HEATHER GOODCHILD at Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects (1080 Queen West), to December 22. 416-537-8827. Rating: NNNN
Ever wonder what happened to the good life (not the TV show, but the concept)?
It seems that Heather Goodchild knows, and in her most recent solo show she invites viewers to partake of it with her.
First off, Goodchild converts the gallery into a temple-like space with three canvas archways silkscreened with balanced lines and shapes. These conjure an earthier, more tactile form of stained glass, and divide the room into chambers.
Stepping further inside Goodchild’s foldable “church,” you see grey-felt dioramas. Taken together, these function as kinder, fuzzier (and more woman-friendly) Stations of the Cross, echoing themes of revelation and transformation.At the centre of it all is Anna Ward Brouse, a surprisingly plausible (if imaginary) patron saint.
Brouse, as evidenced by her rug-hooked likeness at the apex of the room and the Solomonic texts inscribed around the gallery (“Glorious is the fruit of good labours”), is a paragon of truth and beauty in a suffragist-meets-Freemason-meets-girl-scout style.
By association with symbols of beehives and hatchets, roots and sky, Brouse exemplifies a goodness defined by the analogous glories of hard work, deep thought, natural understanding, and spiritual devotion. She is stoic, resourceful and wise, a pre-hippy advocate for holism and natural living, a Laura Ingalls Wilder for grown-ups.
The overall effect is of an artist yearning for (and in miniature, creating) a testament to the real good life – one of peace, balance and earnest, honest possibility.
Surely none of us can actually be Brouse. But during an ultra-consumeristic season, her spectre reminds us that happiness has more to do with what you create than what you possess.The premise doesn’t make for good “reality entertainment,” but it does make for thoughtful art.