mash up.

20151024_161344

20151024_161404

Mother Teresa Bowl by Carl Beam

Carol Beam’s 1982 earthenware bowl shows Mother Teresa in prayer surrounded by halo of a First Nation’s headdress.  It is a beautiful sketch of Mother Teresa, someone I have always tried to emulate (and failed).

Author: ssnbrttn

This blog is all about looking at art in Toronto now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s