Liz Magor

About the Artist

The making is part of the structure and the structure leads to the meaning. There's a kind of intelligence in the materials and an intelligence in the methodology that I have to respect... I don't work towards meaning as much as I observe structures that exist, either physically with objects, or unphysically, between people. And I see a correlation between those things.
--Liz Magor

Liz Magor was born in 1948, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her family soon moved to British Columbia, where she grew up and eventually attended art school. She began her artistic career while studying art at the University of British Columbia, Parson’s School of Design (in New York), and the Vancouver School of Art (now the Emily Carr University of Art and Design).

Since then, Magor has become an important sculptor in Canada and internationally, notably representing Canada at the international arts festivals The Venice Biennale (Italy, 1984) and Documenta VIII (Germany, 1987). While furthering her sculpture- and photography-based practice, she has also taught at universities and colleges across Canada, from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design to the University of Victoria.

The roots of Magor’s recent work can be seen in the beginnings of her practice. During the 1970s, she established her interest in the use of  spaceSpace can be the area around, within or between images or elements. Space can be created on a two-dimensional surface by using such techniques as overlapping, object size, placement, colour intensity and value, detail and diagonal lines.  and material. While these are arguably the two ingredients of all sculpture, Magor’s emphasis on them was one of transformation rather than solidity. Her Bird Nest Kits from 1975, for example, and her  seriesA number of things or events standing or succeeding in order, and connected by a like relation; sequence; order; course; a succession of things; as, a continuous series of calamitous events. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  of “natural multiples” made use of found, organic materials. Her further use of natural substances would lead to works such as Stores (presented on the ARTSask website), a combination of natural, organic materials and synthetic/manufactured ones. These mixed-media works underscore the transformation central to Magor’s practice, for as the natural materials quickly wither or rot and need replacing, the synthetic materials do not. As such, the reality of these synthetic components is called into question.

The ways in which we perceive reality are also important to Magor. She uses materials to recreate some objects in her works (such as the wall in Stores) while using the actual objects themselves in others. Not surprisingly, viewers encountering her work often have to spend time figuring out whether the thing they are looking at is a “real” potato or not. Magor remarks on this, suggesting that as people, “we accept the artificial to meet our desire for [the authentic].”

In other words, if you long too hard for the truth, you’re likely to believe anything.


Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning