The DMG inspires an elevation of craft

March 14, 2012

(photo via Toni Hafkenscheid)

Located on the upper level of the Academic Resource Centre, the Doris McCarthy Gallery is UTSC’s very own artistic nook dedicated to enlightening students, faculty, staff and alumni. The gallery’s latest exhibit is called The C Word: A Look at the Role of Craft in Contemporary Art.

Curated by Richard Mongiat, The C Word is a beautiful display of the relationship between art and craft. In the world of contemporary art, ‘craft’ is often regarded as something unimportant or beneath other art forms. The name of the exhibit demonstrates this concept; the word ‘craft’ is reduced to its first letter – as if it was as forbidden and taboo as the F word (or, you know, the C word). This theory of the unworthiness of craft goes on to be debunked by the exhibit, which features work by 18 Canadian artists.

Erin Peck, DMG’s Exhibitions & Outreach Coordinator, describes the exhibit as an exploration of different media. She says, “There is no finished product… it’s about the way that they get there.” Some of the pieces, like the clay work, are more traditional and decorative. Others are created with cardboard or dollar store foam or toothpicks, but these cheap materials are manipulated in such a way that they become elevated and dynamic. The exhibit features a good mix of pieces in varying sizes and proportions, allowing the viewer to step back and take in the presence that each piece has in the space.

Featured artist Elizabeth Bailey describes the way she considers craft, “I really feel that craft in and of itself… is more the means by which other things are achieved. And the other things to me are the more important things.” Walking through the exhibit, her words make perfect sense. The artwork is unique, colourful and pleasant to look at. But upon further examination, you begin to notice the tiny details – and also the big picture. Just as you would read between the lines of a novel or have to watch a complicated film a second time to fully understand it, spending more time with each piece in the exhibit will bring forward a rush of emotions, memories and understanding.

(photo via Toni Hafkenscheid)

In his essay that accompanies the exhibit, Mongiat reveals interesting and surprising aspects about the way the artists created their work, “For these artists, the idea of change is automatically incorporated into the making of the work; the spur-of-the-moment decisions, surprises and even mistakes that happen during the process are crucial elements in the content of the artwork… [Also] they love the struggle of working with and transforming materials into unique, mysterious, strange and beautiful objects as a way of describing the world.”

Jay Wilson, another featured artist, embraced the idea of change with his piece, entitled Mandelka. Wilson says he uses the materials he does for their “immediacy and convenience.” When starting Mandelka, Wilson worked with flock, a material that he describes as “funny textile-based stuff that you make flock t-shirts or hats (with).” Adding toothpicks to the mix, by the end, he abandoned the flock completely and used toothpicks, safety matches, glu and T-pins to create his intricate and eye-catching piece.

Particularly captivating is Susan Collett’s Skin, a perforated clay piece with a vase-like, yet abstract form. The light filtering through the holes in the clay gives the piece an airy, open feeling, not one necessarily associated with clay work.

To form your opinion and belief on what ‘craft’ means to you, be sure to check out The C Word and find the piece that speaks most to you.

The C Word runs until April 4th, 2012. Tours are available if booked with the DMG beforehand by emailing dmg@utsc.utoronto.ca.