Craft Redefined

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Cover up
social commentary, puzzle pieces, biting social comment, cover up, sculpture, form, waste nothing, no waste, transforming art, material waste, “waste not; want not”, questioning technological development, technology and the natural world, impact of technology, male/female relationship, male/female perspectives, aluminum sculptural material, symbols, artist commentary, peace or war, symbol of the fish, chair sculpture, stereotypes, missiles, Christianity, science and technology effects, natural world, enamel paint on sculptural form,
description

Cover Up is quite a piece of biting social commentary, I think.” – Ron McLellan, January 28, 2008.

Besides being a work of social commentary, Cover Up is also an interesting piece of construction. McLellan often uses standard sized sheets of aluminum,  plywoodA type of manufactured wood made from thin sheets of wood veneer.  or dimensional lumber to create “puzzle pieces” where shapes are cut out and either folded out or rearranged to create the new work. He takes special care not to waste any of the material. Conceivably, McLellan’s works like Cover Up could be rearranged to return to the original sheet of material with which he began the project. He particularly emphasizes this point in a work called rit (pronounced: right, or write) in which he carved “at the sign waste nothing” into a piece of wood. Even the sawdust produced by the carving became part of the work.

As you might expect of someone who adheres to this “waste not; want not” philosophy, McLellan questions the common assumption that technological development is always a good thing. He is also concerned with the effects that science and technology have on the natural world, and on relationships among people.

In Cover Up McLellan examines the relationship between men and women in our contemporary, technological world. He presents us with a  domesticRemaining much at home; devoted to home duties or pleasures; as, a domestic man or woman.  Living in or near human habitations; domesticated; tame as distinguished from wild; as, domestic animals.  Made in one's own house, nation, or country; as, domestic manufactures, wines, etc.  One who lives in the family of an other, as hired household assistant; a house servant. Articles of home manufacture, especially cotton goods.  (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  scene, a living room, comprised of objects and symbols  fabricatedIn general, to make; to create. Often more specifically, to construct or assemble something. (Artlex.com)  from cut-out and folded thin-gauge aluminum. The male and female figures depicted sitting in the chairs are surrounded by symbols that speak to the commentary McLellan wants to make.

Christian fish The dominant  symbolVisual image that represents something else.  in Cover Up can be interpreted as either a sign of peace or as a weapon of war. Is it a fish – a common Christian symbol - or is it a missile? This fish/missile symbol is etched into the male chair, and is repeated in the  shadowDark value of a colour made by adding black.  behind the chair. The male  figure1.  The form of a human, an animal or a thing; most often referring to an entire human form.  2.  A person of note (i.e., an important figure in history...)  wears a tie that also displays the fish/missile shape. It also appears in the vase on the table and in the hole cut out of the top of the table.

In contrast, McLellan has painted flower petals on the woman’s chair. Flowers in the vase also convey a more peaceful,  domesticRemaining much at home; devoted to home duties or pleasures; as, a domestic man or woman.  Living in or near human habitations; domesticated; tame as distinguished from wild; as, domestic animals.  Made in one's own house, nation, or country; as, domestic manufactures, wines, etc.  One who lives in the family of an other, as hired household assistant; a house servant. Articles of home manufacture, especially cotton goods.  (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  and cultivated atmosphere. The placement of these contrasting symbols could be interpreted as a simple, stereotypical “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” portrayal of men and women. In this simplistic reading the male is associated with a system that participates in and profits from war, while the female is portrayed as the nurturer and peacekeeper. Perhaps McLellan undermines the stereotype; he has painted a winking eye on the face of the woman.

Above the couple a fish/missile appears to be heading into the sky toward an unseen target. Is this a signal that another war is about to begin, or is it a signal perhaps of the advent of an age of peace based on Christian values? Is it an intercontinental ballistic missile headed for the heavens, or a sign that Christian ideals are in the ascendancy? Or, perhaps, McLellan is saying that Christianity has no place in a society that worships science and the products science produces.

By leaving us with more questions than answers McLellan invites viewers into his world, and asks us to share his ambivalence about what is commonly referred to as “progress.”

additional resources Things to Think About
Advanced Activity

Become a critic (Critical response activity: Arts Education)

  • A story or image that represents another hidden meaning is said to use metaphor.

  • Fairy stories and fables are examples of this. Often the stories can be interpreted in different ways. Literary and visual art critics write about their interpretations of the art or writing they are interested in.

  • Take the story of Cinderella and think about what meaning it might represent. It might depend who you are, as to what interpretation you give. You might decide that the story (beyond what we read) is about the oppression of women, the power of wealth, family values, how to get the “stuff” we desire, etc.
Cinderella

Create a critical response

Motif

Repeated images like the bomb  shapeAn element of art, it is an enclosed space defined and determined by other art elements such as line, colour, value, and texture. In painting and drawing, shapes may take on the appearance of a solid three-dimensional object even though they are limited to two dimensions — length and width. This two-dimensional character of shape distinguishes it from form, which has depth as well as length and width. Examples of shapes include: circle, oval, and oblong; polygons such as triangle, square, rectangle, rhombus, trapezium, trapezoid, pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, octagon, nonagon, decagon, undecagon, dodecagon, etc.; and such other kinds of shapes as amorphous, biomorphous, and concretion. (Artlex.com)  in McLellan’s work are called motifs. Here are some examples of artwork that use motif:

Motif 1 Motif 2
Motif 3 Motif 4

At http://www.artsconnected.org/toolkit/watch_movement_rhythm.cfm you can find an interactive activity on  rhythmPrinciple of design where elements are repeated to create the illusion of movement. There are five kinds of rhythm: random, regular, alternating, progressive and flowing.  in art.  NOTE:  You need Flash installed on your computer to run this activity.  Go to http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/ to download the free Flash player.

