“In the Egyptian series of hieroglyphs, the hare is a determinative sign defining the concept of being, and symbolic in consequence of elemental existence. Among the Algonquin (native North Americans), the Great Hare is the animal-demiurge.” J. E. Cirlot
Kitchener artist Mary Catherine Newcomb’s “Souvenir” was a giant hare of earth and grass. The work, measuring five metres in length by three metres wide, was constructed over an armature consisting of a soil erosion blanket lined with soil attached to a steel frame. A combination of bent grass and fescue grass was sown directly on the armature surface and grown on a second soil erosion blanket attached to the armature. As the grass grew, the artist raked and trimmed it to bring out a variety of fur-like shapes and to sculpt the form.
The armature and the grass pelt of the ears, legs and head were constructed and sown at the artist’s studio in Kitchener. The body was constructed on site and the appendages later affixed to the torso. The grass was cultivated, combed and trimmed and the eyes were detailed with moss to create the finished work.
Mary Catherine Newcomb is a figurative sculptor who has turned to the theme of animals at various times in her career, inspired by the animals of aboriginal and classical myths. Mice, snakes, hyenas, fish, sheep, and alligators in her body of work are metaphors for her “animist” understanding of the world. Rabbits, as carriers and symbols of occult knowledge, frequently occur in her sculpture in papier mâché, cast concrete and in recent years as living and preserved vegetal material.
Left: Mary Catherine Newcomb, Albert's Wisdom, 1987, plaster, concrete oxides, 43 x 30 x 5 cm.
Newcomb’s “animism” is characterized by her perception of the existence of a type of knowledge that may be hidden from us, living as we do within the modernist consciousness and cultural context. The title of the work, “Souvenir” refers to the fading memory of a bygone age, when the natural world was regarded as alive and possessing spirit. “Souvenir” is thus evocative and nostalgic: In contrast to the modern attitude toward nature as something separate from ourselves and exploitable, Mary Catherine Newcomb’s work challenges us to imagine a life in closer harmony with nature.
Souvenir is presented in partnership with the Cambridge Sculpture Garden.
For more images of work by marly Catherine Newcomb go to her web site at www.newcombalia.ca.