January 19th, 2021

Common threads in Medalta’s artist in residence exhibitions

By Chris Brown on May 16, 2019.

Pictured left to right: Jessica Plattner, contract curator, with artists Rob Froese, Chloe McKim, Grace Boyd, Melanie Kathlene, and Mel Doiron meet prior to the opening of their exhibits at the Medalta Yuill Gallery.


It’s a broad range of work but observers will notice themes that connect the five separate exhibitions that make up the larger artist in residence show currently on display at Medalta.

Nature, social critique, identity, family history and music weave through the five exhibitions, said contract curator Jessica Platten this week. In addition to the themes that everyone can relate to, Platten said how the five artists have used the same material – clay – to create such different pieces is a sight to behold.

The exhibition officially opened on Tuesday and runs until July 17. A reception will be held May 23 from 6-8 p.m.

Below are brief synopses on the exhibitions. More detailed ones and artist biographies can be found at medalta.org.

Grace Boyd – Vessels & Veins

Boyd’s work is very much influenced by her relationship with nature, said Platten, adding she uses local clay that she digs up herself. “Obviously here at Medalta we have such rich clay beds so she’s really asking advantage of that,” she said. Boyd’s work is heavy on functional items used each day. “She doesn’t want to separate out fine art from everyday life. She wants those to merge together in an organic way,” said Platten.

Mel Doiron – Working Hands

Platten said Doiron’s work also links nature and culture and that her work looks very organic and natural, as well as offers a social critique. As a queer artist in Alberta, Platten said Doiron is always on guard about her place in society as a queer woman. “The act of making these clay pieces for her is a way of contemplating and slowing herself down and coming to terms with the social and political reality of Alberta.”

Rob Froese – Tone Poems

A lifelong musician, Froese’s exhibition looks at musicians taking their years of experience and applying it to improvisation, Platten said. The five different pieces in his exhibition are like musical notes on a page, which give the impression they developed organically but are displayed in a meticulous way. “I love that combination of nature and human manufacturing,” said Platten.

Melanie Kathlene – Soft & Heavy

Kathlene created a whole separate little room within the gallery to form a social critique and also a personal history based on the idea of mental illness and how people perceive the stigma surrounding mental illness, Platten explains. “It’s based loosely on her situation growing up as the daughter of a mother who was diagnosed with manic depression,” Platten said. She said the highlight is a cracked laundry basket made of clay, sitting in front of a pile of laundry painted on the wall. “It’s working as a vessel but it really wouldn’t be a very useful laundry basket because it’s so fragile. All of that is a metaphor for living with manic depression.”

Chloe McKim – Her Loft

Platten describes the exhibition as an homage to the artist’s grandmother, who came from a tradition of always crafting things by hand and reusing them and honouring the material of their life. “Chloe is basically recreating her grandmother’s sewing loft with all of the objects made out of clay.” Among them are a sewing machine, frames and a dress that she and her grandmother made. It’s a “social critique by just being aware of this shift from an older generation that really values objects and works to maintain them and crafts them by hand as opposed to today when objects are so disposable.”

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