Having lost my father eight years ago, the title of Sherry Walchuk's show at ARCH 2 Gallery caught my attention immediately. For My Dad is an installation, including cardboard sculptures and pencil crayon drawings, inspired by her father's morose yet measured decision to follow in his own father's footsteps by dying at the age of sixty via heart attack in a K-Mart. The motivation for the work came from a desire to create a space for her father to prepare for death, but also to push past it, and move forward. As the story was being told to me by the artist herself, I could not help but fall for the disarming and sincere way she recounted the path to the present work. A map of the installation, crudely thumbtacked to the wall with rough notes highlighting key thoughts about various elements, is there for her as much as it is for us. Many of the sculptural elements found scattered around the deck are repurposed for this exhibition: the grey refrigerator tomb Mud, patio lanterns, Cat the dog, pet houses, Yellow the cat, and Whiskey – the yoga-practicing dog.
Sherry Walchuck, For My Dad (detail) (photo: G. L'Heureux)
Climbing into a cardboard RV, bathed in a sea of minty green and warm lights, I instantly felt as though I was a character in the artist's deeply considered world. I sat on the couch, on the bed, and in the driver's seat; I looked into the closets and found it surprisingly simple to "get there" in my mind. In reality, the interior is the exterior free from decoration. The actual "rooms" are suggested, but the artist doesn't mind if they are treated as such. The RV is a blank slate, a space for containment, and a practice room for the imminent, unavoidable outcome of death.
That the work can function as playful when dealing with such weighted subjects as death, sense of place (home), and containment, is praiseworthy. Walchuk has engaged in her role as child and seamlessly incorporated its creative tools into her process. For My Dad is a deeply personal project that finds a way to extend beyond the personal. On the surface, she has assembled play-forts out of cardboard and tape, composed pencil crayon drawings of the outside world (housed in plastic binder sleeves), and created a moveable, penetrable sun. Digging deeper, Walchuk has formed an animated, touching world blanketed in safety, and warmth.
ARCH 2 Gallery: http://umanitoba.ca/architecture/
Sherry Walchuk: For My Dad continues until December 15.
Lisa Kehler is a writer and curator from Winnipeg. She most recently co-authored the forthcoming publication Art Tomorrow: 40 Years of the Future Now (Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art 1972 - 2012). She holds a Masters in Cultural Studies: Curatorial Practices from the University of Winnipeg and is currently the Special Projects Director at Border Crossings. She is Akimblog's Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @LisaKehler on Twitter.
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