HICKSITE BURIAL GROUND, originally built as a site for a meeting hall in Pelham, ON, at the corner of Welland Rd. and Effingham St., was established in 1773 by Canada's first Society of Friends. The Society of Friends, or Quaker settlements, in Upper Canada were composed of immigrants from the United States, where among them, they found commonalities from their reactions against societal tensions... of liberal and evangelical revival trends, as well as increasing conservative responses towards Elias Hicks and other like-minded Friends who agressivley questioned traditional doctrines and their primary authorities. Hicks was one of the early abolitionists among the Friends, and spoke of slavery often and worked hard to persuade others to oppose it. Hicks had many exponents, including the renowned Walt Whitman, who spoke of Hicks as "a wonderful compound of the mystic ang logical reasoner... destined to make a radical revolution." Later in 1866, a church was built alongside the hall by the Hicksite Quakers, with an accompanying burial ground. The church was removed shortly after to 1141 Maple St. in Fenwick for the Fenwick's Women's Institute. Today, the burial grounds now stand in lonely vigil where the church once stood, with most of the 18th century burial marking stones overgrown and lost in the forest.
“Measures of a Woman”
In the most recent show organized by Jen Hutton at Susan Hobbs Gallery, various measures of representation are exhibited that allude to a more complicated biography of a woman. Occupying the first floor of Hobbs’ commercial gallery, the space still possesses the quirks and charms of its former use as an industrial garage, as evident with its enormous sliding garage door, cracked cement flooring and ceiling trap door. Susan Hobbs Gallery is internationally renowned for exhibiting innovative contemporary and conceptual artworks by some of Canada’s most prominent artists, many of whom she represents, and this exhibition is no different in its impressive inclusion of both historic and recent works. In The Most She Weighed/The Least She Weighed, ten works are exhibited by seven Canadian artists (both emerging and senior), including Brian Groombridge, Tiziana La Melia, Arnaud Maggs, Liz Magor, Sandra Meigs, Sasha Pierce and Michael Snow.
Titled after the influential series of work by Canadian artist Liz Magor in the 1980s, Hutton’s group exhibition echoes the artist’s early sculptures and bookworks based on the personal anecdote of her friend, Dorothy. Dorothy monitored and recorded her weight throughout her lifetime and most identified with the weight 98 pounds. Using cast lead objects of everyday items such as fruit, light bulbs and books weighted on two metal shelves, Magor’s objects communicate a narrative of Dorothy’s life that includes fluctuating measures in weight. In Hutton’s curatorial statement, she describes a sense of curiosity in the employment of tangible objects as “a qualifier for someone’s lifetime.” It is with this context that The Most She Weighed/The Least She Weighed frames both the presence and absence of a portrait of a woman to its viewers that is still incomplete.
Interesting enough, the piece included by Magor in the show is not the work inspired by Dorothy, but rather, is a more recent work, Pearlwhite (2000). A creamy, wrinkled raincoat is overlapped with a cast polymerized wicker purse that hangs on the gallery wall and shows evidence of a wallet inside the purse. The presentation of these hung articles suggest an identity of a woman, while at the same time also point to her absence. This work, like Snow’s rough figural drawings Blue Skirt (1962) and Pencil (1962), allude to the form and presence of a woman articulated through the materiality of objects, while simultaneously positing incomplete biographies of a life lived. Snow’s ink and graphite sketches on paper outline the existence of a woman, yet only offer fragments of a possible identity.
