Whitehorse artist Scott Price is the ultimate scavenger. His favourite source for materials is the nearest dump. He’s been to dumps in Whitehorse, Dawson and, more recently, Wells, B.C. Whatever he discovers will partially determine what his art will be.
Price’s practice involves bringing together the “junk” he collects to make assemblages, which are sculptures made with disparate found objects. Although Price has been making assemblage work for many years, his approach is not always the same. For example, one of his past projects involved fantastic machines and contraptions. At other times, he’s drawn his material more from the natural world, notably with a series of tree people exhibited a few years ago.
For the last two years, he’s taken another direction by using minimal materials and moving away from figurative work. In doing so, Price relies on the intuitive and spontaneous relationships between objects to make the work meaningful.
This approach is in part due to the mentoring he received while participating in the Toni Onley Artist Project residency in Wells, B.C. in July 2019. Under the guidance of mentors Peter von Tiesenhausen and Diana Thorneycroft, Price says he altered his practice in order to “get away from the figurative because I have a habit of going there.”
Price’s latest work is now featured in a solo exhibit called Fragments in the Dust. One of the materials that figures largely in the show are rusted bedsprings. The myriad spirals of wire possess a quirky beauty, which is enhanced when Price pairs them with white speckled stones.
In “Ground Control,” a large round stone rests on a bed of springs on the gallery floor like the nest of a strange animal. There is a sense of quiet and vulnerability and the suggestion of the stone as a living thing.
The same is true of a similar work, which is untitled, in which Price has balanced several stones amongst bedsprings on an elevated frame. Price suggests that the piece might be read as “COVID art” in that the stones are together but still distanced, not touching one another.
Price utilizes bedsprings once again in a wonderful dangling orb called “Spring Ball.” It has the appearance of a three-dimensional scribble of wires and I imagine it to be the remnants of a burnt-out sun.
In another untitled piece, Price has utilized his carpentry background to create wooden frames, which are placed together with an offset of five degrees. The resulting box has an erratic dynamism, which is reinforced by the mechanisms of springs from which it’s suspended, suggesting the potential for motion. Inside the box metal chain is piled in such a way that could be another nest.
None of these works is figurative or representational. Even so, they seem animated, as if we have come across a strange world whose inhabitants have taken up residence in the detritus of 20th-century humans. The wiry nests, egg-like stones and jumble of metal invite us to concoct stories.
The largest piece in the show is called “Tectonic Contour” and it features several scrap metal frames. Their metal strips are bent in random fashion, which is how Price found them and the configuration he wanted to preserve. Suspended from the ceiling, the piece resembles contour lines. When Price pushes it gently, the work softly sways and makes eerie sounds of metal upon metal.
“For years I’ve been playing with light and playing with sound and playing with movement,” says Price. All of these things figure into the show.
After the residency in Wells, Price and one other participating artist were selected by Thorneycroft and von Tiesenhausen to exhibit their work at the Penticton Art Gallery. For the show, called Bricolage, von Tiesenhausen made the following observation of Price’s contributions:
“The work is like a prompt toward a memory, an allusion to something lost in the dust of one’s consciousness. An acquaintance with time, weight and materiality organized in unselfconscious play. The stuff of dreams and hauntings and wit.”
(Peter von Tiesenhausen, quoted in Penticton Art Gallery, Scott Price and Corinne Thiessen: Bricolage, 2020. http://pentictonartgallery.com/scott-price-corinne-thiessen-bricolage)
Von Tiesenhausen’s musings go to the heart of this body of work. I found memories erupting in response to things and sounds I’ve long forgotten. Price’s work is made all the more poignant by the knowledge that these experiences would disappear forever, if not for him bringing them back from the dump, and out of the dust.
Fragments in the Dust is showing at the Free Space Gallery until April 30. The gallery is located in Northern Front Studio at Waterfront Station in Whitehorse.