The Canadian Art Database

Gary Michael Dault

With David Gilhooly in the Frog World (1972)

artscanada #166/167/168, Spring 1972.
[ 1,197 words ]

1. The Frog World is a complex and absorbing cosmology conceived, constructed, and continually being added to by David Gilhooly who, among the other accomplishments for which he is well known, must also be ac-counted he who slips into the Ironic Mode more fully and more subtly than it has been undertaken since Swift (maybe Blake). Within minutes of my arrival at his country home near Aurora, Ontario, we were talking of some very peculiar things: I had mentioned that his replacing the human beings in his ceramic situations and tableaux with frogs gave him a satirist's leeway in the depicting of whatever potentially upsetting images he wanted in his work; Gilhooly replied 'Frogs can do anything. They're completely free of all taboos, or more exactly, they have different ones than the hangups we have, the hunting for food being an especially powerful one (it leads to a whole lot of possessive things) . . .well frogs don't have to do that, they take in nourishment through osmosis; they live in a very hot humid world, a world pretty much like our own, the continent shapes are a bit different (Gilhooly is currently working on a large detailed relief map of Frog World) but pretty generally it's the same earth except that the souls have come down and taken frog bodies rather than human ones; and they go through many of the same things we do . . . they have different sorts of orientations — for example they eat really only for pleasure, not for nourishment . . . eating is something that they have really evolved away . . . they take in nourishment by osmosis since their air is pretty much laden with little organisms and the sun is much more intense, there is less of a magnetic layer around The Frog World so that a lot fewer cosmic rays are cut out, a lot more of the sun's rays come in to the earth of Frog World.'

2. The Frog World, as it began to turn out, was a complete mythological structure, a mental place which had connections with literature's Green Worlds, underworlds of archetypal unconscious, child-worlds of fantastic divisionless society of man and animal, and analogical middle-worlds devoted to the demonstration of contemplatable human behaviour (folly, more often than not).

3. Frog Victoria: 'In The Frog World,' says Gilhooly, 'Frog Victoria was, uh, different...'

Dault: She's very large, for one thing.

Gilhooly: Yes, she was, for a queen in The Frog World, in this small state . . .she was a direct descendent of Frog Arthur who was the king who originally united the Frog States in Central Africa . . . she was the first to take her queenship seriously. She organized wars and things like that . . . something that hadn't been done before . . . she wasn't the most popular person in her time.

'The initial reason I made her is just that I liked the shape of her face, I liked the clothes, I liked the way people had pictures of her on their walls . . . this head, to me it was a very physical, aesthetic thing, just like Diefenbaker. This (he indicates a large frog Diefenbaker only with multiple horns and ears) is my Diefendemon . . . he has a Doukabor hand-painted necktie with a Sons-of-Freedom Frogbroad on it.'

4. Vegetable Fertility Goddesses: are big frogs with vegetable head-dresses, one with stalks of green asparagus coming out at the nipples ('asparagus tips' says Gilhooly). Gilhooly loves vegetables, especially root-crops; he is planning to set up a roadside stand this summer ('Frog Acres — a Frog vegetable stand') to sell ceramic carrots, beets, and potatoes, as well as frogs and ceramic pizzas.

5. Frog Clams: displayed atop classical white pillars are opening clams with frogs inside, a shell with a frog and two pearls — a 'frog-of-pearl oyster,' frog scallops, etc. 'I did have a pair of frog mussels — a pair of little frog arms holding up their shell — but I sold it to a guy downtown.' I mentioned the sense of expectation inherent in the opening shell . . . Gilhooly replied that it was like 'a trea-sure hunt'. 'Almost all my work is treasure hunt. Doing the work itself is a treasure hunt . . . when I open the kiln when everything is finished I have no idea what it's really going to look like . . . I've always, since I was a kid, wanted to look for treasure. Looked for things under the sea. Or when you're looking for fossils and rocks, you never know what will happen when you knock that rock open.... It's always been an important thing to me. A Pandora Complex. There is an opening-up with things coming out in so much of my works' (opening shells, vegetables emerging from the frog goddesses, worlds blowing apart - sometimes with wormy or serpent-like exorcised spirits leaving from the result-ing tear in the side, frogs fucking, the sculp-ture of Mithrana and Soma 'one of the more obscure frogs myths of the creation of The Frog World' where Frog-Mithrana kills Soma the bull and from the wound in his side tumble the many forms of animal creation while from the semen of "his final ejacula-tion" come the "slimy creatures of earth" — according to the myth, not to the artist him-self, who tends to view this occurrence as a mythological slandering of slimy creatures. Boris Frogloff in the role of evil mummy ('The Return of the Mummy') bursting from his swaddling bands, and Frog suicide-cups, like Toby jugs but depicting frogs with guns up to their heads, the skull blown away, some-times again with finally exorcised spirits emerging from the wounds).

6. Frog World Continues to Grow: 'I don't see any end to it,' says Gilhooly. 'I made some frog things in 66, 67. Then not again until 69 when I moved up to Regina. There The Frog World began to take shape; I began with the creation of Frog-Adam by Michaelangelo Frog, a Madonna and Frog, and a St. Francis of the Frogs. St. Francis was a frog in a friar's outfit, a big mound of frogs up to his armpits — a famous frog figure in medieval times in the Central Europe of The Frog World . . . up until this time the frog eggs, when laid by the mother, would be taken to monasteries where they were cared for in great vats that the monks maintained. St. Francis one day realized that Frog World would be better if people (sic) were to breed outside of their own colour . . . before that, everybody bred within his own colour - dif-ferent types of greens, blues, the rare red, yellow . . . people always married in their own colour. He was the first to convince them to . . . he's very famous really. He marked the beginning of advanced Frog civilization. He convinced the people to go ahead biological-ly . . .

Dault: All culminating in Frog Victoria.

Gilhooly: Or Frog Corbett exploring the universe.

artscanada #166/167/168, Spring 1972.

Text: © Gary Michael Dault. All rights reserved.

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