Ideas & Art from Rob Elliott and Christine Cosby

Tag: Brock University

Lucky featured in Picturing Animals column

Keri Cronin, Chair of the Visual Arts department at Brock University, featured my painting Lucky in a recent column. Cronin’s column, Picturing Animals, found in the web journal Our Hen House, discusses artistic representations of animals, and their real world implications.

Lucky, acrylic on canvas, 36"x40", Rob Elliott, 2004

Lucky, acrylic on canvas, 36″x40″, Rob Elliott, 2004

Cronin contacted me last summer about the painting. Lucky was purchased by a St. Catharines art collector at my 2004 Toronto show Veal. Cronin had seen the piece and got in touch with me about featuring it in her column. Her writing shows a clear understanding of my work and asks interesting questions:

In this painting, a rabbit wielding an oversized pair of scissors holds a small girl up by her hair. The girl’s hair, styled in braided “pigtails,” stretches out above her head, compositionally echoing the shape and position of a rabbit’s most identifying physiological trait, his or her ears. The visual similarity between pigtails and rabbit ears reinforces the blurring of boundaries between human and nonhuman in this picture. There is a sense of ominous uncertainty permeating the image. What will happen next?

This is a startling image, the jarring content reinforced by the large size of the canvas. At 36”x40” it has a commanding presence, and it is difficult to look away. This painting was part of a series called VEAL. Elliott describes this series as one “in which cute is set upon cute in a perversion of storybook norms.”

These are powerful images because they ask viewers to think about the many contradictions that exist in our relationships with nonhuman animals. For example, the title of Lucky makes reference to “lucky” rabbit foot key chains. I vividly recall these from my youth – a rabbit’s paw dangling from a gold clasp, the fur dyed a bright unnatural color. Some were made from fake fur, others were body parts of actual rabbits. I didn’t own one of these, but envied the kids in my class who did – they were “cool” items to have. Upon reflection, I realize with horror just how easy it was to ignore the connections between a rabbit’s foot keychain and the pet bunnies we cuddled, fed, and loved in our home.

Read the entire column here:

Good night, Knights Inn

White Knight, drawing by Rob Elliott, gouache on paper, 2011

The Knights Inn disappeared so quickly there was no time to salvage anything. “I was going to walk down and talk to the foreman about those two-and-a-half D matador paintings, and Kevin Richardson wanted some of the fancy door hardware, but they tore it down in 24 hours,” said Steve Remus.

I was talking to Remus, the Niagara Artists Centre’s Minister for Energy, Minds and Resources, about the fate of St. Catharines’ mock-Spanish downtown motel. The Knights Inn was just two blocks down St. Paul Street from NAC, making it the perfect place to stay when I was doing projects with the centre. The motel was torn down, along with a massive (and musty) used bookstore, to make room for Brock University’s new downtown arts campus.

My friends and I had a lot of fun at the Knights Inn. We liked the fact that we had to check in at the transient Leonard Hotel across the street. We liked that there were two beds and a hide-a-bed in most rooms so we could stay on the cheap. We liked the harvest gold-tiled bathrooms and buzzing mini fridges. The Knights Inn was a cool little play pen, where we could pretend to be 20 year olds on a road trip again.

NAC and Swizzle folks partying post-Hatchery. Gregory White photo

The night I debuted my animated-fish installation Hatchery at NAC’s Main Space, and Christine Cosby opened the collaborative (The return of) 3-D Exquisite Corpses in the adjoining Dennis Tourbin Members Gallery, a dozen of our friends made the drive from Toronto to celebrate with us. Many of them stayed at the motel that night, celebrated a birthday with cake, and all reconvened at Art’s diner for breakfast the next morning. After that, we headed to the overwhelming Factory Outlet Flea Market.

We stayed at the Knights Inn again for the 2008 installment of STRUTT, where we dressed up in elaborate outfits for each other during a pre-show cocktail party (Sven’s pink electric leotard stole the show).  The Knights Inn always felt a bit cinematic, like we were all more stylish and exciting versions of our actual selves.

Freshdiscoporkergas dressed for STRUTT; The mysterious Madrid Room. Trisha Lavoie photos.

With the motel flattened, we’ll never know what went on behind the locked green door of the “Madrid Room”, and we’ll never host our oft-discussed summer pool party. Pity that.

White Knight, a drawing by Rob Elliott, is featured at the Niagara Artists Centre’s Small Feats fundraiser, this Saturday, April 2.

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