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189
Stores
sculptural installation, visual perception, realism, plaster and resin sculpture, vegetables in art, what is real?, fake and real, imitation and real, reproducing wood, truth in photography, viewing a work of art, illusion, inedible art,
description

“Welcome to the desert of the real.”
    --Morpheus, The Matrix

There are some works of art that can never be accurately reproduced in photographs. Liz Magor’s Stores is one such work; not only is it a three-dimensional, sculptural installation, but it is also a work of art that plays with our perceptions.  We should not leap to conclusions, but approach with curiosity to carefully examine her work in order to try to understand it.

Magor's Stores

Stores looks “real”... whatever that means. And all things considered, it is real - it is actually material, it is a thing you can find, see, smell.  If it weren’t for its status as a piece of art, you could touch it, too. You could even eat the potatoes behind/underneath the  frontalThe head-on view of a person or object. (Artlex.com)  wall of the piece, if you had to. But just as much as it is real, it is also fake (not genuine).  Because what appears to be wood in this work is actually resin, a compound that has been sculpted and coloured to be almost indistinguishable from wood.

So we might want to be cautious when trusting the photographs of this work, because they are not telling us the whole story. A significant element of Magor’s work, and the work of many artists, whether they acknowledge it or not, is the way in which viewers experience the work and what their assumptions about it are before that experience. Magor’s simultaneous use of the real and the artificial gives us pause when we experience her work.

start quoteFor me, it's counter-intuitive to feel safer in the woods.end quote
-- Liz Magor (Tousley 2000)

It would be easy to evaluate and form opinions of this work were it all real or all fake. If either situation were the case, the work would slip into an existing category very easily; we could say of an entirely fake work that it is an exercise in illusion.  But the work is not simply illusion, because it makes use of real vegetables.  So, how then can we trust that the other component is fake?

This is complicated. It is made even more complicated by the fact that, while the food may be “real” in the sense that there are actual carrots, and actual potatoes included in the installation, they are not edible. That is, because they are a part of a piece of art (although they are replaced with fresh produce each time the piece is exhibited), we cannot simply cook up those potatoes.

This back-and-forth between the real and the artificial is a cornerstone of Magor’s practice.  From her photographs of people in their fantasy costumes (Re-enactors) to her realistic-but-synthetic  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)  objects like sweaters (Carton ii) and mops (Near Clear), Magor delivers our world back to us...but only after tweaking it slightly.

additional resources Things to Think About
  • What do you think of when you think of art representing “reality”?
  • The food used in Stores started out as real food. Do you think it is still “real” food? What might it represent?
  • Does the structure of the front wall in Stores, seemingly torn from the gallery in which the work sits, suggest that the structures around us block that which would feed us?
Advanced Activity
trompe l’oeil painting trompe l’oeil painting
Advanced Activity

An  arts education/history/social studies project

Introduction

Immigrants to Canada often brought all their worldly belongings in a traveller’s trunk, which they brought on ships sailing to Canada. Maybe some people still have these old trunks in attics or basements. Sometimes you can find them in antique shops.
You can see what some of these old trunks looked like at:

Imagine the stories an old trunk could tell if it could speak! Here is a way to have fun and invent a story.  You can also base it on a story from your family, or go to the The Ships List at Canadian Immigration, and find a name from a passenger list of one of the ships to create a character to write about.


Create an old time baggage tag with découpage

Alternatively

  • Create a letter using old-fashioned handwriting and découpage it on the inside of a box so that it looks as if your family has stored it there.  Maybe this is a farewell to your family before you leave for Canada.

  • For example, perhaps the year is (for example) 1887 and you are off to the “wilds of western Canada. You have heard that Saskatchewan is offering land for sale...

 

Online Activity
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Real or faux?

Look at the following pairs of close-up images. 

Compare these pairs of images. Are they the same or different? Click on the appropriate button if you think each  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)  contains “Real” or “Faux” images.

 

Studio Activity

Many websites and D I Y (do it yourself) books give recipes and instructions on “how to”. Check out the HGTV website and do a search for “Faux decorating” or “Faux paint treatment.” (you can also check out the Canadian version of this site at http://www.hgtv.ca)

Create  fauxFrench for false, artificial, fake. English speakers say "faux" to give a high-toned quality to what is often an imitation of a natural material — leather, fur, metal, or stone for example. Although faux materials are usually less expensive than the real thing, there can be other advantages to them: durability, uniformity, weight, colour, and availability perhaps. There can be allegorical advantages too (falsity can have its purposes!) particularly when juxtaposed with opulence. Faux finishes are painted simulations of other materials — the look of their colours and textures. (Artlex.com)  items using different techniques. Try to imitate the original as closely as you can.  Here are some suggestions for items made from the following:

Marble (see the images below!)    

