An ode to BC’s breathtaking Whistler landscape, Mountain Objects: Collected, Foraged & Formed is a celebration of collaborations. As it meanders between the natural and crafted worlds, the exhibition invites its audience into the captivating dialogue that can exist between process, form and material. Commemorating the three-year anniversary of the formation of the Mountain Object-Makers Co-operative (MOMC)—Margaret Forbes, Jenny Judge, Trisha Nakagawa, Miriam de Langley, Kathryn Tidey, Brittani Buettner and Lynda Harnish—the exhibitions true intrigue lies within its excess of variety, from each artist’s process to their varying inspirations. Judge describes it best, as a “cross-pollination of concepts and materials,” fostered through a shared studio space located in the industrial neighbourhood just South of Whistler.
MOMC bridges the gap between the crafted work, displayed on a white gallery wall, and the crafting hand, hidden away in the studio. Here, the gallery acts as the artists’ studio: a place of both “curiosity and conversation,” notes Judge. The collective cultivates greater questions as to what characterises modern art. Or more importantly, what is too commonly left out of the white cube altogether—nature, craft, women. Natural materials, organic forms and environmental influences tend to be ignored when thinking of ‘Art’ in the modern age. In response, Mountain Objects works to shine a light, quite literally, on where such works originate from, rather than solely the space they occupy post-production.
What distinguishes Craft from Fine Art, is the act of making, as well as the intrinsic trace of the artist’s unique hand. Mountain Objects takes this one step further, revealing more than the mark of the artist, but the trace of nature itself. Whether simply inspired by nature, as in the mountain silhouettes captured in Brittani Buettner’s sterling silver jewellery, or physically touched by the land in the case of Kathryn Tidey’s clay pieces, rubbed with glacial silt collected from Whistler’s own creek beds. Mountain Objects infers a dialogue between industry and nature, while simultaneously meandering the fluidity between Craft and Art. It is curated in a way that reflects this symbiotic studio atmosphere the MOMC has adopted. While Each work is displayed in regard to its own artist intent, method and identity, the pieces play off each other within the overall space as the viewer activates the gallery floor; it becomes as dynamic as the artists’ interactions within their very studio. Each piece speaks to the individuality of their artist, all the while expressing different environmental elements. Through smooth glass textures and contoured clay forms, together, the exhibition renders the essence of Whistler’s organic, glacial landscape.
An exhibition such as this is extremely timely considering the eruption of the Me Too and Times Up movements, both spearheads in society’s commitment to achieving equality in the workplace. As contemporary craft continues to garner attention, it repositions itself within the stereotypical ‘man’s world’ of the gallery and modern art. Mountain Objects showcases female talent and the power of collaboration among a previously under-valued art form: Studio Craft. The collective was founded on a need for production space and desire for a professional setting, a means to effectively pronounce their work as Art that exists outside the domestic sphere of the home. Only then may craft fully embrace execution, valorizing process as much (if not more) than the final product on display.
Craft evokes ideas surrounding the way modern labour and occupations have been ascribed to particular genders. Aware of society’s current progressive state, Mountain Objects invites professional women and the natural world to inhabit the predominantly industrialised, male ‘white cube,’ with open and eager arms. While MOMC celebrates a love of creating objects through methods and materials, the exhibition has created a space for much bigger conversations. Binaries of female to male, nature to culture and craft to art have come to productively and proactively occupy a single space, all in the form of these collected and foraged, mountain objects.
Mountain Objects: Collected, Foraged and Formed is on view in the CCBC Gallery until June 21, 2018.