Recorders and Keepers

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The Pink Pantry
ceramics, large-scale sculptural work, mixed media, making the familiar strange, vegetables in art, memory, food and life, garden vegetables, garden as metaphor, pink pantry, clay, garden produce, gathering garden produce, gardening, safe food storage, preserves, kiln firing, glaze, glazed ceramic, nostalgia, social history, traditions, wooden pantry, food storage, cultural traditions, family traditions, food preservation, history of the prairies, jars, canning foods, survival on the farm, survival on the prairies, prairie winter, store food, organizing food storage, photo-realistic painting, painting clay,canning, sealers,sealer jar, idea and material become one, domestic construct, food storage, ceramics, vegetables, preserved food, storable food, sealers, gardens, pantry, preserves, domestic objects, survival, cultural tradition, clay sculpture, pink pantry,
description

With Pink Pantry, Vic Cicansky has used  ceramicsPottery or hollow clay sculpture fired at high temperatures in a kiln or oven to make them harder and stronger. Types include earthenware, porcelain, stoneware, and terra cotta. (Artlex.com)  to create a scene that is familiar to many people in Saskatchewan and yet, in this case, also slightly alien. He has taken the everyday and begun to transform it into the bizarre.

Cicansky has made vegetables, books, baskets and jars from clay, which is a mixture of fine-grained soils and clay minerals. Of course, one can also realize that the actual vegetables these sculptures represent were grown in a mixture of earth and soil containing minerals, so perhaps Cicansky’s choice of ideas to use with the  clayMud; moist, sticky dirt. In ceramics, clay is the basic material, usually referring to any of a certain variety of mixtures of such ingredients — fine-grained, firm earthy material that is plastic when wet, brittle when dry, and very hard when heated. There is a temperature with ceramic clays at which their particles fuse (vitrification), and this is most commonly controlled by heating (firing) them in a kiln. The most common types of ceramic clays are earthenware (terra cotta when fired, terra cruda when not), stonewares, and porcelain. (Artlex.com)  materials isn’t so far-fetched. Through the use of  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 photorealistic  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  techniques, he has disguised his clay materials as organic garden produce and has placed them in a pantry painted pink, as colourful and unexpected as the mock-vegetables themselves.

start quoteMy work reflects the garden, which is a passion of mine.end quote
-- Victor Cicansky (ARTSask 2007)

The pantry is 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)  construct; it is used to store food, to shelve and categorize it, to keep it orderly. The pantry’s association with food storage is especially important on the prairies, where canning, the preservation of food on farms without electricity, was crucial for survival.  Today it remains an important cultural  traditionTradition is the passing along of a culture from generation to generation, especially orally. Or, a custom or set of customs handed down in this way. The idea of heritage is related to that of tradition. Any activity — as a pattern of celebration, ritual, or other behaviour, etc. — is traditional once it is a precedent influencing comparable activities in the future. (Artlex.com)  for many, and is reappearing as a popular room being built in  contemporaryCurrent, belonging to the same period of time. Usually referring to our present time, but can refer to being current with any specified time. (Artlex.com)  homes.

The material Cicanksy uses to create the foods in the pantry is clay.  Indeed, the jars that  lineA mark with length and direction(-s). An element of art which refers to the continuous mark made on some surface by a moving point. Types of line include: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, straight or ruled, curved, bent, angular, thin, thick or wide, interrupted (dotted, dashed, broken, etc.), blurred or fuzzy, controlled, freehand, parallel, hatching, meandering, and spiraling. Often it defines a space, and may create an outline or contour, define a silhouette; create patterns, or movement, and the illusion of mass or volume. It may be two-dimensional (as with pencil on paper) three-dimensional (as with wire) or implied (the edge of a shape or form). (Artlex.com)  the top three shelves of the Pink Pantry are representations of a process called canning, a method of preserving food, where the food is sealed in an airtight container called a sealer that results in a safely storable food identified as a “preserve”...

Cicansky’s food is ceramic, has been  firedTo fire is a process of applying heat to make hard pottery in either an oven or an ovenlike enclosure called a kiln. Also the means of fixing colours to ceramic surfaces. (Artlex.com)  in a  kilnA special oven or furnace that can reach very high temperatures and is used to bake, or fire clay. Kilns may be electric, gas, or wood-fired. (Artlex.com) To see some examples of wood-firing kilns, go to the Wood Firing Kiln Gallery at: http://www.woodfiring.com/KILNS.html. For information on salt-firing kilns, go to About Salt Firing at: http://www.glenfarmpottery.com/AboutSaltFiring.htm.  at high temperatures, and will not rot away like the food it represents. We might therefore suspect that Cicansky isn’t actually advocating the preservation of food, but is instead recommending the preservation of culture, or ritual, or heritage, or tradition. The books in the pantry, labeled “Seeds,” “Onions,” “Insects,” etc., imply that there is a collective knowledge that should also be preserved and stored, just as the preserves above the books have been preserved and are being stored on the pantry shelves. Therefore, the method of gathering garden produce using baskets, the knowledge of the food contained in the books, and the storage of that “food-as-culture” are the forms of preservation that Cicansky is suggesting, as he explores and plays with our ideas of the  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 the nostalgic.

additional resources Interview with Timothy Long - Funk Art and the Regina Clay Movement
Duration: 3:35 min
Size: 15193kb
On the Connection Between Art and Gardens
Duration: 1:46 min
Size: 3364kb
On the Root Cellar
Duration: 2:47 min
Size: 4830kb
On the Technical Side of Art
Duration: 2:14 min
Size: 3682kb
On Why He Uses Vegetables in His Art
Duration: 2:36 min
Size: 6996kb
On Why He Works with Clay
Duration: 2:50 min
Size: 4816kb
Things to Think About
Advanced Activity

Social studies/health link (middle years)

Find out how early prairie settlers grew their own vegetables and fruit.

