Environmental Matters

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Sleeper #4
sculpture, doll, casting, deep retreat, marginalize, marginalization, observer, sleep, nest, shelter, makeshift shelter, society, homeless, fugitive, hiding, little worlds, escape to nature, peace in nature,ambivalence, counter-intuitive,real, unreal, truth, urban, natural,
description

Walking into an art gallery and seeing this  sculptureA three-dimensional work of art, or the art of making it. Such works may be carved, modeled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, and relief, and made in a huge variety of media. A sculptor is one who creates sculptures. (artlex.com)  can be a bit challenging. It, and the two others like it in the MacKenzie Art Gallery collection, are disheveled in appearance and installed where the floor meets the wall, their backs to the viewer. They could have carelessly landed there; they appear to be out of place, unimportant, hiding in a corner. They are ‘marginalized’ sculptures and few viewers stoop to observe them more closely. Magor confirmed her intent with the Sleepers in an interview with Nancy Tousley: “They are about people in deep retreat, so deep that they almost can’t be retrieved.”(Tousley, 2000)

Sleeper #4 in the MacKenzie Art Gallery  collectionTo collect is to accumulate objects. A collection is an accumulation of objects. A collector is a person who makes a collection. (Artlex.com)  is one of a  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 works that are small in  scaleThe proportion between two sets of dimensions.  and similar to the one shown here. The works are composed of a doll’s head with the body tightly enshrouded in a cast blanket-like form. The doll’s hair colour, the ‘blanket’  colourProduced by light of various wavelengths, and when light strikes an object and reflects back to the eyes. Colour is an element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the colour name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a colour, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a colour. When the spectrum is organized as a color wheel, the colours are divided into groups called primary, secondary and intermediate (or tertiary) colours; analogous and complementary, and also as warm and cool colours. Colours can be objectively described as saturated, clear, cool, warm, deep, subdued, grayed, tawny, mat, glossy, monochrome, multicolored, particolored, variegated, or polychromed. Some words used to describe colours are more subjective (subject to personal opinion or taste), such as: exciting, sweet, saccharine, brash, garish, ugly, beautiful, cute, fashionable, pretty, and sublime. Sometimes people speak of colours when they are actually refering to pigments, what they are made of (various natural or synthetic substances), their relative permanence, etc. (Artlex.com)  and the  formIn its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it. Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms. Also, all of the elements of a work of art independent of their meaning. Formal elements are primary features which are not a matter of semantic significance — including colour, dimensions, line, mass, medium, scale, shape, space, texture, value; and the principles of design under which they are placed — including balance, contrast, dominance, harmony, movement, proportion, proximity, rhythm, similarity, unity, and variety. (Artlex.com)  of the body vary slightly from piece to piece. In this work, the  surface(an element of art) The outer or topmost boundary or layer of an object. Colours on any surface are determined by how incident rays of light strike it, and how a surface reflects, scatters, and absorbs those rays. The material qualities of a surface, as well as its form and texture further determine how it is seen and felt. (artlex.com) See also texture.  of the ‘blanket’ has a  textureThe quality of surface in a finished artwork; note that this can apply to painting in describing the way that the paint is applied to the canvas or other support; to sculpture in describing the way that the material used is made smooth or rough; or to video in describing the way that the light-based image is either smooth or visibly broken up into pixels.  imprinted on it and some colouration. The doll has short blond hair hanging over her face. Lucy Tousley quotes Magor as saying, “They are a touch morbid because they are so permanently bound up. They look like they are wrapped in blankets but in fact they are cast into solid rubber plugs. They‘re in a deep, deep sleep.“(Tousley, 2000)

start quoteMany artists- if you look at a long stretch of work- they are hoeing the same row, for many decades.end quote-- Liz Magor (Cybermuse)

The sleepers could have been captured in the bonds. Conversely, the sleepers could be bound up of their own making, bound in their own little worlds oblivious to the world around them. As writer Michael Scott interprets the works, ”Sleep too soundly in your nest, they seem to say, and the nest can smother you.” (Scott, 1999)

Sleeper #4 was part of an exhibition titled, Sleeping Rough. Human shelter was the underlying theme of the exhibition, but it was not about your typical suburban home. It was about makeshift shelters, anywhere that could provide protection from the elements for people who are fugitives, homeless or otherwise overlooked by society. The idea for the exhibition came to Magor when she saw a ‘wanted’ poster for someone who was hiding in the woods.

