Alexandra McCurdy is a graduate of NSCAD university (BFA) and the Cardiff Institute of Higher Learning in Wales (Masters in 3D Design-Ceramics). She recently had a touring retrospective exhibition called The Fabric of Clay at the Burlington Art Centre in Ontario, travelling to Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery in Nova Scotia, and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in New Brunswick. Alexandra ’s work is in the permanent collections of the International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza, Italy; the Burlington Art Centre; the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery; the Canadiana Fund; the Royal Ontario Museum; the Art Bank of Nova Scotia; the Nova Scotia Museum; the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and others. As well, her work is in numerous private collections. Alexandra was recently inducted to the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts and has a celebratory show at the David Kaye Gallery in Toronto Ontario from October 01 through 25.
A ceramist/printmaker/independent curator, McCurdy works in porcelain making highly decorative, one-of-a-kind, colourful pieces, informed by her longstanding interest in textiles. Her recent work features a series of ceramic boxes made from tiles created out of lines of coloured porcelain. The tiles are fired and wired together with decorative materials to create boxes that are a metaphor for women – using the feminine principal of containment and enclosure, with the inner workings left to the viewer’s imagination.
weaving the slip, with a warp and a weft
My work has long been inspired by textile patterns and motifs drawn from the intricate quill and needlework of indigenous Mi’kmaq and women’s textiles, by my research into Western textile history and the central role played in it by women, and by my mother’s personal involvement in the British textile industry earlier last century.
My new series of boxes and wall hangings merge the techniques of textiles and clay, decorative surface and form. With these latest pieces, the coloured porcelain slip is trailed, layer upon layer, in opposite directions, until enough thickness is built up to support itself. I am, in essence, weaving the slip, with a warp and a weft. Each component is fired, then wired together to form a box or a wall hanging and embellished with coloured computer wire, metallic thread, raffia or textile symbols such as the spiral, used by women over the centuries.
The box is a potent metaphor because it is the perfect vessel for containing what we cannot control. Additionally, my porcelain Boxes intentionally utilize the feminine principal of containment and enclosure. They are a metaphor for women in ceramics. Moreover, the “black box” is a term used for something that is mysterious, especially as to function. Its externally visible behaviour is considered, and not its implementation or “inner workings”. In these Boxes I have deliberately left the “inner workings” to the viewer’s imagination, embellishing the external instead in an ambiguous way.
My general challenge with conceptual ceramics is that they are hard for people to understand, particularly here in Nova Scotia, where people are used to function. The latest success I have had is being nominated for and accepted by the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts. I was inducted this past May in Montreal.
as an avenue
I joined VANS many years ago as an avenue for my more conceptual ceramics. I realized fairly soon that painters and sculptors make conceptual work all the time, and understand it, so VANS was, to a certain extent, a welcoming institution. VANS also has a magazine, which publishes reviews of exhibitions in the Maritime provinces, as well as an e-newsletter, both of which I value highly. I have taken workshops with VANS, over the years, and always gained from that information. VANS benefits its members in all sort of ways, staying in touch with the e newsletter, publishing the VANS magazine, and offering workshops.
I have recently completed a body of work, called Crossing Material Boundaries which is currently being shown at the David Kaye Gallery in Toronto, at 1092 Queen Street West (at Dovercourt), from October 01 through 25. I also have two pieces in the current Mary E. Black exhibition Craft Year 2015, plus a piece in the NSCAD alumni exhibition in the refurbished Anna Leonowens Gallery, opening on October 09.
As soon as I return from my show opening in Toronto I plan to continue work on the “woven” porcelain boxes for a Master Artisan exhibition next summer at the Mary Black Gallery. I am now using stones and sea glass in my work, resulting from summers spent in the south shore area of Nova Scotia.