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Indepth Arts News:

"The Other Eden: Canadian Folk Art Outdoors"
2001-03-31 until 2001-06-10
Calgary, AB, CA

The Egyptians did it, the Romans did it, and I bet many of you do it too. I'm talking about decorating your garden with special hand-crafted things, of course. By adding personal touches, you make that green space your own unique Eden. Do you choose the quaint country look, or the classical. Are you like the Romans, adding a slightly erotic Venus Corner for lovers. Or do you recycle things for the fun of it - and hope others smile at your quirky creations. You can see all of these styles of outdoor garden art, and more, in this light-hearted display of some of the best of the folk art collections from the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Guest Curator Phil Tilney selected almost 150 pieces to represent what he calls the flowering of Canadian outdoor folk art, spanning 1960-1990. Collected from across Canada, coastal images of fish and boats mingle with western cowboys. The wonderful and wacky things are placed, as their creators intended, in open air (simulated) settings. The exhibit designers have adopted the folk artists' sense of humour, for instance placing lively birds and a big-eyed deer next to an unwary hunter. Tilney shows how creative people personalized their outdoor spaces, from the public front yard, to the private garden, and even the country barnyard and nearby woodlot. He follows the rural roots of this folk art to the urban setting, and laments its demise in the 1990s when store-bought 'faux' folk art took over.

Itís like walking into another world when you enter the exhibit - a world that is forever green and blooming with flowers and fanciful creations made by Canadians. Amidst the sounds of birds, trickling water, and happy children you will be surprised and delighted by the creativity of ordinary people. From comical chickens and elegant windvanes in the barnyard, to whimsical flamingos and penguins in the front yard, to playful cowpokes and cats on the front porch, to slightly naughty sculptures in the backyard, to fanciful people and animals around the pond, to mocking likenesses of famous politicians, to colourful birdhouses and incredibly complex whirligigs, you will be amazed at the talent of ordinary Canadian folks.

Their creations reflect nostalgic memories of the past, unfulfilled dreams, pride and joy in hobbies and work, and much more. Playful, witty, colourful, eccentric - the outdoor folk art will catch your eye, bring a smile to your face, and maybe even convince you to try it yourself.

Robert Campbell
Whirligig, Bull Chasing the Man, or the Man Chasing the Bull
Gilbert Plains, Manitoba.
Collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilization

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