Escaping to nature when times get tough or finding rejuvenation and peace in nature are ideas that appeal to Magor. These are ideas she shares with many other people, states writer Michael Scott: “Magor found an element of purity in the idea of striking off into the woods, in search of a place where you would no longer be jerked around by your neighbour, your children or your boss.” (Scott, 1999) But in a real sense hiding away in the wild is a dangerous undertaking and as Magor says in an interview with Nancy Tousley, ”For me, it’s counter-intuitive to feel safer in the woods.”(Tousley, 2000)

This ambivalence or uncertainty of meaning is central to Magor’s practice: the contradictions between real and unreal, urban and natural, safe and unsafe, the truth and what the viewer may want to believe, are all areas of interest in Magor’s work.

additional resources Things to Think About
  • Do you like to be by yourself? What are some of the positive results of having time alone without distractions? Are you an extrovert or an introvert?
  • The "sleeper's" appearance is not refined or "beautiful" as many works of art are. Why would Magor make the appearance as she did? Why would she have the sleeper lying on the floor? How would you describe what you see? Could Sleeper #4 be about death?
  • What do the choices made by Magor in Sleeper #4 infer about the state of the natural environment?
  • Magor states in a 1976 interview with Alvin Balkind, "I do art because it makes me feel good, but sometimes it makes me feel awful. It's a constant up and down." (Balkind, 1977) Have you ever experienced these opposites when making an artwork?
  • Do you ever romanticize nature and dream of living a more simplified life away from the fast-paced routines of urban life?
  • As children, Magor and her brother built forts. These were safe places for them to escape to from the events of the world. Did you have a fort or a special private place to go as a child? What was it about that place that was special?
Advanced Activity

More about Liz Magor:

Online Activity Studio Activity

Much of what Magor does relates to combining the real and the unreal and not being able to immediately determine a difference between the two.

Explore the process of creation and destruction

  • Take photos or video of this process, over time.

Early in her career Magor used a lot of  foundAn image, material, or object, not originally intended as a work of art, that is obtained, selected, and exhibited by an artist, often without being altered in any way. The cubists, dadaists, and surrealists originated the use of found images / materials / objects. Although it can be either a natural or manufactured image / material / object, the term readymade refers only to those which were manufactured. Also known in the French, objet trouvé. (Artlex.com)  objects from nature in her work. Find objects from nature that have been left behind in the wild. Examples may include feathers, skeletons, seed pods, shells, skins, larva, and eggs.

  • You may want to draw and paint them and make a statement about living in nature.
  • Photography might be another option.
  • Try to do something new that you have not tried before.

Making multiples - Detecting difference

  • NOTE:  Remember to always carve away from yourself.
  • Think about how you are carving out the shapes and try to remain consistent in your direction and style.

Exploring process

Magor comments on her practice in a 1976 interview with Alvin Balkind, “I can’t even think in a  two-dimensionalHaving height and width, but no depth; flat. (Artlex.com)  way, I don’t even do sketches for sculpture.” (Balkind 1977)

  • Decide to do two different art projects.
  • For the other, gather some materials and start working without a plan or preconceived idea. Work intuitively and let your ideas and resulting art work progress as you manipulate your materials.
References

Balkind, Alvin. Four Places: Allan Detheridge, Gathie Falk, Liz Magor, An Whitlock. Exhibition catalogue. The Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia, 1977.

Hogg, Lucy, Reid Shier, Nancy Tousley. Liz Magor. Art Gallery of York University, Toronto and Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia, 2000.

Johnson, Mia. ‘Liz Magor.’ Preview, the Gallery Guide. Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia.

Scott, Michael. ‘Sleeping Rough From an Artist’s Point of View.’ Vancouver Sun, 1999.

Smith, Brenda Lee. Unpublished manuscript, MacKenzie Art Gallery, 2000.

Tousley, Nancy. ‘Liz Magor.’ Canadian Art, Spring 2000.

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