Canning Canning

  • How did they prepare and store them for winter?


  • What clues can you find to help you by looking at the image of Cicansky’s work?


  • Many people continue to enjoy growing and preserving food. Where could you see examples in your community?


  • Here is a link to a prairie heritage garden, Mennonite Heritage Village: http://www.mennoniteheritagevillage.ca/gardens.html.


  • And here is a website about Saskatchewan heritage crops (this also includes a teacher’s section with lesson plans): http://www.evergreen.ca/en/lg/h-spring.html.

Notice that Cicansky has made  clayMud; moist, sticky dirt. In ceramics, clay is the basic material, usually referring to any of a certain variety of mixtures of such ingredients — fine-grained, firm earthy material that is plastic when wet, brittle when dry, and very hard when heated. There is a temperature with ceramic clays at which their particles fuse (vitrification), and this is most commonly controlled by heating (firing) them in a kiln. The most common types of ceramic clays are earthenware (terra cotta when fired, terra cruda when not), stonewares, and porcelain. (Artlex.com)  “books” about gardening on the shelves in The Pink Pantry. What do gardeners worry about? What topics do you think are important to gardeners?

Long-term activity: Create your own attractive “vegetable” landscape.

Vic Cicansky likes gardening. He has  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)  inspiration in gardening that he transfers to his art practice.

Grow a small garden at home or at school.

Flowers

As an extension, look at Dutch and French 17th and 18th century  still lifeA picture of inanimate objects. Common still life subjects include vessels, food, flowers, books, clothing. (artlex.com)  paintings of food.

The average peasant diet of the time consisted of very simple foods such as porridge, course breads, dried beans and turnips with the occasional meal of meat or fish. The sumptuous paintings created during this time were  commissionedA contract between an artist and an individual. The artist agrees to create an image or design for the individual for a predetermined price.  by wealthy merchants and upper-class members of society who wished to show how wealthy and powerful they were by displaying pictures of rare and expensive foods.

Do you think that we promote food in the same way today?

Online Activity
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Create a  virtualExisting not in actual fact or form, but in essence or effect in the mind, especially as a product of the imagination or of illusion. (Artlex.com)  pantry.

Studio Activity

Most people buy their produce at a grocery store and stash it out of sight in the refrigerator or cupboard. Cicansky’s artwork The Pink Pantry shows us a glimpse into traditional ways of preserving foods and storing them nearby for easy access.

Consider the following:

Small communities often produced their own cookbooks that, besides recipes, contained helpful hints, stories, poems, and local wise sayings. Here is a typical proverb “recipe” found in a Saskatchewan cookbook that invokes the feeling of pride in growing and preparing food, and of being surrounded by plenty. It is a feeling that is also conveyed through Cicansky’s artwork that shows food carefully arranged and cared for, ready to serve a family.

A happy home recipe

4 cups of love 5 spoons of hope
2 cups of loyalty 2 spoons of tenderness
3 cups of forgiveness 4 quarts of faith
1 cup of friendship 1 barrel of laugh

Take love and loyalty, mix it thoroughly with faith.

Blend with tenderness, kindness and understanding.

Add friendship and hope, sprinkle abundantly with laughter.

Bake it with sunshine.

Serve daily with generous helpings.

(from the Catholic Church Cookbook, Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, p. 22)

(see also Recipe for Happiness)

Look carefully at Cicansky’s work and make a list of all the vegetables you can find.  Do you have favourites among them?  Are any of the vegetables unfamiliar to you?
 
Recipe books as a visual art resource

Browse through recipe books and magazines, and look at illustrations of food or watch cooking shows on TV.  If you do not have any recipe books at home, you can find some in your local library, or you can search for recipe websites on the Internet.  Here are some web sites to get your started:

Art designers  setThe hardening process of paint, plaster of Paris, concrete, resin, an adhesive, or any other material which must harden before working with it further. (Artlex.com)  up food in displays to show the ingredients at their best, through careful placement and lighting.

  • Set up your own food/recipe display based on your research.
References

Cicansky, Victor.  1972. Review of "Contemporary Ceramics II" exhibition in Tokyo, Japan for ArtsCanada Magazine, Issue No. 166/167/168.

Kerr, Don.  The Garden of Art:  Vic Cicansky, Sculptor.  Calgary, Alberta:  University of Calgary Press, 2004.

Illyas Pagonis.  1974.  Fired Sculpture. Exhibition catalogue. Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia.

Phillips, Carol A. 1980. 'Victor Cicansky.' in The Continental Clay Connection, Maija Bismanis. Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan.

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