Sunday, June 17, 2007

Candy Mountain, Latitude 53, June 14 - July 14, 2007



Photograph by: Marcus Miller, 2007

Plucking inspiration from Harry "Haywire Mac" McClintock's folk ballad "Big Rock Candy Mountain," a song often described as an utopian vision for hobos from the '20s, Mindy Yan Miller and Montreal-based artists Katherine Bodmer and Susie Major have come together collectively in each of their own discplines to render the age old idea of "turning nothing into something." Although the song tends to focus more on the phantasmagoric illusions of the hobo lifestyle (cigarette trees, gin lakes, dogs with rubber teeth, jail bars made out of tin, etc.) the Candy Mountain exhibition peers into the everyday banality around us and infuses a light, wonderous glow.
Yan Miller's installation sculpture using emptied coca cola cans, her medium of choice, predominantly took up the majority of the interactive space. Created on site, the final touch occured on opening night as guests were invited to open, pour, and add cans of cola onto the sculpture and actively take part in the root of this project: the jubilant, the cathartic; the gross act of excess. Combined with mountains of candy during opening night, the urge to crush the pile of sculpted cans, the child-like impulse to destroy, was severly palpable.



Image: Susie Major, 2007

Major's series of drawings on grid paper reminds us of the physical process of procrastination, but also of the sheer intensive labour behind any act of exploration. Following the shades and forms from square to square, a navigation emerges and to look for a destination is to miss the point.
Bodmer names each of her photographs after real mountains, imposing a literary frame of entries from several mountain explortaions onto photographs of parking lot snow mountains, those mounds of excess snow piles often spotted during the winter months of urban ennui. Relating the crevices and shadows, and reminding us of existing mountains that she fondly remembers, the question that emerges is: what makes one exploration a more legitimate experience than another? The entries from trips up Mer de Glace or the Matterhorn (in which she subverisely includes the height of each mountain with each title) are utopic, awe-filled descriptions of how one must face the glory of the mountain. Peversely, in these urban shots, grey skies stretching behind dirty grit filled mounds against graffiti walls and chain link fences, Bodmer sustains that same awe of respect and intrigue.

Image: Katherine Bodmer, 2007

The show as a whole presented three very different artists with very different ideas, held together loosely; but respectively as individuals, each artist inevitably complimented the others in methods beyond themes and methods, pushing each other's works forward through like-minded perspectives of the world and like-minded perspectives of their roles as artists in this world.


Artists: Katherine Bodmer, Susie Major, Mindy Yan Miller

11 comments:

MC said...

Doesn't all art "turn nothing into something"? Clay into a sculpture, paint into a picture.

Except, with something as truly banal as paint, or clay, we expect the artist to create something visually exciting, and different, out of the material.

It seems, with Yan Miller, the already designed Coke cans don't turn into anything other than emptied, Coke cans. It hardly seems worth comparing to enterprise of creating a painting, or a sculpture...

Maybe I'm missing something.

Tam said...

Yan Miller did create a sculpture, an intricate, visual feast of a sculpture that echoed off of Major's snow 'mountains' in an abundant yet fragile way, made out of coke cans (which imbued it with meaning, being 'something from nothing' and portraying a 'gross act of excess'- as opposed to clay etc.) Also, I too felt a child-like impulse to plough through the cans at the beginning of the opening, only to (delightfully) have this urge flipped on it's back when I re-approched the sculpture at the end of the night - only to be slightly repulsed by the sticky, pooled and congealed coke that had been 'dumped' over the structure earlier.
c'est fantastic!!

Anonymous said...

I just couldn't help but think, "if you give a little love it'll all come back to youuu,
you're gonna be remembered for the things you say and dooo!!!"

shane k said...

Mindy Yan Miller's piece did sustain itself as a well-crafted sculpture. I do think that it would have been more effective if it had taken over the entire gallery.

I would say that paint and clay are much less banal than coke cans. They are encountered much more frequently than paint and clay.

I have to say though that the food made into mountains and set on plinths was as engagin and stimulation as the show..

shane k said...

engaging and stimulating...
i can't write.

HAH said...

Mindy Yan Miller should be welcomed with open arms by the local scuptors - afterall, she uses metal...Oh, and she salvages too!

MC said...

(Why do I get the feeling people are determined to read the worst into my rather innocuous comments? Oh well, I won't let it bother me.)

Tam clearly enjoyed the Coke can work, but I can't help but wonder, if this elicits a "c'est fantastic", does that mean that the great masterpieces in, say, the Prado, are super-fantastic, or super-duper-unbelievable fantastic?... Or, are we, just maybe, exagerating our positive reactions a bit? Just a question...

Shane K. seems to agree that it was a successful sculpture as well, and since I haven't seen the show, I'll defer to your experience (My original comment was directed not at the work specifically, but at Amy's post). Hence, my allowance that "maybe I'm missing something"... I'm just responding to Amy's review, as written here.

As for HAH's remarks, if directed at me, I'm happy to welcome Miller to the community, as a sculptor, and as an Edmontonian (again, I didn't know she wasn't from somewhere else... I'm just going by Amy's writing, and this post doesn't mention where Miller's from). She's picked a wonderful place to make art in, amongst a diverse community of artists, some of whom look and think very critically about art, and aren't afraid to say what they think.

To all, I hope we can all have critical discussions, and even passionate disagreements, about these professional issues, without letting petty personal feelings cloud our judgment.

Tam said...

I stand by my "c'est fantastic", after all, I did see the show. It's an esthically and intellectually stimulating piece loaded with meaning- which, for me, equates great art.

MC said...

Fair enough, Tam.
From the image posted, and Amy's description, I find it hard to believe that I'd feel the same way, but I suppose I'll have to reserve judgment...

Tam said...

MC, I can understand your scepticism based on the image (which is misleading), but that's just a picture of her unloading all the boxes of cans and getting ready to build the installation, the actual 'coke mountain' is inside the gallery.

MC said...

Thanks for the clarification, Tam.

Still, "... the final touch occured on opening night as guests were invited to open, pour, and add cans of cola onto the sculpture and actively take part in the root of this project: the jubilant, the cathartic; the gross act of excess..." leads me to think that the form of the sculpture was ultimately arbitrary (based on audience participation), and therefore, probably beside the point.