The two gouache-on-paper works by Meigs from the early 90s, Desert Tree (1990) and Skull Rock (1991), juxtaposed with Pierce’s small yet dynamic oil painting, Mostly Love (2011), present the viewer with more ambiguous connections to Hutton’s curatorial investigation. Upon the careful and attentive looking of the viewer, it becomes apparent in Meigs’ delicate saturation of red, pink and brown hues and Pierce’s meticulous linear intersections of the same colours that a feeling or presence of a woman does exist. Within the works, the gentle tactility that we associate with femininity appears as thoughtfully rendered brushstrokes that are ‘gendered’ in their representation. In unpacking these fragmented biographies, the overlapping of photographic objects and female bodies found in La Melia’s three collage works reflect the viewer’s constant negotiation of the visibility and invisibility of a female identity. Furthermore, Maggs’ piece, Downwind Photograph (1981-83), successfully echoes this ‘distance’ as it posits an image of a woman who is turned towards the right, her face out of view. We, the viewers, can clearly identify this person as a woman, as brunette, as stylishly dressed, as young – yet, our attempts of identification end there. Like with this image, Hutton’s thoughtfully chosen inclusions invite our biographical discernment, while remaining challenging through complex, fragmented modes of representation. The objects that comprise these works create an incomplete portrait of a woman who might exist, or, who might have.
Groombridge’s piece, the distance between the body and the shadow it casts (1995) frames these collective works within a space for dialogue. His aluminum sculpture is presented at floor-level and interjects the gallery space in its linear explorations of space, both vertical and horizontal. As a representation of the space between the body and its shadow, Groombridge generates a measure of a woman that is static, yet ambiguous. His sculpture interposes the space inbetween – the space inbetween the three perpendicular gallery walls of work – the space inbetween a person and what measure defines them. Groombridge’s long directional beams materialize both a connection to the other works, as well as a distance between their collective narrative.
Furthermore, Hutton has compiled an accompanying reader for the exhibition that includes previously published texts by La Melia, Magor, Meigs, Snow and acclaimed poet Daphne Marlatt. These writings, like the works in the exhibition, postulate ambiguous narratives of a woman and approach the female biography from a multiplicity of viewpoints. Each text, as well as the exhibition’s artworks, is united through the constant efforts of the author (and artist) in seeking their subject. This collection of essays works to contextualize the idea that a “collectively formed identity will always be partial.”
The early sculptural works of Magor undoubtedly influenced The Most She Weighed/The Least She Weighed, and Hutton uses this influence as a meeting point for other works that address varied states of biography, narrative and selfhood. Hutton’s curatorial pursuit of an incomplete biographical measure of a woman effectively unites these artists’ works within an overarching investigation of representation.
The Most She Weighed/The Least She Weighed runs from June 9th to August 13th at Susan Hobbs Gallery. Hours of operation are Wednesday to Saturday 11 to 5, or by appointment.
Mark Clintberg, Two Coins, 2009.
Embossed imitation gold leaf. Unlimited edition. Distributed as a gift to individuals known by the artist.
Embossed text reads: "Love Empire." Each set of coins is given to an individual, who is then asked to break the coins apart and give one to someone dear to them. The coins are then to be carried in pockets until they disintegrate.
Sentences on Conceptual Art
by Sol Lewitt
- Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.
- Rational judgements repeat rational judgements.
- Irrational judgements lead to new experience.
- Formal art is essentially rational.
- Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.
- If the artist changes his mind midway through the execution of the piece he compromises the result and repeats past results.
- The artist's will is secondary to the process he initiates from idea to completion. His wilfulness may only be ego.
- When words such as painting and sculpture are used, they connote a whole tradition and imply a consequent acceptance of this tradition, thus placing limitations on the artist who would be reluctant to make art that goes beyond the limitations.
- The concept and idea are different. The former implies a general direction while the latter is the component. Ideas implement the concept.
- Ideas can be works of art; they are in a chain of development that may eventually find some form. All ideas need not be made physical.
- Ideas do not necessarily proceed in logical order. They may set one off in unexpected directions, but an idea must necessarily be completed in the mind before the next one is formed.
- For each work of art that becomes physical there are many variations that do not.
- A work of art may be understood as a conductor from the artist's mind to the viewer's. But it may never reach the viewer, or it may never leave the artist's mind.
- The words of one artist to another may induce an idea chain, if they share the same concept.
- Since no form is intrinsically superior to another, the artist may use any form, from an expression of words (written or spoken) to physical reality, equally.
- If words are used, and they proceed from ideas about art, then they are art and not literature; numbers are not mathematics.
- All ideas are art if they are concerned with art and fall within the conventions of art.
- One usually understands the art of the past by applying the convention of the present, thus misunderstanding the art of the past.
