Thursday, 4 November 2010

New work by Grace Nickel

Grace Nickel, a new assistant professor in Ceramics at the School of Art, recently saw her sculpture Donors’ Forest unveiled at the Beechwood National Cemetery of Canada in Ottawa. The piece was commissioned for the entrance-way to the new Memorial Centre that opened at the Beechwood Cemetery in 2008.


(* note i couldn't get a large enough image of the piece discussed, sorry)

Her sculpture, consisting of a series of porcelain tree trunks resonant of birch trees, includes a seven-foot tall, forked tree sitting in the centre of her Donors Forest. The tree mimics the Y-shaped wooden columns in the Memorial Centre’s Sacred Space.

“For my Donors’ Forest, I chose to work in the tradition of the commemorative tree. The inscriptions on the trees’ surface commemorate the soldiers, poets, politicians, and the cultural diversity of the Canadians buried at the Beechwood Cemetery,” Nickel said in her artist’s statement.

The piece simultaneously exudes a warmth that the viewer finds inviting, a place, perhaps, to find solace. But the austerity of subject ultimately interrupts the onlooker’s reverie, forcing her to reflect on a different set of emotions.

“The commissioned piece recognized the generosity of donors who made the new Memorial Centre possible, but for me it also had to commemorate the contribution of people who have gone before us. I’d say what was most poignant for me was the recognition of the young soldiers in the military cemetery.”

Images of monuments in the cemetery have been transferred onto the tree. Nickel inscribed lines from a poem by Archibald Lampman, a quote from Tommy Douglas’s epitaph: “Courage my friends, ‘tis not too late to make a better world,” and excerpts from John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields, in English and French. There is also an image of the entrance marker to the Chinese section of the cemetery as well as leaves and other plant matter Nickel collected on the cemetery grounds embedded in the porcelain; the organic matter burned off in the kiln-firing, but its impressions remain.

via link

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