Sandra Grace Storey’s Words Like Birds exhibit digs deep into all that we struggle to express. It finds a great tenderness there.
Storey has created an exhibition of small, focussed sculptures for the solo show room at the Yukon Artists @ Work Co-operative art gallery.
Storey works in stoneware ceramics coloured with earth-toned oxides. White and bright colours have been moving into her palette recently. That is certainly the case in this show, with white beluga whales, red and green fish and red and blue birds adding bright highlights to each piece.
A sheet of rolled-out clay, buckled, incised, printed and tinted, supports many of Storey’s sculptures displayed on the wall. It creates a context for the figures to play out their stories. The show resembles a storybook in three dimensions, with room for the viewer to create her own story around the relationships depicted.
Most of the figures are animals. Raven and rabbit star in this show, as they often do in Storey’s work. However, human figures, fish, bears and whales also play their parts.
In many of the pieces, a school of fish or flock of birds erupts from a figure’s mouth. Often the figures have their eyes closed or mostly closed. What do we need to say that we can only say with our eyes closed? What words have such weight that they take the form of animals, a multiplicity of three-dimensional, fully fleshed forms?
While this imagery might tread the edge of being frightening to some people, somehow Storey makes it seem more like song than nausea, for the most part. In “Raven’s Gift,” it looks a bit like the raven has eaten too many fish and is proceeding to bring them back up. But there’s something mythological in the way they swim away, back though the raven’s legs.
Storey plays with the idea of edges between worlds in a number of the pieces. Two of the artworks are called “Above, below and in between.” Quite a few feature a layer of ice, with fish beneath the surface and birds above. It’s a permeable boundary, with holes for ice fishing.
There’s a gentle comedy in some of the works. There are two rabbit pieces named “Listen.” In one, the raven carries the weight of the moon on his head, with an upwards-arching fish on top of the moon. In the other, a fish flies through the sky among deeply printed marks where rose hips were pressed into the clay, black with the oxides inside them.
“I knew it would be you” is one of my favourite wall pieces. An earth-toned hare carries a raven wrapped around its shoulder. Its mouth is open, and it seems to be telling its secrets to the raven. The raven’s wing wraps the hare tightly and white feathers appear at the edges of its black ones. For me, this is a love story.
I wonder what stories you will catch in this show. I hope you can see Words Like Birds before it closes April 30.
Sandra Grace Storey’s Words Like Birds show is on display at the Yukon Artists @ Work Co-operative art gallery, which is located at 4129 – 4th Ave. in Whitehorse. The gallery is open Tuesday until Saturday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. and on Sundays until 4 p.m. For more information go to www.YAAW.com.