The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Handmade sculptures express the belief that two things can become one

thumb DSC 1470Two figures stand side-by-side, but they are two parts that form a whole. One white, one brown: seamlessly blending in together. The brown rabbit is almost caressing the white ceramic drum.

 It's a simple movement that one often sees and does but takes for granted. It is used as nothing more or less than to show affection.

It may be a single piece of art but it was born from the hands and friendship of two women: Lisa McGrath, the rabbit sculptor, and Mindy Andrews, the ceramic drum creator.

"(I) hope that, for a moment, it makes people think about it to get the humourArtistsMcGrath and Andrews, on the opening night of their collection.

Photo courtesy of Mindy Andrews
and playfulness," Andrews commented on what she wants people to get from their collection.

Out of the box

Andrews was working as a dental assistant when she decided to take an art class at Red Deer College. It was there she found her passion in ceramics.

"It is not only a clump of clay you can make things from, it's the chemistry you can feel from it," she explained.

Having been a professional artist for 11 years now, she said it took eight years to for her to transition from making her signature rectangular-shaped pieces to the variety she now uses - including drums and boxes. This change came from a show in South Korea that she participated in.

After Andrews finished her degree at Alberta College of Art and Design, she went to teach at the Wildflower Arts Centre. There she met McGrath, a fellow teacher, artist and now co-creator.

Year of the rabbit

ArtAffection is the title piece of At Night There are Rabbits, that plays on the artists' friendship.

Photo by Victoria Pizarro
McGrath had been at the art centre for several years teaching but had given up as a professional artist after she had her daughter.

"I continued to dabble and make Christmas gifts but nothing too serious. After my daughter began going to school for the whole day I was able to re-focus on my art."

Andrews was the one that gave the final push that led McGrath to re-discover her personal artistic muse, but it took on a slightly different form.

Before having her daughter, McGrath had sculpted tortoises. But in 2011, the year of the rabbit, she found a different inspiration. While competing in a contest, Alberta in a Box, she identified that zodiac sign – which is also her own – as her new muse.

"I find that rabbits, more then any other animal, are very gestural. They bring up emotions, if people really want to read into the piece they look at the gestures." McGrath said.

It was after the competition that McGrath and Andrews decided to create a collection that plays off their friendship and their two muses.

Affection bleeds from friendship to art

It is then fitting that the title piece for their exhibition, the rabbit caressing the drum, would be named Affection, while their entire collection is entitled At Night There are Rabbits.

Behind each piece is the sense of humor and playfulness that both Andrews and McGrath felt as they created this collection together.

"We said 'let's do it, let's collaborate,' but we wanted to create something together without losing our own strengths," Andrews stated.

According to both artists, this collaboration allowed them to learn and borrow from each other but to never completely lose their own voice. The trick was to find balance and to blend two separate pieces into one artistic form.

Arlene Evans, owner and curator of Evanescence Gallery and Art Studio, hosted the highly anticipated exhibition from Sept. 7 to 30. The exhibit brought out 50 people on its opening night alone.

"This collection was born out of the mutual respect that they have for each other," commented Evans.

This won't be the last time these two friends will collaborate with each other. They have been approved to do another show with the Alberta Craft Council. Their new show will be held next year and is still untitled. Andrews said that decision came naturally.

"We said 'let's do this again,'" Andrews explained, "'but let's go bigger!'"

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