Watch out for the super-sized bunny at the annual open house at the Enriched Bread Artists collective. It is that time of the year again for members of the public to take the pulse of Ottawa’s art community by attending the open house, beginning Thursday evening (Oct. 24), at the Enriched Bread Artists studios on Gladstone Avenue.
The two dozen artists’ studios welcoming visitors this fall are a good cross-section of the various art practices around the city. They vary from video-art by Rachel Kalpana James, to the horribly-beautiful sculptures Joyce Westrup has constructed from exploded tires to the slightly disturbing paintings of a super-sized Freudian bunny by Jeannie Polisuk. In other words, there is something for everyone, regardless of your artistic inclinations.
Some of the artists allowed me a sneak peek before Thursday’s open house. I was particularly keen to see the studio of painter Tavi Weisz, who is preparing for a large solo show in December at the new Karsh-Masson Gallery at City Hall.
Weisz’s dramatic paintings of tormented-looking figures caught in often violent situations have always intrigued me. But I have only seen his work in bits and pieces, never as an entire body of work to fill an exhibition space. Alas, Weisz was not about to uncover his new work before the Dec. 13 opening — but he did give me a peek at one canvas and it certainly whetted my appetite for more. Expect large canvases at Karsh-Masson, with most measuring four by six feet and one reaching 12 by six feet. But do drop in to Weisz’s studio now. He has several of his older paintings on the wall and they are worth a gander.
Across the hall is the studio of Gayle Kells, who is experimenting these days with both labour-intensive drawings and paintings of masses of intertwined organic shapes that look familiar, yet remain puzzling, and seem to move in front of your eyes. There’s a vague 19th century Victorian feel to them. Real winners. You would never tire looking at them.
Cindy Stelmackowich, one of my favourite Ottawa artists, produces medically themed work that often also falls in that horribly-beautiful category. The artist was unable to be present the day of my visit to the studios but the door was open and I immediately fell in love with a photograph on a wall of a marble bust of Queen Victoria, whose translucent torso was superimposed on a detailed drawing of a skull. Shivers immediately ran down my spine.
Joyce Westrup continues to collect remnants of exploded tires — she says she has “secret” places to gather them — and turns the fragments into sculptures that, like Kells’s paintings, have an organic feel to them, but organic material from the dark side.
Westrup’s sculptures are like the giant photographs of Ed Burtynsky who captures scenes of toxic waste dumps, for example, that, in the right light, are aesthetically pleasing. They, like Westrup’s sculptures are horribly-beautiful.
A visit to the studio of Juliana McDonald is always a treat. She has been experimenting for years with painting the very soul of meadows, wetlands, streams and butterfly habitats. The paintings get better every year.
And lastly we shall mention Jeannie Polisuk’s bunnies. Several of the paintings on her studio walls show this man-sized bunny in various situations. In one canvas, the bunny is being stretched painfully on a torture rack. In another, the bunny is hugging an uncomfortable looking nude woman. The paintings make you remember your own favourite stuffed toy and the lasting impact a good Freudian psychoanalyst would claim the toy has had on your life. These paintings, which initially look comical, actually rest on the edge of nightmares. Handle with caution. Or maybe that is my long-lost teddy bear speaking.
Enriched Bread Artists studios are located at 951 Gladstone Ave. The vernissage for the various mini-exhibitions of these artists is being held Thursday, Oct. 24 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The open house continues this weekend (Oct. 25, 26 & 27) and next (Nov. 1, 2 & 3) . For exact hours and information, visit www.enrichedbreadartists.com.