- The conventions of art are altered by works of art.
- Successful art changes our understanding of the conventions by altering our perceptions.
- Perception of ideas leads to new ideas.
- The artist cannot imagine his art, and cannot perceive it until it is complete.
- The artist may misperceive (understand it differently from the artist) a work of art but still be set off in his own chain of thought by that misconstrual.
- Perception is subjective.
- The artist may not necessarily understand his own art. His perception is neither better nor worse than that of others.
- An artist may perceive the art of others better than his own.
- The concept of a work of art may involve the matter of the piece or the process in which it is made.
- Once the idea of the piece is established in the artist's mind and the final form is decided, the process is carried out blindly. There are many side effects that the artist cannot imagine. These may be used as ideas for new works.
- The process is mechanical and should not be tampered with. It should run its course.
- There are many elements involved in a work of art. The most important are the most obvious.
- If an artist uses the same form in a group of works, and changes the material, one would assume the artist's concept involved the material.
- Banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution.
- It is difficult to bungle a good idea.
- When an artist learns his craft too well he makes slick art.
- These sentences comment on art, but are not art.
first published in 0-9, Art and Language, New York: 1969.
We are on a perpetual quest for identity. We look for our selfhood in authentic experience. We situate authenticity in the past - in our youth, and in our learned histories. In attempt to reclaim these constructed romanticisms, our actions are rituals of longing and also belonging. Archaic sentiments are no longer yours or my own; but rather, they are ours. Both inherent and inherited, these desires belong to us with the intent of completing the histories that we have learned and have yet to. Our effort is without reward, for these histories have been collected and carried across bodies, borders and dinner-tables. Systems of memory continue to construct our past, present and future. Conversations between what is the imaginary and the real, what has been given and taken, and what will be forgotten and found articulate our critical discourse: a narrative of which cannot be static. Instead, we have become martyrs for an identity that is not only unattainable, but of which has never really existed for us. Our perpetual quest ends where it begins: with the imagination.
Rebecca Belmore, Ayum-ee-aawach-oomona-mowan:
Procession to the meadow (Speaking to their Mother), 1991.
Belmore, With 13 Native speakers, 27 july 1991:
Ayum-ee-aawach-oomona-mowan: Speaking to their Mother
"This artwork was my response to what is now
referred to in Canadian history as the "Oka Crisis".
During the summer of 1990, many protests were mounted
in support of the Mohawk Nation of Kanesatake
in their struggle to maintain their territory.
This object was taken into many First Nation communities -
reservation, rural, and urban. I was particularly
interested in locating the Aboriginal voice on the land.
Asking people to address the land directly
was an attempt to hear political protest and poetic action."
"Animals presage earthquakes by several days. Cattle grow restless, birds fall silent, pets go missing. They sense the infant seismic stirrings that will mature into catastrophe. Collapse. Something is always slipping while our lives sit balanced on the edge. Put together a world that holds, the way it used to be. A cup is missing its saucer. Put this one with this. If that works, try a bolder move: this couch with these drapes, this body with that time. Now change your father, become your ancestor, find the family you lost, the purpose you missed."
Liz Magor, "White House Paint," Real Fictions: Four Canadian Artists (Sydney: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1996).
Liz Magor, "White House Paint," Real Fictions: Four Canadian Artists (Sydney: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1996).
" we're on a long journey in a landscape with no features; like an endless field of ice. we're blinded by the whiteness and have to travel with our heads down, pulling heavy loads over the rough surface. at times we have dogs to help us pull, but they either fight with each other or get tangled in the lines. their legs come off easily and the trail is littered with their limbs and bits of stuffing. i pick up a very small dog and put it inside my parka. i can feel its warmth seeping into my body. i develop tender feelings toward it and feel distraught when i lose it at some point. i'm looking for the dog but then we're looking for some food that's supposed to be cached at a depot. when we get there we find there isn't enough. my foot hurts. we're in a tent and someone says "i'm just going outside and may be gone for some time." he goes out into the blizzard and we never see him again. "
meeting place, liz magor, 1990.
meeting place, liz magor, 1990.