Why Walter Scott Rules by Elwood Jimmy (2016)
A story from Toronto, circa spring 2012: I had just moved from the mid-west to the city. Within a few weeks of living there, a new friend and I went to an exhibition opening at a gallery on Queen Street West. Most of the evening (and art) was pretty uneventful and my friend and I started plotting a change of venue. Just before we were leaving the gallery, an argument erupted between myself and the person in charge of the bar – all over a cell phone (hers), and a spilled glass of wine (mine) that she claimed had intersected. They hadn’t. The subsequent argument was so over-the-top, so dramatic, and much too boring to recount in detail.
In the end, my side of the story was backed up by reality, witnesses, and a dry-non-red-wine-stained-fully-functioning cell phone. The gallery director would apologize profusely, stating that the person wouldn’t be working the bar anymore and requested that I never mention the incident publicly (again, so dramatic). I ended up never mentioning it – not because I cared about the gallery or its reputation – but because I just didn’t care enough (the gallery would close a couple of years later anyway). The young blonde art bartender never apologized, and I never crossed paths with her again (in real life).
Why do I share this story? Maybe within about a year or two, I felt like I started seeing this person again – again, not in real life – but in drawn, comic-like form. She started showing up in my Facebook newsfeed, in print, in swag, in conversations with friends & colleagues, and even making appearances in performances at venues or festivals I would frequent. The comic version was named Wendy, and she seemed so much more relatable, funny, and oddly charming in this new form. A couple of times I wondered if Walter Scott – the Kahnawake-born, Montreal/ Toronto-based artist & force behind Wendy – ran into the same person that I did sometime in his life in Toronto (Wendy resembles that bitter art bartender so much to me – as much as a cartoon can resemble a person).
It is a gift to be able to transform an archetype into something fresh, something engaging, something relatable, something that transcends deep lines drawn between communities. Simultaneously, the unrelenting critique of the Canadian contemporary art world in the Wendy universe is so on point, so hilarious, and wildly re-readable. This endearing skewering of the contemporary art world, this needed injection of pathos and poignancy into all too-familiar, vacant, vapid archetypes & personalities, and this conjuring of a world that’s relatable to a multitude of communities, are just some of the reasons why I think Walter Scott is magic, and why he rules. Be sure to check out the opening reception of Walter Scott: Wendy’s Closet at Capacity 3 Gallery in the Board House Arts building on 6 Dublin St. S. on Saturday, April 9th from 2:00 – 5:00 pm. Presented by Kazoo! Fest, Ed Video and Capacity 3 Gallery.
Elwood Jimmy is recently of Guelph, Ontario, working as the program coordinator for Musagetes. Prior to that he worked across the country as a visual arts curator, film + music programmer, writer, member of many collectives, and cultural manager.