Thursday, September 23, 2010

Barbara Rehus at Loop

Barbara Rehus will be exhibiting Saint's at loop Gallery in a show that opens on Saturday, September 25, 2010. Saint’s began back when Rehus was a child, fascinated by saints and their stories.  What with all the drama, tragedy and gore, these stories were better than any fairy tale!   Rehus still retains a fondness for those old saints and is drawn to icons, stylized representations of religious figures, and risas, protective coverings occasionally used.  It seems to her that risas not only protect the painting, but those figures represented as well.  

Rehus has created her own series of icons and risas.  Standard saints set the historical context for accompanying contemporary icons which place friends and family in their own risas, places where they’ve told the artist they feel safe.  Saint’s consists of portraits painted in acrylic on panel, each recessed within and cradled by a carved encaustic risa.

Presented below is an essay written by poet Terry Weber for a brochure about Barbara's exhibition Saint's. 

Nun by Barbara Rehus 2010
Acrylic on panel with carved encaustic and oil on panel, 12x12x1.75 

My great-great grandmother committed suicide.  She did this by walking into the pond on her family’s farm, late at night, perhaps early in the morning, wearing her night gown, I imagine, and drowning herself.  Maybe she took her night gown off.  Maybe she wore nothing.  It was 1903.  She was fifty-seven years old.  In the act of killing herself, she committed not just suicide but what might be the ultimate act of self preservation, of keeping her self from harm.  She was released and relieved in this final gesture of her life.

How do we protect ourselves, preserve our selves?  What keeps us safe from harm?  What talisman might we use to ward off pain, whether of the body or the soul?  These are the questions that are central to Barbara Rehus’s work.  Sometimes she is the protector.  Sometimes she is in need of protecting herself.  Sometimes she is the witness, the teller of stories.

In her latest work, “Saint’s,” Rehus explores the use of icons and risas in a contemporary way by  placing her subjects, family and friends, in risas juxtaposed with traditional icons of saints who have caught her fancy.  Her modern day saints are protected not by some religious magic but by a magic of their own making.  Rehus uses acrylic on wood panels and carved encaustic with oil on wood panels to create her icons.

We'll Keep Walking by Barbara Rehus 2010
Acrylic on panel with carved encaustic and oil on panel, 20x16x1.75

Rehus’s “The Pond Walker” was inspired by the story of that great-great grandmother‘s death.  The crows which are a part of the installation, serve as witnesses and messengers of the great shift in the world as this one woman left it.

In “Safe Houses,” Rehus uses glass to build structures that are meant to protect their occupants from the evils and horrors of war.  That protection is tenuous, however, given the fragile and transparent nature of glass.  In those safe houses, no one is ever really safe.

“Fly By” is Rehus’s expression of hope for recovery from physical illness.  The hanging glass crows suspended in a background of blue sky and clouds allow the artist to fantasize escape from physical limitations.  They allow her to fly.

In “Please and Thank You,” Rehus has created personal milagros out of glass as prayers for the people dear to her.  These milagros are symbolic of some special hope or fear the artist has for each person.

In some way, we each create our own safe place.  Rehus’s work is an exploration of how we do that and why we choose what we do.

Terry Weber

Please join the artist at the opening reception on Saturday, September 25, 2010 from 2-5 pm. The Toronto Canadian Art Hop is scheduled to stop at loop at 320 pm. There will be a question and answer session with the artist at 345 pm moderated by Antonia Lancaster.