The Ottawa Citizen
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Every year there is some scene-stealing show-stopper and this year it is Marion-e-Tara, a larger-than-life, interactive puppet created by Tara Donaghy for the annual Enriched Bread Artists studio tour.
The giant puppet at the end of a long ground-floor hallway is one of the first things visitors will see when they enter the Enriched Bread Artists building at 951 Gladstone Ave. this weekend and next to participate in Ottawa's most engaging annual celebration of the visual arts.
The puppet bears a strong resemblance to Donaghy. You can pull the puppet's strings and watch her dance. Donaghy will also be on hand much of the time to make the puppet do her will. And, if you are really lucky, you might even see the puppet turn into a real girl. (Hint: Show up Oct. 30 at 1 p.m.)
Marion-e-Tara is more than a puppet. She is a prop in a piece of performance art created by Donaghy. It is a performance piece with a message about control. And it will likely steal the show during the next two weekends when thousands of people take the annual tour of the studios of two dozen artists within the Enriched Bread collective.
Of course, the always inventive Kenneth Emig, with his ability to combine dance and sculpture into memorable kinetic art performances, could always outdo Donaghy. Or maybe the crowds will want to hang out in the studio of Cindy Stelmackowich (and who wouldn't?) to catch her latest medical art experiments involving frogs and humans. Or maybe Barbara Brown's "photo sketches" will elicit the most "oohs" and "ahhs," especially when visitors spy those photo montages that look for all the world like quilt patterns.
Before reviewing some of the highlights of the studio tour, a word of caution: Two of the building's most exciting artists, Carl Stewart and Jean-Marie Belanger, are keeping their doors locked, either too busy preparing for a new exhibition elsewhere or too depleted from previous exhibitions. As well, a few studios of other artists that will be open will be amazingly sparse, simply offering leftovers from previous exhibitions or providing only hints about shows to come.
The annual Enriched Bread Artists studio tour is usually an opportunity to see some of Ottawa's best new work created in this former bakery now serving as giant art laboratory. Visitors deserve more than a smile, a handshake and descriptions of work presented elsewhere or still on the drawing board. The thousands of people who show up each year come to see art. New art. Art to make them say "wow."
Thankfully, some of the artists are keeping their part of the bargain. Here are some examples in addition to those mentioned above:
Karen Jordon must be the most patient person in the world. Occupants in neighbouring studios must be equally patient. Jordon is creating a giant, three-dimensional, heavily shadowed artwork by pounding thousands of nails into one wall of her studio, though she isn't yet sure what it will be.
The nails are removed and a surprisingly lethal looking toothpick is inserted into each hole. (There were 7,000 at last count). The effect is mysterious, slightly creepy and totally otherworldly.
For Jordon, process seems to be as important as product. She is a woman obsessed with performing repetitive, mind-numbing activities. She has also been stockpiling women's handbags. Dare her to explain that process.
Speaking of obsessions, Uta Riccius has been obsessed with using maps as a medium for art for years. Last year, visitors to her studio were given a plaster replica of a snow globe and a disposable camera on the condition they send her a photograph of where the snow globe gets to live, whether in home, office, car or whatever.
This year, the resulting photographs frame a map of Ottawa with pins indicating which address belongs to each photo. The good news for Riccius: One of her plaster snow globes ended up in the National Gallery of Canada. (Well, on a desk in the gallery).
John Barkley has been painting like mad the past year. He has had several shows around home, in Montreal and in Toronto. Some American cities are now being lined up. He still found time to produce some new work for the studio tour, first by creating landscapes that are then almost obliterated by gloomy, vaguely industrial abstract work emphasizing intrusions of the man-made world on nature.
Juliana McDonald's "zen pools" from Georgian Bay are superb. These are paintings of rock formations in pools and streams. The rocks are flesh coloured and assume human contours.
It is impossible to tell the scale of the rocks or bodies of water. Are they puddles with pebbles or lakes with boulders? Those mysteries, combined with the rocks' anthropomorphic qualities, are endlessly fascinating puzzles.
The opening festivities are tonight. This weekend and next, the studios will be open to the public Friday evenings and during the day Saturdays and Sundays. There is no admission charge. For information, phone 729-7632 or visit www.artengine.ca/eba