By: Jon-Paul Della Pia, SG Curatorial Intern
Beaver Tales provides its viewers with multiple approaches to Canada’s national animal, the beaver. An artistic response to the nature of the beaver can be seen in works by Francis Muscat, Frank Shebageget, and Anna Williams with a blend of beaver inspired works and some even created with our nickel-bearers assistance.
Anna Williams’ installation, Canada House, presents the beaver in their most formal and represented way, with life-size bronze-casted beavers and a lodge made out of individually casted clear resin tree branches. Williams strives to create this connection with the beaver and our own human tendencies to alter our environment to suit our own.
The industrious beaver is represented, with a different meaning to the term, in Frank Shebageget’s Beavers, as 216 carved basswood de Havilland Beavers, the most iconic aircraft to have been produced in Canada. Shebageget offers another alternative view to our furry friend with Castor Castoreum, a display of casted castor sacs which are harvested from beavers to be used in creating perfumes and flavouring food. Through these artists we can begin to see a relationship between ourselves and the beaver, which is then further supplemented in an exquisite way by Francis Muscat.
The work of Francis Muscat on display is a unique approach to creating art and finding inspiration. In multiple works, Francis Muscat uses wood that has been chewed and disfigured by a beaver and then applies his own artistry to the form to create a unique piece of art. Just as the beaver has an influence on its ecosystem, it now has its own influence on art, as the collaborator on different Muscat pieces. Within these works, a contrast between organic and geometric forms is seen in the wood, distinguishing the beavers organic work and the artists intervention. This idea of human forms taking over the natural forms can be seen in works such as Navigate 1 and Ying-Yang. From the broken wood a carved abstract face emerges representing this idea of rebirth from destruction, a theme seen in multiple works on display such as Three Mountains.
Beaver Tales puts on display an interesting approach to the term “Beaver”, and provides us with a vehicle to ponder our own influence on nature. This exhibition will run until December 9th, so be sure to experience for yourself before it’s gone.
Jon-Paul Della Pia is completing his MA in Art History at the University of Toronto.