BROTHERS IN BROWN

Brothers in Brown by Dan Nuttall
Brothers in Brown by Dan Nuttall

As a recovering catholic I like the role that subversive art can play in questioning the dogma of the church. Here, the twinning and reversal of one of the images is a simple device that creates two men, identical twins. The title, offers another form of twinning, in the form of double meaning as Brothers (ecclesiastical) or brothers (siblings). The mirroring (used here as a psychological term) can be seen as a form of mimicked behaviour (we imitate the gestures of others during conversation to establish a rapport for example). Such replication may increase intimacy and enhance connection. Certainly many men have connected through the church and their faith however we tend to have their sexual sides overshadow their spiritual. Is there a spiritual or religious tale of two men in love in the context of organized religion?

Somehow, the flipping of the image also created a cat-head vase in a floral headdress in the middle. Is this some accident or could it be the hand of god?

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Capturing Nature

Dan Nuttall, A Bird in the Hand, proposed poster for The Women's Global Call for Climate Justice.
Dan Nuttall, A Bird in the Hand, proposed poster for The Women’s Global Call for Climate Justice.

When you spend a lot of time around something, anything, you pick up its shape, its various curves, its colour in different lights, its scent, its boundaries from different angles. The more you look, the more you know, the more you can intuit. Think of birds for example. When I look at bird art I can tell how familiar the artist truly is with the species in question. I recently picked up some ceramic nuthatches by Lisa Creskey which were for sale at Craft Ontario on Queen Street, in Toronto. Deceptively simple little “lumps” of clay – as coy as nature herself – they resonate in the hand and stir in the heart.  I have a thing about birds in the hand. I get the same feeling when I look at work by Susie Osler. Osler’s “Objects for the Hand and Heart” are winsome, attentive yearnings brimming with life’s energy. Again, an artist so much at attention that her vocabulary allows the creation of new living things, new and resonant forms of nature.

One day, in Mexico, I looked out my window to see two small forms on the ground. One of the forms flew away – rocketing over the decomposing rock walls of my yard – a Ruddy Ground Dove. The other, I picked up and held as it died – the world above the two of us still captured in its moist reflecting eye.

Palm Tree by Marie Finkelstein
Palm Tree by Marie Finkelstein

I painted my feeling for that bird and gave it a gaze that would allow it to ask for an eternity. Later I proposed the painting as poster for The Women’s Global call for Climate Justice – part of a campaign to raise awareness as a lead up to their conference this fall in Paris, France.

The dove that died had been feeding on the ground under a native Yucatan palm tree. I have spent a lot of time around palm trees – planted a few, cut a few down, drank palm wine, gathered palm seeds, and gazed at them in gob-smacked admiration. Looking at the work of Marie Finkelstein, recently on view at Gallery 1313,  I have the same feeling again. She has spent time gazing and knows the movement of a frond, the slight sway of a trunk, how to make the palm as strong as the sky. How to make a tree formidable in concert with a blazing sun and inky shadows. The show closed yesterday, but Marie’s work may be found online and, does what I feel great artists do  – capture life in their hands and raise it like a glass to our lips, to quench the psyche, our eyes and stomachs and hearts. 

The Artist Project

Shore Lines acrylic on wood panel 4 x 8'
Shore Lines
acrylic on wood panel
4 x 8′

Very excited to be accepted into the 2016 juried contemporary art fair, The Artist Project, in Toronto at the Better Living Centre at the Exhibition Place, on February 18-21. My painting “Shore Lines” will be there and I hope you’ll drop by my booth and say hello. More here.

the-artist-project

Meet Art… Your New Roommate

Man Choking Weasel
Man Choking Weasel by Dan Nuttall
Nuttall_Dan_Woman-Stealing-Egg-web
Woman Stealing Egg by Dan Nuttall

ʻMany contemporary exhibitions focus with grim earnestness on the difficulties of social justice, environmental degradation or economic inequity. Adding humor to the equation dismantles the sense of insistent authority and reminds us that we are all complicit in these inequities. Humour can offer an astute as well as cathartic and even magical way to deal with big issuesʼ (Coblentz, 2009, sourced here).

I have no idea how some pieces come about. After drawing the weasel I realized it was floating in mid air. So, I added some hands for support. Somehow or other the hands seemed to suggest that the weasel might be getting choked. So, I called it “Man Choking Weasel”. Like many relationships between human and non-human animals it seems very enigmatic: Why would anyone be holding let alone choking a weasel? Of course, weasels have an unfortunate name to start with. I decided I needed a companion piece and I wanted this one to be enigmatic too. My subsequent thoughts were rural, farm based and gendered. So, we have a woman stealing an egg. A fairly big egg.

These two images, like still frames from an as-yet-to-be imagined film, allow the viewer to make up the story. Does this allow for a level of participation that may not be found in other forms of art? While we might from time to time situate ourselves in a painting, we rarely take the time to build a larger story. The typical amount of time in front of a piece of art is a mere 15-30 seconds. It’s hard to build a narrative from such a short exposure, but on the other hand, maybe the capacity to build a narrative is based on the psychic impact or the “relatability” of the piece rather than the temporal commitment.

Unlike public galleries the pieces we choose to place in our homes receive a different temporal and psychic complement. Like the people we choose to have in our lives pieces of art interact with us in both incidental and strategic ways. At a recent art event in Toronto I happened upon a beautifully executed work that captured some of the horror of war. I loved it, but couldn’t live with it. It belonged somewhere – just not too close to me. I could feel its weight, its importance – but it would be like living with a continuously looping war movie splayed on a wall in your home.

So perhaps when we think of inviting Art over we should consider whether he is staying for a short visit, is a potential roommate or a life partner. Art can be a light-hearted guest, and this bodes well for long term relationships.

Man Choking Weasel / Woman Stealing Egg, 9 x 12″, oil pastel on archival paper, framed. These works will be shown at Black Cat Artspace, 2186 Dundas Street West, from November 26th to December 31st in the Salon of Inclusiveness II, Holiday Show + Sale. Say hello to Art for me!  Or, for additional works or queries, visit me at my website or on Facebook.