Ever since having dinner with a friend a few weeks ago and having an extended discussion about Newfoundland’s curious charms (and, on occasion, lack thereof), I’ve been wanting to see the Folklore and Other Panics exhibit over at the Rooms. We finally made our way over there last weekend and I was pleased to find it more engaging than the last exhibit I saw there (the potato gallery excepted). A fusion of contemporary art and folklore, this exhibit is a collaboration between a handful of artists working in some pretty diverse mediums.
Right in from the front entrance we were faced with two flattened globes (Kay Burns), which took a few moments of contemplation before we realized we were looking at the remnants of performance art. I’m not particularly a fan of performance art (blame too many strange gallery openings in undergrad) so I don’t think I can speak adequately to this piece. I always find the exhibits in this room a little strangely curated (reminds me of the space on the top floor of the Gardiner museum in Toronto) and so getting past the first display, I was immediately drawn to the taxidermy forms sitting in the middle of the room, sort of multimedia textile pieces prowling around the gallery. These are the works of Janice Wright Cheney, and I learned that a creature called the coywolf (half coyote, half wolf) have joined the Newfoundland ecosystem. I think I was more delighted in finding out about this than anything (had to call my brother to tell him), but as it stands these animal sculptures were pretty endearing.
There were a few pieces that were rather anonymous, not sure who was responsible for them as I couldn’t find the tags, and am finding the guide post-viewing a little hard to connect with all the displays. In any case, the wallpaper design by Kym Greeley and Erika Jane Stephens-Moore was fantastic and that was again something I only learned the details of by looking it up at home afterwards. This was a light-blue design with elegant caribou and birch trees, really beautiful work inspired by the province and its history. Wished I could have had a photo of it afterwards, lucky there were cards by the entrance with a snippet of the design.
The other standout I want to mention is the quilt that served as the advertising image of the exhibit, done by Mark Clintberg in collaboration with seventeen local quilters on Fogo Island (would have loved to have all their names in the pamphlet, alas. Website says it is the Winds and Waves Artisan’s Guild). Having worked in textile museums myself I am always drawn to pieces like this. The message of Passion over Reason subverts Trudeau’s advice “for how politicians should govern”, which I think tremendously resonates as a motto for this exhibit.
When I was mulling over the concept of folklore (for there is a department of it at our university and I am constantly curious about it) I had to consider the uniqueness of the province in relation to the idea. My own experiences here have been trying at times, particularly in regard to the climate, but I enter this society in the 21st century, spoiled with privilege and accommodation for all my lifestyle needs. My family settled on this island generations ago and though my mother left when she was young, our family history is told through stories of the experiences here and often the combined hardships and pleasures had. There was nothing easy about carving out an existence in this place. Surely Passion over Reason is the reason they stayed. Probably the reason they still stay. I don’t feel it in my bones like others do, the need to cling to the roots of the island. That, I think, must be their passion.
This exhibit is running until April 26, 2015.