Article on  designA plan, or to plan. The organization or composition of a work; the skilled arrangement of its parts. An effective design is one in which the elements of art and principles of design have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity. Also [applied design], the production of attractive and well crafted functional objects. Subcategories of the design arts include: architecture, bonsai, fashion design, furniture design, graphic design, ikebana, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, stagecraft, textile design, and Web page design. (Artlex.com)  (on how to appropriate ideas from art sources involving motif)

Go to http://www.computerarts.co.uk/in_depth/features/stay_fresh! (Stay Fresh! Creating original artwork in a copycat world). This article is about how NOT to create clichés.

Create a  designA plan, or to plan. The organization or composition of a work; the skilled arrangement of its parts. An effective design is one in which the elements of art and principles of design have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity. Also [applied design], the production of attractive and well crafted functional objects. Subcategories of the design arts include: architecture, bonsai, fashion design, furniture design, graphic design, ikebana, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, stagecraft, textile design, and Web page design. (Artlex.com)  for an interior using a motif.

This might be a decorative  designA plan, or to plan. The organization or composition of a work; the skilled arrangement of its parts. An effective design is one in which the elements of art and principles of design have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity. Also [applied design], the production of attractive and well crafted functional objects. Subcategories of the design arts include: architecture, bonsai, fashion design, furniture design, graphic design, ikebana, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, stagecraft, textile design, and Web page design. (Artlex.com)  or it might be a message or idea you want to communicate, similar to how McLellan has us think about an issue through his interior design. You might use any of the following for your motif:

  • wallpaper
  • floor cover
  • soft furnishings
  • furniture shapes

Decide on what  mediaAny material and technique used to produce a work of art (paint, glass, clay, fibre, video, sound, etc.). It may also refer to the liquid with which powdered pigments are mixed to make paint. Note that the plural form of “medium” is “media.”  work to enhance your idea. McLellan used an industrial material. Does this provide another clue to understanding his work?

Advanced Activity

Metaphor and  motifRepeated unit to create visual rhythm.  in visual art

Metaphor: being an “art detective”

The artist has created a  domesticRemaining much at home; devoted to home duties or pleasures; as, a domestic man or woman.  Living in or near human habitations; domesticated; tame as distinguished from wild; as, domestic animals.  Made in one's own house, nation, or country; as, domestic manufactures, wines, etc.  One who lives in the family of an other, as hired household assistant; a house servant. Articles of home manufacture, especially cotton goods.  (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  scene but there are some odd “bomb” shaped objects that are repeated in various parts of the work. Take a minute to zoom into the art work so that you can identify exactly where these are located.

Do you think these might be clues that the artwork is not only about what we see, but  about something else as well? The artist  might be making a comment about living in a society that is influenced by war. Instead of showing a war scene, he shows us a domestic scene, which may or may not continue to be peaceful.

Artists have used these exact ideas in other art forms and art categories. Following are some examples of how artists express points of view:

The introduction describes exactly how an artist using one image to present another idea, works: “This wonderfully wacky  animationGiving movement to a thing. Also, making animated cartoons — films that are also called animations. Types of animation include cel animation, clay animation (also called claymation), and computer animation. (Artlex.com)  film is a look at two simultaneous conflicts; the  macrocosmThe great world; that part of the universe which is exterior to man; -- contrasted with microcosm, or man. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  of global nuclear war and the  microcosmA little world; a miniature universe.  Opposed to macrocosm. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  of a domestic quarrel and how each conflict is resolved”

Online Activity
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McLellan’s work has a strong focus on positive and negative shapes, created through the cutouts.  Explore this approach further by working with the negative/positive activity in the artists’ tool kit from the Minneapolis Institute of Art at:  http://www.artsconnected.org/toolkit/watch_space_positive.cfm

Studio Activity

McLellan makes his sculptural installations by cutting and “folding” one sheet of metal. He is careful not to waste materials. His method creates negative spaces where the cuts are made. His work is a little bit like an elaborate “pop-up” book page.

Experiment with cutouts and pop-ups. The following instructions show how to make a very simple pop-up form.

Now invent more complex pop-ups or cutout designs, considering only using one sheet, cutting and folding without gluing.

Links to pop-up books and designs using cutouts:

References

Ron McLellan: Recent Work.  Exhibition catalogue.  Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1987.

Heisler, Franklyn.  Tables Turned: Aspects of Furniture as Visual Art.  Exhibition catalogue.  Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Banff, Alberta, 1987.

Heisler, Franklyn.  ‘Links to Reality.’  Muttart Art Gallery newsletter, September/October 1989.

Lampard, Eilleen.  Cut It Out.  Exhibition catalogues.  Neutral Ground Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, 1989.

Richmond, Cindy.  Outside Arcady: Four Regina Artists.  Exhibition catalogue.  Swift Current National Exhibition Centre, Swift Current, Saskatchewan, 1989.

White, Peter, Helen Marzolf and Suzanne Probe.  Case Installation Series.  Exhibition catalogue.  Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, 1988.

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