The famous Salon des Refusés exhibition of Paris in 1863 was a response to the official Paris Salon’s rejection of paintings by the early Impressionists, many of which are now considered masterpieces.
As part of the Precarious Festival, this exhibition of seven local artists, who operate primarily outside of the mainstream funding and gallery systems, continues the venerable tradition that began with the original Salon des Refusés and draws attention to the many exceptional artists in Peterborough whose work is often overlooked or misunderstood.
While the federal and provincial governments of Canada have granting systems that subsidize and reward artists through peer juries, not all artists have the knack for grant writing or the stomach for retrofitting their projects to fit grant categories.
Artists can expect to make 32% less that the average Canadian, even when their non-art related work is included, according to Hill Strategies.
Increasingly MFA degrees are a prerequisite for consideration for an exhibition in a public gallery. The cost of an undergraduate art education at OCAD is close to $10,000 per year, for tuition alone.
Any income derived directly from art is likely highly irregular at the best of times – a few sales, a CARFAC fee for an exhibition or a successful grant one year – and nothing the next.
As filtered mirrors of society or even as well-protected bubbles within our dominant culture, art schools as well as public and private galleries do not fully represent the value in the work of women, people of colour, indigenous, LGBTQ, differently abled or outsider artists. Artists whose work is too bleak, too big, unsaleable, artists who dabble in multiple styles or media, or who lack the skills or financial resources to properly present their work will face additional barriers. Intentionally excluded or not, these artists’ contributions have been erased from art history and remain unseen in the world of contemporary art. Yet their contributions are essential for a healthy art ecology.
Furthermore, regional arts are largely invisible to mainstream media and cultural audiences, no matter how thriving or ground-breaking, while competition for exhibitions in densely populated cities is fierce and often impossible to penetrate.
We need to ask what other occupation expects its practitioners to produce without any consistent source of compensation, while we glowingly describe its immeasurable value to society?
This exhibit examines the criteria by which we assign value to art; and by extension, to artists. It challenges fixed ideas of what defines an artist and their role in society. Without acknowledgment of the value of diversity in the arts, that most liberal of platforms, what hope is there to achieve equilibrium and inclusion within our larger society?
What we find in these artists are qualities that define artists in every genre and culture: they persist in their work despite lack of monetary or even social recognition of their value; they speak with a distinctive voice; their work provokes insight into the human condition; they continue to grow and experiment; and, perhaps most importantly, they are willing to be completely vulnerable.
The Salon des Refusés is on view at Star X from November 3-25, 2017, as part of the Precarious Festival.
Tara Azzopardi lives and works on 100 acres in Eastern Ontario. She is a poet, musician and farmer.
Jeremy Bertrand aka Jerm IX is a graffiti and street artist, poet, urban explorer, photographer and hip hop musician. Recurring themes of mental health, addiction, and sexual abuse permeate his work as a direct reflection of his existence and experiences. Jerm operates for the most part on the wrong side of the law using the streets as his canvas.
First introduced to art and illustration through skateboard and street culture as a youth, Lyall Brownlee’s artistic interests have broadened over time but his aesthetic and DIY approach remain true to those early influences. With a focus on narrative, using flat colours with bold black outlines, and choosing simple materials such as canvas, found objects, and wood. Lyall’s work comfortably lies in a grey area between comic, street, folk and fine art.
Daniel Crawford developed his expression through experimental cinema, and drawing and sculpture while acquiring an Honours Degree in Literature from Trent University, and BFA from NSCAD University. Daniel has shown installation, painting and film work in galleries, public spaces and theatres across Canada and the United States. He currently practices and teaches art in Peterborough Ontario.
Rose Katarina Fortin captures the essence of the mystical interactions of humanity and nature through photography, focusing on the transmutation and alchemical transformation of her subject matter through the changing seasons of the natural world and humanity’s emotional evolution.
Leigh Macdonald has found expression of her imagination in playing with colours and light through paint, camera and musical instruments. She also has a curiosity to understand how the human body works especially moods and cravings.
Hartley Stephenson was born in Toronto and decided to become an artist in 1984, inspired by Dorothy Caldwell, Joe Lewis and Dennis Tourbin. He did not attend art school. In Grade 7 his teacher said his collage was no good because it did not have a central focus.