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Denise Smith, West Wind, 2015, 46 cm h x 50 cm w x 50 cm d Porcelain, under-glaze, glaze and over-glaze with wooden stand

On the Trail: Denise Smith

“Growing up on the edge of Lake Superior, in Thunder Bay, Ontario, amongst giant tracts of wilderness; hiking, canoeing, and camping have always been an essential part of my life and practice. Recently, I have come to question my perspectives on nature, outdoor recreation, and my relationship with National or Provincial Parks. Interactions with the land in these spaces are never unmediated; conceptualizing and compartmentalizing nature for touristic consumption. The much sought after authentic back-to-nature experience is always moderated by manicured gravel covered campsites, portage-route signs, informational plaques, hiking trail maps, and corralled by the boundaries of the park Also, controversial components of the history of these landscapes are carefully curated to cushion dark truths or shameful histories.

Each of my ceramic sculptures is an intricate wilderness scene. The pieces are arranged to create a park-like installation presenting a guided experience of personal and collective narratives about the Canadian park system. I work with commercially produced ceramic molds to reference and parody the kitsch souvenir and utilize the familiarity of kitsch as an “in” for the viewer. Each sculpture is a landscape diorama in the round; the viewer must walk around the whole piece to understand the full story. The sculptures use literary devices such as dramatic irony, parody, and pathetic fallacy to set the scene and convey each narrative. The installation creates the effect of a three-dimensional storybook. Ultimately my work is not about facts so much as it is about subjective human experiences of traveling through the parks.

Denise Smith, Artist.

 

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