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Catherine Beaudette

Artist Statement

‘museum piece’ (a work in progress)
For a number of years my practice has focused on artifacts, collections, classification, and display. In some instances I have worked directly from museum collections: the Fortress of Louisbourg, The Nova Scotia Museum, and the Museo Archeologico Siracusa. On other occasions I have created my own collections and taxonomies.

My practice is an excavation of the detritus of everyday life. I borrow methodology from archaeology, anthropology, and natural history. Through an activity parallel to that of the museum, I collect, catalogue, and (re)present objects. I seek relationships between nature and culture, creation and production, what is lost and what is found. ‘museum piece’ combines several bodies of work in an on-going catalogue which samples the nature in our culture and the culture in our nature.

In Zip-locks, I collected an ‘artifact’ each day for one year from January 1 to December 31, 2000, and placed it with a tag in a zip-lock bag. The rules were the object had to cross my path on the day indicated on the tag and had to fit in the bag. The collection of 365 zip-locks documents the first year of the 21st century through material culture of the everyday. I spent part of that year in Italy where I began an accompanying series of small watercolours. Italian Artifacts juxtaposes Etruscan artifacts, coats of arms, and flora and fauna with tiny collage elements from contemporary (tourist) culture. Some of these ‘artifacts’ ended up in the zip-lock bags.

Artifacts from Pecos represents tools from a 10th century Pueblo village. Shaped and worn, these objects remain close to their natural formation. At once rock and hammer, bone and awl, they represent a fine line between nature and culture. In contrast to Pecos, I collect landfill fragments and aggregate (cement, rock, bricks, tiles). Made round and amorphous by the action of water, they appear as ‘city rocks’; culture mimics nature. I have a variety of shapes, colours, and sizes that depend on their combination to create classification. Worn bricks can look like 6thC BC loom weights or 21stC hot dogs, depending on their context. They are a simulacrum; they are relic and rubble.

In Natural History Paintings I turn my attention to the natural world. Working from sources such as botany textbooks, The Golden Book Encyclopedia, The Life Nature Library, and National Geographic, I reconfigure knowledge based on empirical evidence. In this new order of things, associations are formed through visual perception. These paintings are meant to be pondered, much like naturalists would contemplate specimens in the field.

Summers are spent in Newfoundland collecting specimens. Like the naturalist, I comb the beaches and dig in the soil. Both places reveal bones, rocks, and detritus. The ‘artifacts’ I find, mostly rusty old tools, were used to harness horses, toil fields, and catch fish. I gather these objects and record their stories, accumulating an inventory of work and life. In Newfoundland, the small town museum is characteristic of remote outport villages intent on preserving their past. The locals rummage through their attics and ‘stores’ dusting off long-forgotten treasures for display in the museum. Glass cases are absent; items are displayed openly on walls and tables. There is little to read but lots to see, visual information superseding the written word. The small town museum provides a model for my own museological presentations. Drawings, paintings, and specimens are grouped together in loosely defined categories. Specimens and their representations sit in rows on tables and shelves, or pinned to the walls like bugs. It is a museum without labels, a book without words.
January 2003

The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art
The Canadian Art Database: Canadian Artists Files

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