NS reviews

Reviews of theatre and art in Nova Scotia and beyond

Lucky Rabbits, Odd Creatures and Creature Comfort: 2 art shows of ceramics and paint

Pair, Goldfinch Jars, porcelain with carved and painted underglaze, Debra Kuzyk and Ray Mackie, at Studio 21 Fine Art, 5431 Doyle St., Halifax.

There was a lineup at Studio 21 when it could finally open Curved Space: Debra Kuzyk and Ray Mackie to the public as COVID-19 restrictions eased.

Together Kuzyk and Mackie form the very popular Lucky Rabbit Pottery, which they set up in 1999 in Annapolis Royal and which is a mecca for pottery lovers.

The married couple’s colourful, carved vessels decorated in flowers and birds are a marvel that uplifts the soul. Many of the large jars topped by Kuzyk’s small bird sculptures sold within the first two days. However, there is still a lot to see or purchase in this dreamy show of ornate porcelain pieces and experimental, earthy works in brown and black clay.

Kuzyk and Mackie have worked as a team for close to 30 years. Kuzyk sculpts, paints and carves flora and fauna onto the pottery forms made, glazed and fired by Mackie. You can see the purity and energy in the lines of her carving in a solid white, a solid black and two unglazed clay vessels.

Kuzyk is passionate about nature: “I find joy and inspiration watching the visitors to our bird feeder. I have incorporated these amazing creatures into my work, reflecting a backyard world rich in the everyday magic of songbirds and garden flowers.”

She is inspired by decorative patterns from ceramic history and describes pottery as a messenger from the past: “….. ancient potters portrayed a relaxed and joyful relationship with nature: respectful and celebratory. Years from now, after Ray and I are gone, what kind of world will our descendants occupy? What messages are we sending to the future with our pots? Will these ordinary birds seem exotic and unimaginable? Nature needs our protection now.”

Mackie is interested in abstract art with a goal to “make what I understand to be beautiful forms.” He exhibits wonderful, heavy-looking, black-glazed, roughly formed porcelain bowls that look like ancient, ceremonial dishes and has an enchanting, affordable series of “Pilgrim Bowls” that are rough-hewn with a lovely mass and different types of glazes. A favourite is black with a gold lustre dropping down from a black lip into the dusky interior. Another has a gold exterior stamped in a pattern with an imprinted, turquoise interior.

Thrown porcelain and thrown black stoneware bowls with black glaze by Ray Mackie at Studio 21.

His wall of 99 saucers recalls more recent art history in Conceptual Art’s love of “the grid” and in his patterns including 1960s polka dots and a stencilled netting.

Studio 21, at 5431 Doyle St., is selling two owl jars, at $2,000 each, with all the proceeds going to Save Owl’s Head https://saveowlshead.org/

Also at Studio 21 is a new permanent ceramics gallery space at the back with works by Heather Waugh-Pitts, Maja Padrov, Alex McCurdy, Jason Holley, Teresa Bergen, Toni Losey, Gina Stick, Fredi Rahn, Darren Emeneau, Marla Benton and Deb Kuzyk and Ray Mackie.

CERAMIC ART AND ABSTRACTS IN TRURO BY NANCY ROBERTS AND PAULETTE MELANSON:

Untitled, stoneware and glazes, 12′ x14′ x 17′, Nancy Roberts, at Visual Voice Fine Art, Truro. (John Drieman)
Long Awaited Hugs, acrylic on canvas, 36″ x 48,” Paulette Melanson

Abstracted, ceramic creatures by Nancy Roberts and abstract paintings by Paulette Melanson are at the newly reopened Visual Voice Gallery, 128 King St., Truro.

Melanson’s paintings in The Turning Point are a response to crises as she decided to turn away from fear and despair.

Her vibrant, hopeful, acrylic paintings have tangles of interconnected lines and hot colours in overlapping shapes for dense. multi-layered spaces full of movement and positive energy. Her titles and messages are optimistic and encouraging.

She explains in her artist’s statement: “To me, society is at a turning point. We are in the midst of numerous crises – COVID-19, racism, mistreatment of our aboriginal people, inequality, and most of all, climate change. My goal in painting these images is to send messages of hope and empowerment that we can make a difference in our future and survival.”

She purposefully chose an “optimistic” and wonderful palette of pure, passionate hot pinks, searing yellows and greens, cooler mauves and blues, reds and oranges. These paintings are psychologically satisfying and visually complex.

Melanson grew up amid nature in Scoudouc, N.B., and studied environmental science as part of her B.Sc. in biology. She is also a landscape painter and this is her first solo all-abstract show.

While she plans out her landscapes, she has a different, free form approach to abstraction.

“My passion is unconsciously experimenting with paint and finding meaning in the resulting layers; the unconscious painting being my guide to what the painting wants to be,” she says.


Nancy Roberts’ playful, organic, hybrid creatures in her exhibit of 15 sculptures, Creatures from Somewhere, also evolve and state their intent as she makes them.

Two works are directly connected to COVID-19, creepy fingerlings of green, glazed clay which she formed one day in frustration as she gripped the clay between her fingers.

Roberts explains: “Like many artists, I lost my creativity as Covid entrenched itself in our lives. So I sat in front of a mound of clay and set the timer for an hour – like piano practice when I was a child. Eventually, I started picking up blobs of clay and squeezing them in my fingers, all the while muttering ‘Get a grip.’ I ended up with a mound of turd-like shapes. Hollowed out, assembled, and glazed, they made my first Covid-era sculpture.”

In Gripberries the indented lengths of clay are attached to a perfectly constructed, dead leaf, a motif she repeats in a sculpture of a living green leaf with a scorpion’s tail.

Roberts’ Spike Ball, of stoneware, glazes and acrylic paint, immediately makes one think of the too-common images of the magnified COVID virus. However, that is just a coincidence, says the artist.

Instead, it’s an organic burst of patterned brown and green spears like shoots surging through the earth in spring. With sharp points and a fierce energy, it feels slightly sinister. For Roberts it is about form and shape.

Two vertical, hybrid creatures are like mutant businessmen with flying neck ties. Torso is perhaps the most classical sculpture though it is perforated and morphs into suggestions of other body parts. Roberts doesn’t define her organisms, plants or animals; she lets the viewer speak directly to the work.

“I gave myself free rein on this one,” says the Dartmouth artist. “I built what came to me and only afterward saw what the theme was.

“People ask, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ The best answer I have is ‘Somewhere.’ My unconscious? And I hope the sculptures talk to something under the surface of the viewers.”

Her sculptures have “one thing in common – a sign of life or will or attitude. They might have a tail-like appendage or stand on something like feet. Or reach upward with what – longing? hope? joy?”

This dual exhibit is on view to July 10, Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 12.30 to 5 p.m., with private viewing by appointment (call: 902 843-9464) and online (Online Exhibit (visual-voice.ca)

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