Cinder block, brick art show opens tonight

Gary Kean
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CORNER BROOK  Diana Chisholm is heavily into her art.

Diana Chisholm

She would have to be in order to make dozens upon dozens of her own cinder blocks for the exhibit she is opening at the Arts and Culture Centre in Corner Brook tonight.

“Spatial Empathy” is an expansion of Chisholm’s award-winning work using homemade blocks of plaster and sawdust she created as her graduating piece from the fine arts program at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University last spring.

The original piece — titled Rudimentary Fabrication, for which she was named Newfoundland and Labrador’s winner of the BMO 1st Art Award, involved seven cinder blocks. As the winner of that award, she got to ship her piece — in a crate weighing nearly 300 pounds — to  the Museum for Canadian Contemporary Art in Toronto for display this past October.

“Spatial Empathy” will feature that piece, plus others, including the main installation that involves some 75 blocks.

The expanded exhibit that will be on display at the Arts and Culture Centre for the entire month of March was made possible with a grant from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council.

In addition to the plaster cinder blocks, one of the pieces in “Spatial Empathy” will feature bricks made from clay Chisholm got from the Burlington area of the Baie Verte Peninsula.

In her artist statement, the Antigonish, N.S. native who now calls Corner Brook home, said she uses cinder blocks and bricks to establish a series of divisions and boundaries and create a variety of spaces.

“I started looking at the idea of fences and boundaries and how we build fences,” said Chisholm. “Essentially, it goes back to either keeping things in or keeping things out.

"I looked a little further into the idea of how strong your defence is — is it a solid defence? If it is just decorative, are you exposing more of yourself?” Diana Chisholm

“Then I looked a little further into the idea of how strong your defence is — is it a solid defence? If it is just decorative, are you exposing more of yourself?”

Chisholm said a lot of her art is in the process. That involved spending six weeks making sets of cinder blocks two or three times a week before lugging them all to the centre for installation. She had planned to make hollow clay bricks, but they were not working out, so she went with the heavier cinder blocks.

“I went with something that would work, regardless of the weight or how much material would have to go into it,” she said.

Unlike in the construction industry, Chisholm’s artistic treatment of cinder blocks will see them installed on their sides with the holes exposed to the viewer.

 “It’s not traditionally how you would stack cinder blocks, which means there is that transparency between the spaces,” she said. “It’s almost like a giant game of Lego, but you can create a multitude of interior and exterior spaces. As people move around it, they are putting themselves in an artistic space, so it’s more of an interaction with the piece.”

There will be an opening reception for “Spatial Empathy” tonight from 7-9 p.m. and the exhibit will be shown until March 31.

Twitter: WS_GaryKean

Organizations: Museum for Canadian Contemporary Art, Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council.In

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador, Toronto Burlington Antigonish

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