Why Shary Boyle Rules by Danica Evering

 In Why This Rules
Shary Boyle

Shary Boyle

My first inclination for this bit was to fill a couple of screens with capital AAAAs and then end this all by textually shouting, SHARY BOYLE IS COMING TO GUELPH, point fin. And you, you who know well the work of this quick-fingered weaver of fantastical and particular narratives, who have had the opportunity to experience her uncanny ceramics, surreal drawings, poetic video work, or musical collaborations, your heart would shake beneath your ribs with those rumbling all-caps, because you would feel in an instant the same throaty anticipation that I feel. But since the two moons of art and music don’t always shine on the same crisp evenings, and since this is an opportunity to pay homage to some of our favourite creative folks, let me lay down this effusive offering of excitement at the altar of Kazoo! that we will be showing Shary Boyle’s work in our very own city, in an old, old building, down a short flight of stairs, in what may just be the smallest gallery in all the land.

I think I probably first saw (or savoured?) Shary Boyle’s work at Jessica Bradley Gallery in Toronto when I was a wet-behind-the-ears short-in-the-tooth art whelp. I was fresh out of high school in conservative small-town Ontario, and still on the hunt for other weirdos. With handmade songs about revisionist fairytales in my heart, and shreds of Rocky Horror Picture Show still stuck in my muzzle, I found kinship with Boyle’s porcelain figures: both their dream-state stories and the crafty feminist politics implicit in them. They had the same glossy delicacy as the ruched dresses and rouged cheeks of Royal Doulton figures that graced many a neighbour’s bungalow mantlepiece. But these were belles of a totally different ball. A dainty damsel cooly holding her own head. A serpent girl with rabbit hair, her tail twisted around her own neck. A couple of bumpkins boiling a stack of heads over a campfire. Some of Boyle’s misfit narratives, her sense of politics and injustice, must have been pressed into these figures, subtexts which resonated in that moment with a tap tap in my own porcelain chest.

Boyle is a pretty huge deal in the Canadian art scene. She represented Canada at the 2013 Venice Biennale (known colloquially as the art Olympics as each participating country selects their top artist that year) and is easily one of our most widely-recognized artists. She’s collaborated with a legendary cast of musicians, doing shows with Feist, Peaches, Doug Paisley, Will Oldham. She’s worked extensively with with Winnipeg composer and poet Christine Fellows, weaving Fellows’ songs with her own projected shadows. She’s been shot by filmmaker Kika Thorne, and her work 10-year text-and-drawing call-and-response story with artist Emily Vey Duke, The Illuminations Project, recently knocked everyone dead by being as feminist as fuck as the story’s protagonists. Her accolades (which include the Gershon Iskowitz and the Hnatyshyn Award) are numerous.

But although she’s a big deal, what rules about Shary Boyle’s work is that it’s not about bigness. It isn’t about paloozas or palazzos. It’s not about bright lights, top-dog capitalism, or acquiescing to patriarchy. Her work for Kazoo! Fest, Silent Dedication, is a dedication for voices that are least heard: the voice of the infant, the voice of the dying. For the silenced and unspoken. Parkdale’s Feminist Art Gallery streamed these sentiments on crocheted granny squares proudly: WE CAN’T COMPETE. WE WON’T COMPETE. WE CAN’T KEEP UP. WE WON’T KEEP DOWN. Theirs is a clarion call that is echoed in Boyle’s work—it resists judgement by art-word standards, knowing that that system is not necessarily one it wants to be judged by. It’s a celebration of the intimate, the frilly, the unpopular, the weirdos, the micro. So yeah she’s a big deal, and yeah she’s an internationally-recognized artist. But she’s also the patron saint of the hand-made. The maker of new narratives. The advocate of voices from the margins since the beginning when she started raising her voice as one. So yeah: AAAAA SHARY BOYLE IS COMING TO GUELPH.

Shary Boyle’s Silent Dedication opens with the similarly-incredible Amy Lockhart’s Safe Space Soft Sculpture Bowling on Saturday, April 11th from 2-5 PM at Boarding House Arts (6 Dublin St. S). Both artists are going to be there to celebrate, and hopefully you will be too.

Danica Evering is a Co-Producer of Kazoo! Fest and Program Coordinator at Musagetes.

sharyboyle.ca // facebook 

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