Friday, May 23, 2008

New: Harcourt House Studio Visits*

As the longest standing studio tenant in Harcourt House’s twenty year history, sculptor Barb Paterson has seen her share of change. From the flux of faces along the corridors to the dramatic rise of the cityscape from her east facing window, the walls of Harcourt House studios have shifted along with the city and its citizens.

Together with co-’88 BFA graduate Judy Hamilton, Paterson was one of the founding visionaries of Harcourt House Gallery’s existing layout. Working then with the newly formed WECAN Society, Paterson now shares that the original concept of Harcourt House was an open ended affair that included everything from painting to jewelry making and even musicians.

Studio space in the city was (and still remains) a need that was partially quenched with the creation of Harcourt House, and the studios have remained an environment that Paterson insists has been immensely important to her own practice as a sustained professional artist.

“Artists tend do their best work alone, but to survive that loneliness, you need interaction with fellow artists to keep your sanity,” she shares on a quiet weekday afternoon that was once a bustling centre for full time artists.

Looking around her sunlit studio, there are stunningly lifelike maquettes both old and new in their various stages of bronzing. As a celebrated sculptor best known nationally for her portrayal of The Famous Five on Parliament Hill and in Calgary’s Olympic Plaza, Paterson’s bronze works consistently draw great fanfare for its attention to detail and to their narrative interactions. Often ground-level, her life size works always appear caught in mid-action, from a boy playing hide and seek to a railroad worker approaching a dog, they are pieces that always thoughtfully and playfully engages with its viewers and surrounding environment.

The latest work dominating Paterson’s studio is a one and a quarter size monument to Lois Hole. Tentatively titled “Legacy of Love and Learning,” Paterson has sculpted a casually perched Lois Hole in mid-embrance of a young girl. Nodding to the essence of Lois Hole--who is equally famous for her hugs as for her enduring commitment to education--Paterson chose to sidestep a literal depiction of Hole hugging the girl (modeled after Paterson’s grand daughter) with a more subtle portrayal of the girl tightly hugging a book to her chest under Hole’s maternal guidance. Immortalizing a legacy within a moment, Paterson continues next with a statue of Emily Carr for Victoria’s Empress Hotel.

Studio visited May 14, 2008

Photo credit: Amy Fung, 2008

*First published in Harcourt House Gallery newsletter May 23, 2008

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