  • Apply over the base and while the paint is wet, use various tools to “marble” the surface. Try to find a marble sample to imitate.  ("Tools" for marbling could be feathers, old sponges, crumpled paper, plastic wrap, or old toothbrushes.)
  • After drying, coat your "marble" with two or three layers of varnish.

Artificial Marble Artifical <span><span style= MarbleA type of stone traditionally used in sculpture and architecture. A metamorphic rock (metamorphosed calcite or dolomite), finely grained, dense, with a nondirectional structure, capable of taking a high polish, and often irregularly veined and colored by impurities. Confusingly, the name marble is sometimes used to refer to any stone that takes a polish, although such stones may include alabasters, granites, and serpentines, as well as true marbles. Mottling or streaking that resembles the veined texture of marble is called marbling. (Artlex.com)  2" /> Artificial <span><span style= MarbleA type of stone traditionally used in sculpture and architecture. A metamorphic rock (metamorphosed calcite or dolomite), finely grained, dense, with a nondirectional structure, capable of taking a high polish, and often irregularly veined and colored by impurities. Confusingly, the name marble is sometimes used to refer to any stone that takes a polish, although such stones may include alabasters, granites, and serpentines, as well as true marbles. Mottling or streaking that resembles the veined texture of marble is called marbling. (Artlex.com)  3"/> Artifical <span><span style= MarbleA type of stone traditionally used in sculpture and architecture. A metamorphic rock (metamorphosed calcite or dolomite), finely grained, dense, with a nondirectional structure, capable of taking a high polish, and often irregularly veined and colored by impurities. Confusingly, the name marble is sometimes used to refer to any stone that takes a polish, although such stones may include alabasters, granites, and serpentines, as well as true marbles. Mottling or streaking that resembles the veined texture of marble is called marbling. (Artlex.com)  4"/> Articial <span><span style= MarbleA type of stone traditionally used in sculpture and architecture. A metamorphic rock (metamorphosed calcite or dolomite), finely grained, dense, with a nondirectional structure, capable of taking a high polish, and often irregularly veined and colored by impurities. Confusingly, the name marble is sometimes used to refer to any stone that takes a polish, although such stones may include alabasters, granites, and serpentines, as well as true marbles. Mottling or streaking that resembles the veined texture of marble is called marbling. (Artlex.com)  5"/>

Metallic objects

Other useful ways to create  fauxFrench for false, artificial, fake. English speakers say "faux" to give a high-toned quality to what is often an imitation of a natural material — leather, fur, metal, or stone for example. Although faux materials are usually less expensive than the real thing, there can be other advantages to them: durability, uniformity, weight, colour, and availability perhaps. There can be allegorical advantages too (falsity can have its purposes!) particularly when juxtaposed with opulence. Faux finishes are painted simulations of other materials — the look of their colours and textures. (Artlex.com)  pieces are trompe l’oeil and découpage.  Découpage was a popular way to decorate furniture and personal items in the 19th Century. See the Advanced Activity page to access an idea for a cross curricular project using the above  “faux” methods.

Studio Activity

Magor is fascinated by the creation of  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)  that imitates other objects as closely as possible, using other kinds of materials. This challenge has interested artists for many hundreds of years. Some people might think this is creating fakery, but the word more commonly used is the word faux. Traditionally, artists and craftsmen made (and still do make)  fauxFrench for false, artificial, fake. English speakers say "faux" to give a high-toned quality to what is often an imitation of a natural material — leather, fur, metal, or stone for example. Although faux materials are usually less expensive than the real thing, there can be other advantages to them: durability, uniformity, weight, colour, and availability perhaps. There can be allegorical advantages too (falsity can have its purposes!) particularly when juxtaposed with opulence. Faux finishes are painted simulations of other materials — the look of their colours and textures. (Artlex.com)  items (items that look like expensive and rare items), using inexpensive materials. Today this idea is often applied in home decorating and fashion jewelry. A  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)  artist such as Magor works to fool the eye (trompe l’oeil) or challenge our notion of what is real!

References

Library and Archives Canada: Women Artists in Canada, Liz Magor. Retrieved from the Internet on February 4th, 2008 at: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/women/002026-515-e.html

Magor, Liz. Liz Magor. with essays by Lucy Hogg ... [et al.]. Toronto : Art Gallery of York University. 2000.

---. Liz Magor. with essays by  GrantFunds dispersed by a granting agency (often a government agency), usually made available to a non-profit agency (like an educational institution) or business to enable the completion of a specific project. Grants usually require an application in the form of a proposal or submission, and may be competitive.  Arnold ... [et al.]. Toronto : Power Plant. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, 2002.

Tously, Nancy. ‘Into the Woods.’ in Liz Magor by Liz Magor.

The Vancouver Art Gallery. 75 Years of Collecting. Retrieved from the internet on February 4th, 2008 at”: http://projects.vanartgallery.bc.ca/publications/75years/pdf/Magor_Liz_63.pdf

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