Floor show invades art gallery
Fabric artist Bekk Wells explores people's interaction with nature
By: Scott Hayes
| Posted: Saturday, Jul 07, 2012 06:00 am
What Kind of an Animal am I?
Three Floor Works
by Bekk Wells
on now until July 28
Art Gallery of St. Albert
19 Perron Street
Call 780-460-4310 or visit www.artgalleryofstalbert.com for more information.
When visual arts enthusiasts walk into the Art Gallery of St. Albert and see the works of textile artist Bekk Wells laid out on the floor, their first reactions might be more akin to those of either a playful child, a screaming cartoon elephant, or a certain pied piper.
Hundreds of small grey and brown rodents are on the floor, all seemingly running away from or running to something that awaits just around the corner of one of the gallery’s movable walls. Naturally, these aren’t real mice, only Wells’ felt creations designed to invoke certain dormant human emotions of fright, whimsy or curiosity.
Follow the mice around the corner and they start cascading through the spectrum of colours, ending up in a remarkable neon colour, reminiscent of Brazilian artist Eduardo Kac's glow-in-the-dark GFP Bunny piece, a project involving green fluorescent proteins spliced into the genes of a real live bunny.
Wells explains that this was a large part of the intent, although he diverges from Kac in his use of homemade stuffed toy creatures instead of biological entities. The same fascination exists between them, however.
“It starts off being this pestilential stream of mice crawling out of your vent and turns into being entirely different with the fluorescent green ones leading the escape,” he began.
“It’s like a real-time evolution. It’s this idea of mice being this infestation of your home to being this transcendent other thing, this amazing technological wonder, something that wasn’t meant to be.”
What Kind of an Animal am I? is the name of Wells’ show. It is meant to explore ways in which people interact with the natural world and the ways in which there is a clear and definite separation. The mice look fun enough to play with but we’re not allowed to.
It’s a small show with only three main pieces to speak of, but when one looks at the density of each piece then the story changes somewhat. For example, The Unlikely Ascent of M. musculus – that first work with the artificial house mice – features more than 750 individual components.
Certainly there are hundreds more that comprise The Museum of Natural History, the installation on the opposing wall that comes with hundreds of rocks and glass jars filled with water. Of course, there is also a menagerie of felt animals of all shapes and sizes posed behind, an amusing take on the life-sized diorama displays that are normally found in museums of natural history. The amusement slowly dissipates once visitors realize that all of the creatures are staring right at them. Now, the tables are turned and it’s more than just a little bit unsettling.
If the viewer had the same thought about playing with these creatures as with the mice, the thought is quickly lost and is replaced by wondering if they want to play with whoever is in front of them.
There is something undeniably enticing about the component animals but the zenith of child-friendliness comes right in between the mice and the museum. You Can Take it With You is a tent where the jungle exists – in more fabric creations – on the inside. Wells says that people can explore this inner-scape, one that looks like a perfect nook for young and old alike to curl up with a good book and then have a solid nap.
“That’s the point of the tent. It’s more about being enclosed in the space. You’re allowed to go in and close the door and enjoy. It’s really this childlike escapist fantasy, especially with the textiles. It’s accessible and inviting. There’s nothing at all threatening. It’s inherently harmless.”