Entering Chris Reid’s Bunny Days show at the Yukon Arts Centre is like walking into a surreal story book.
Buildings and slices of bread have chicken legs … in her drawings, skeletal cats pour coffee from automatic drip coffee makers … doll-like female figures, with crosses for eyes, stand limp-limbed in large rubber boots.
In the middle of the space, an island is defined by what appears to be swept sand. Some of that sand is smoothed away, and from this clear area ascend an uncountable group of bunnies sewn from old socks. Brown, yellow, pink, with fluffy blue and green tails, some with lips and clenched teeth, some with no eyes, some with appliquéd hearts. All of them have gags with their names and a number out of 300.
Is it a rapture of rabbits?
About 200 cats, made in a similar fashion, perch on top of one of the room’s movable walls.
A group of houses, made of corrugated plastic, lit from inside, also stand on the island. All but three of them literally stand on sculpted chicken legs, wrapped with jute. Some of them are leaning over at improbable angles, counter-weighted by stones.
One wonders if the other three will stand up at any moment.
About human-scale in relation to the houses, stand bread-slice-shaped figures with faces, feathers for wings and skinny wire chicken legs.
Beyond the island, in the far corner, the cats and dolls seem to be dancing, some of them suspended a little off the ground, some of them suspended just far enough to stand up. A bunch of cats sit above them on shelves, almost seeming like marionette operators.
Large chalk pastel drawings, edged in masking tape, fill the walls, in some cases hung two high. These are four-by-six-foot drawings, so they really take over the walls. This is what creates the “stepping into a storybook” feeling.
The story is populated by the unique characters found in the sculptures. One wonders which came first.
Two Baba Yaga prairie-style houses sprint on chicken legs, a city streaming pollution in the background. A skeletal cat with a hammer and screwdriver beside an office chair wears a T- shirt printed with images of the screaming pieces of bread. A toothy bunny seems to guard another slice.
And if this were not enough, a glassed-in plinth contains about seven dozen eggs, beautifully painted using wax resist like Ukrainian Easter eggs, but with the legged buildings, rubber boots, planes, skeletal cats, walking toast and other motifs of the show.
It’s not surprising to read that the Manitoba artist, Chris Reid, has worked a great deal with the homeless, and with issues of hunger and poverty. The truth is, your home can grow legs and walk away very easily.
The surreal storybook quality quickly conveys a day-to-day reality for a segment of the population that would seldom come to an art gallery.
Reid’s artist statement on the wall is clear and helpful, and will tell you who Baba Yaga is if you don’t already know.
The colours are bright and rich, and the sheer number of quirky dolls could hold your imagination for a long time. If you look for Manitoba in the work, you will find a picture that’s perhaps uncomfortably realistic.
Bunny Days continues till March 13 at the Yukon Arts Centre Gallery.
Nicole Bauberger is a writer and painter living in Whitehorse. Find out where you can see her work at www.nicolebauberger.com.
Nicole Bauberger is a writer and painter living in Whitehorse. Find out where you can see her work at www.nicolebauberger.com