Michelle Blade’s work investigates the human condition, specifically curiosity and one’s search for meaning and place within the universe in which they live. Humanity’s practice of ritual, prophecy, and exploration of metaphysics are key components forming the structure of her projects. Cross-disciplinary in nature, her work encompasses painting, sculpture, and social practice to create conditions, events and spaces that engage the audience evoking questions on their collective versus singular experience. Blade has exhibited nationally and internationally at Jack Hanley Gallery, San Francisco; Roberts & Tilton, Los Angeles; Bravin Lee Gallery, New York; Western Exhibitions, Chicago; The Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Fe; Union Gallery, London and V1 Gallery, Copenhagen among others. She has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. She is a 2007 recipient of the Murphy-Cadogan Fellowship, A 2X2 Pro Arts Grant, an Alternative Exposure SOEX Grant, and was a SFMOMA Seca finalist in 2010. Blade lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.
Shannon Bool was born in Comox, BC and currently lives and works in Berlin. Bool attended the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver and the Cooper Union in New York, and graduated from the Staedelschule in Frankfurt. She has had solo exhibitions at the Bonner Kunstverein, Germany (2011), and the Gesellschaft fur Aktuelle Kunst Bremen, Germany (2010) and her work was included in the exhibition Made In Germany Zwei at the Sprengel Museum in Hannover (2012). In 2012, a monograph of her work, Inverted Harem, was published by DISTANZ Verlag. Her work can be found in the collections of the Museum fur Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt and the Lenbachhaus, Munich, as well as numerous private collections, including the Saatchi Collection, London. Bool is represented by Daniel Faria Gallery in Toronto and Galerie Kadel Willborn in Dusseldorf and Karlsruhe.
Heather Goodchild has exhibited across North America since 2002. She was the Artist in Residence at The Art Gallery of Ontario in Summer 2012. Her recent exhibitions include Walking the Pattern (Mulherin Pollard Projects, New York, NY), The Wardens (Hamilton Artists Inc, Hamilton, ON) and The Wardens Abroad (Sur la Montagne Gallery, Berlin, Germany). Goodchild’s practice involves exploring the rituals, regalia and symbols of world religions, and non-denominational societies in an attempt to understand the purpose of these traditions, with special attention towards morality, personal development and the journey towards fulfillment. Using textile techniques such as rug-hooking, inlaid patchwork, screen printing and quilting, she has developed new ways to execute old crafts, creating pieces that seem to exist both in the past and present. In collaboration with Naomi Yasui, Goodchild runs the online project The Wardens Today.
Carol Knicely is an Assistant Professor of Medieval Art History in the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at UBC. She has a Ph. D from UCLA. In addition to courses in her field she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in cultural theory and methodology of art history. Her research and publications have focused on pilgrimage cults and Romanesque art (including the development of reliquaries and monumental sculpted portals) especially in France between AD 1000-1200 with a special interest in exchanges between lay and monastic cultures as they are mediated through visual imagery. She has published on the Cult of Sainte Foy at Conques, on the art historian, Meyer Schapiro and on the 12th c. portal sculptures of Souillac in France. A recent project is dealing with the role of jewels and treasure in medieval art.
Areas of special interest in work and teaching have considered the visual in relation to: monasticism; religious, political and social aspects of pilgrimage and the cult of relics, the Holy City of Jerusalem , early Islamic art especially in Jerusalem and Spain, cultural attitudes about death and concepts of the afterlife; gender roles; changing forms of religious devotion; the role of violence and the role of humour (sometimes encountered together as in the carnivalesque); debates around oppositions between high and low in culture, sacred and profane, literate and illiterate, ecclesiastical and lay, spectacle and ritual, medieval manuscripts including Books of Hours and concepts about the structure of the world and the universe in the Middle Ages.
Topics of seminars in the past have included: The Cult of the Saints, Narrative Theories and Medieval Art, Visual Art and the Millennium, Rhetoric’s of Violence in Medieval Art, Regarding the Margins of Medieval Art, Exploring Humour in Medieval Art, Dealing with Death in the Middle Ages, Ritual and Medieval Art, The Holy City of Jerusalem: Desire and Conflict, Materiality in Spirituality, Ornament and Medieval art and Pilgrimage and the Cult of Relics.
Kellee Ngan is a writer, editor and arts administrator. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, and is working on her first novel. She lives in Vancouver.
