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The bright new paint on the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador, on Solomon's Lane at 275 Duckworth St., was an extra welcoming sight for those heading to the venue last Friday for a trio of exhibition openings.
Lisa Downey’s solo exhibition, “Mom Made Us,” brought a splash of radiant pastels into the plain white room. With handmade doll clothes strung on the wall, and a collection of Barbie dolls dressed up in more handmade garments, this exhibition explored one family’s relationship with their mother before her death.
The dolls’ clothes are circa 1950s-70s. Downey’s older sister, Debbie, had been creating pieces under her mother’s guidance, with Downey making her first doll dress from an old pillowcase at the age of seven.
Working with various types of fabrics, threads, ribbons, silk and even human hair, with machine/hand applique and embroidery, the happy colours featured in this exhibit were contrasted by the heavy story of Downey’s mother’s illness, leading to her death.
An especially moving piece was “Mom Made Us Grieve,” featuring a hearse pulling away. Downey described watching a friend collapse sobbing into her mother’s arms — “I realized I couldn’t do that anymore.”
In the Lab Gallery, curator Emily Critch brought together a slew of artists for “mitsujuk | kussikuashu | kpitni'sewet | they sew.” Various works were on display, including beaded jewelry made with miyuki delica beads by Alex Antle, tea dolls with imitation hide, fabrics, embroidery and black tea by Melissa Tremblett, moosehide slippers by Vanessa Flowers and a handmade quilt by Flora May.
The works, representing Ktaqamkuk, Nunatsiavut, NunatuKavut and Nitassinan, navigate the history of these ancestral lands and allow the artists to use their chosen mediums to share knowledge and tradition, as it was passed down to them through previous generations.
Curated by Bruno Vinhas, the Main Gallery group exhibition is an exploration of the intertwined relationship of craft and folklore, especially folklore transmitted through word of mouth, to be represented by a physical object.
“Crafted Beasts” examines provincial, indigenous, and Western European folklore, and how those tales have changed or been adapted over the years, with each retelling.
All part of the Duckworth Cryptozoological Society, Graham Blair personifies “The Old Hag” as a silkscreen on cotton paper.
Charlene Denief details “Witch Bottles” in a series of paintings and gouache on paper.
Tucker Ellis became “a changeling that survived,” creating a wearable artwork of singed leather and copper thread.
Janet Peter’s “Saltwater Demon,” of needle felting, acrylic, foam and wool, was perfectly presented in a wooden cage.
For “Cressie,” Michael Harlick combined forged metal and found bone to build a spooky sculpture one certainly would not want to encounter in the deep, dark waters.
Vicky Northley worked in a number of mediums, sculpting stoneware clay and paper clay and adding LED lights for a “Possessed Ship.”
Stephanie Stoker’s “MerMade” was created with on-loom weaving, sculpture, natural dye, bark, fibres and found objects.
Susan Furneaux also worked with found objects, recalling stories from her grandmother while explaining the taxonomy of fairies.
Renee Holloway’s felted “The Blue Lady” had sold prior to the show’s opening, while Anita Singh’s crocheted Kraken was installed nearby, waiting for a buyer with a giant wall and an affinity for the oceanic.
Perhaps the best review of this exhibition comes from the mouths of babes — in this case, a 10-year-old in attendance: “This is creeping me out, Nan.”
These three exhibitions will be on display at the Craft Council until Nov. 17.
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