1958 -

vitrified clay, slip-paint, capacitors, light-emitting diodes, glass beads, circuit board and coated wire, 2018
9 1/2 x 8 x 21 in, 24.1 x 20.3 x 53.3 cm

Estimate: $0 - $0 CAD

Preview at: Heffel Montreal

Collection of the Artist

Transformer builds on Barry Ace’s interest in acknowledging the material culture of the Anishinaabeg in his artistic practice. The work is part of a series Ace created during a 2018 residency with master potter David Migwans. It was an opportunity for Ace to return to his home community of M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island to work alongside him. Migwans’s own practice was informed by working with his cousin Carl Beam, during which he learned to perfect the technique of coiled handbuilding pottery, a process where the potter works without the aid of a wheel. Beam’s interest was refined during his time spent in Santa Fe, New Mexico, observing the Anasazi mimbres bowls in order to integrate traditional methods with his own contemporary Anishinaabe aesthetic. Ace’s clay work contains the artistic bequest of Beam as well as Migwans, coalescing their teachings into his vessels.

With Migwans, Ace gathered clay from local deposits in and around Manitoulin, combining it with sand and minerals to provide the clay with additional strength as well as texture, colour and refractive qualities. Ace experimented with colour gradations and surface painting, using mineral and slip based natural paints and hematite polished surfaces. On the vessel, Ace has used slip to depict the figure of a horned shaman, a motif that recalls the pictographs found in various regions around the Great Lakes, spiritually important sites for the Anishinaabeg, a motif that also appears in the work of Migwans and Beam. The vessels were fired in an outdoor kiln under the direction of Migwans, during which Transformation went through a vitrification process. Under extreme heat, crystalline silicate compounds melt into a noncrystalline atomic structure transforming earthen clay to hardened glass.

Prior to firing, Ace embedded glass beads into clay, as well as imprinted holes in the areas where the capacitors and light-emitting diodes would be reintegrated after. A circuit board and coated wire, the digital refuse of our times, reaches out from within the material choice that connects the work to ancient traditions. During the residency, Ace was able to examine pottery shards uncovered on Manitoulin as part of the Providence Bay Bk-Hn-3 site, and housed in the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation collection in M’Chigeeng. The dig site, located in the southern tip of Manitoulin, is the “largest archaeological site in the Lake Huron region at over two acres, with three longhouses and a successful commercial fishery.” (1) The site supports evidence that the material culture of the Anishinaabeg included clay vessels. In this piece Ace “transforms a utilitarian object into an abstracted contemporary art work.” He states further, “what is profound is the literal connection as a maker with clay drawn directly from our traditional homeland and the shaping of the earth into something tangible and meaningful, as a sovereign act of being Anishinaabe.”

1 https://www.manitoulin.com/anishinaabe-archeology-project-open-now-ojibwe-cultural-foundation/

We thank Leah Snyder, digital designer and writer, The L.Project, for contributing the following essays. Snyder writes about culture, technology and contemporary art, and is a contributor to the National Gallery of Canada’s Gallery magazine and other Canadian art and architecture publications.

All quotes attributed to the artist unless otherwise noted.

This work is accompanied by a letter of authenticity and provenance signed by the artist

Estimate: $0 - $0 CAD

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