A curator and writer based in San Francisco, where she is Curator and Head of Programs at the CCA Wattis Institute. Nguyen was formerly Director/Curator of Artspeak from 2011-2016. Her writing has appeared in exhibition catalogues and periodicals nationally and internationally, with recent texts in catalogues published by Pied-à-Terre (San Francisco), Gluck 50/Mousse (Milan), and the Herning Museum of Art (Denmark). Nguyen is the recipient of the 2015 Hnatyshyn Foundation Award for Emerging Curators in Contemporary Canadian Art and the 2016 Joan Lowndes Award from the Canada Council for the Arts for excellence in critical and curatorial writing.
Morgan Watt (b. 1982, Vancouver, BC) is an artist based in New York. He studied at Emily Carr University of Art and Design and has participated in exhibitions in Vancouver and Tokyo.
MICHELLE BLADE, SHANNON BOOL, HEATHER GOODCHILD, MORGAN WATT
June 29–July 27, 2013
Premised on the concept of thanatophobia, the works in Sunbeams have been brought together for their shared interest in the undetermined. Although defined as a fear of death or dying, the origin of thanatophobia can also be an apprehension or aversion to the unknown. The inability to comprehend what occurs after death can be a source of anxiety for individuals, and those most prone to this specific type of phobia are often highly intelligent and inquisitive, or those who question their own philosophical or religious beliefs. In addition to ritual and spirituality, the works in the exhibition maintain an engagement with craft and labour, adopting lengthy production processes to address a contemporary Western relationship to faith, the afterlife, and end times.
In 366 Days of the Apocalypse (2012), Michelle Blade (Los Angeles) created paintings for an entire year, the impetus for the series being the myths surrounding the 2012 Mayan prophecies. Produced daily, the project created a ritual in which the artist moved towards both the literal end of the work and the proposed end of the world. Elements of romanticism, ritual, and existentialism are present in the work, as Blade conceals her surfaces with ominous hazes and subsumes her figures into transcendent landscapes. Despite its foreboding premise, the work is not intended to act as a warning, but rather an examination of our relationships to rituals, prophecies, and our own sense of mortality.
Everyday life, literature, psychology, and art history are frequently referenced in Shannon Bool’s (Berlin) work, which takes a range of forms including wall paintings, photograms, collage, and sculpture. Casino Runner (Aztec Inn) (2011) is a twenty-foot-long carpet whose pattern is derived from a wall-to-wall floor covering of an Aztec-themed casino from the 1980s. The casino itself is homage to a relic of American Art Deco, the Aztec Hotel, which continues to operate in Monrovia, California. The hotel exemplifies American Art Deco’s appropriation of the geometric patterns and symbols of ancient Mexican civilizations, and Casino Runner complicates this cross-cultural relationship. Hand-woven by traditional village weavers in Anatolia, Turkey, the carpet alludes to the delirious and sublime experience of entering a casino while simultaneously creating an Eastern interpretation of a Western sensibility.
Since 2009, Heather Goodchild (Toronto) has focused her work on Anna Ward Brouse, an imagined character in a secret society conceived by the artist. Brouse is an amalgamation of several 19th century North American spiritual leaders, and within this constructed narrative Goodchild develops systems, regalia and rituals of Brouse’s visions, using this process to locate meaning within her own desire for spirituality and ritual in a culture lacking religion. In Journey Portrait (2009) and Journey Landscape (2009), Goodchild draws from the rituals and symbolism of Freemasonry, Girl Guides, and childhood games, gathering inspiration from the works of mythologist Joseph Campbell and Alchemical practices. Within a system of symbols and proverbs, the individual rugs outline voyages towards personal fulfillment achieved through sacrifice.
Word play and language figure prominently in the work of Morgan Watt (New York), who arrived at embroidery through his interest in the process of drawing and contemplative, labour intensive practices. Investigating the intersection of drawing and embroidery, Watt became intrigued with medieval tapestries, and his work references methods of communications in the medieval era, in particular battle standards. Works such as Primitive Understanding (2013) relay envisioned conversations amidst the fear and chaos of the battleground. Although the absurdity and humour of these interactions is apparent in the dialogue, anxieties of death and fear are prevalent in the works, with falling arrows alluding to the prospect of death arriving in a violent or abrupt way.
Talk: Death—The Great Motivator in Medieval Art
July 13, 2013
In conjunction with the current exhibition Sunbeams, Carol Knicely will present a related talk: Death—The Great Motivator in Medieval Art.