Let's start with a confession:
I am drawn to intensity like a moth to a flame. And I don't think I am alone. Today's society finds something particularly resonant in the notion of "living large". We are attracted to stories of the little guy who makes it big, celebrities, the royal family, disasters and triumphs. Judges on televised competitions urge talented contestants to "leave their hearts on the stage" and to give it all they've got. Audiences want it big and they want it now.
This was my opening paragraph for a project that rolled off the presses just before Christmas. It is the Metal Arts Guild of Canada's Exhibition in Print 2011. This gig was a blast. I developed a menu of show themes for a call for entry. The board of directors of MAGC were my focus group and helped me figure out what would best appeal to their members. We received 165 entries and I was told to cut that down to an elite 21 entries that would be published. That's a rejection rate of 87%.
During the months leading up to the selection period I indulged in research. I read Susan Adam's biography of Vivaldi because he is associated with the advent of the virtuoso performer, the individual standing apart from the crowd and of course Italian opera. - Both instances of "larger than life" art forms. I was in the U.K. for the summer so I feasted on the V&A both its jewellery and metal collections but also studying the jewellery on the Buddhas and other statuary. It was an excuse to revisit the royal jewels at the Tower of London and to romp through contemporary commercial galleries. I visited cathedrals and took special note of their ceremonial vessels. In other words, I had a great deal of fun in the name of research.
When the fall rolled around it was time to do the curatorial work: selecting work and writing the essay. Mary McIntyre and Dianne Karg Baron kept me on course and edited the essay. They were a delight to work with and I really came away with the impression that MAGC was serious about upping its game.
Were there any surprises with the job? What did I learn? I was struck by how the theme was interpreted by the members. And the 4 prizewinners demonstrate this. First place was Paul McClure for his brooch (shown on the cover) that was about the microscopic world that lies beneath our skin. Talk about potent essence. Small object: mega impact. Second prize went to Claudio Pino - my Vivaldi in metal, ornament on ornament, grace notes galore. Third prize went to Karin Jones for her ornamented set of farm tools using a medieval technique originally intended for the testosterone world of royal amour. And the student award went to Heba Kandil for her Apparatus for Revolution, which adorns the fist of resistance in the face of social injustice. Big issues, big ideas with lots of intellectual meat for me to critically engage with.
To see pictures of the prize winning entries, check out the Metal Arts Guild website: http://www.metalartsguild.ca/