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The Eye, David Altmejd
The Eye is characteristic of the work of David Altmejd, one of the most internationally renowned Quebec artists. The sculptor, whose influences range from Louise Bourgeois and David Lynch to Francisco de Goya, believes that contemporary art is accessible to everyone and doesn’t require extensive explanation to be appreciated. Here, we see a winged standing figure with a large hole in the middle of its torso, from which hands are emerging. Its head is formed by casts of the artist’s hands, and one of its arms seems to be a prosthesis. But what secrets does this mysterious figure hide?
Part of the answer undoubtedly lies in the work’s powerful symbolism. With the hands that seem to at once compose and be shaping the body, Altmejd wanted to evoke a human in the making, whose ultimate form eludes him. In fact, metamorphosis is a recurring theme with the artist, hence his fascination with fantastical beings. The gaping hole represents an infinite inner space that is the gateway to art, culture and knowledge. Eminently positive, it lets through light, air and life. As for the sculpture’s monumental size, the artist has said that working at this scale allows him to live intensely and counterbalances his shyness. The artist added wings to bring some lightness to the overall feel of the sculpture.
Through its contrapposto and its various contemporary elements, The Eye bridges multiple eras, from the Classical period and the Renaissance – recalling Winged Victory of Samothrace and Michelangelo’s David – to modern times. Benevolent and protective, this figure watches over the Museum, its works and its visitors.
Executed in 1981, these bronze busts are part of a series of six works dedicated to all those who have been Joe Fafard was a Canadian artist from Saskatchewan. He is best known for his realistic bronze sculptures of animals such as cows, horses, wolves and buffalo. Life-size or larger, they are often exhibited in public spaces. Claudia is a good example of Fafard’s bronze animal figures, in its realistic detail. But beyond its faithful representation in form, posture, size and anatomical features, there is something special about this cow. As he does in all his sculptures, Fafard imparts to Claudia an inner life; a personality that exudes dignity, strength and self-possession, as well as an appearance of being in the present moment. It is this interiority that gives Fafard’s animal sculptures a living presence.
Artists often attempt to pursue artistic goals or interests, or explore psychological, social and political issues by means of distortion of form and other techniques. Fafard’s career and his long dedication to the sculpture of realistic animals have led some to wonder about his influences and whether perhaps animals have some particular meaning for the artist. When asked about this, Fafard simply answered that sculpting animals was “a good way to make a living.” Whether or not animals had a deeper significance for Fafard than he admitted, the creative urge is a force in art that seeks to express itself in its own way and not necessarily with any particular goal or motive. Sometimes a cow is just a cow.
Joe Fafard, Claudia, 2003, bronze, cast Atelier Julienne, pense, Saskatchewan. MMFA, purchase, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts' Volunteer Association Fund
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