New exhibition at Beaverbrook Art Gallery showcases women metalsmiths

The pieces displayed in Her Metal: Six New Brunswick Metalsmiths, which opens Saturday, are "response pieces" inspired by paintings and drawings in the gallery's permanent collection

The pieces on display are inspired by paintings and drawings in the gallery's permanent collection

Her Metal: Six New Brunswick Metalsmiths opens Saturday afternoon at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. (Beaverbrook Art Gallery)

A new Beaverbrook Art Gallery exhibition is showcasing the work of six women metalsmiths, all from New Brunswick.

The pieces displayed in Her Metal: Six New Brunswick Metalsmiths, which opens Saturday, are "response pieces" inspired by paintings and drawings in the gallery's permanent collection, said John Leroux, the manager of collections and exhibitions at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.

"These are all people of this region, and they're people that could could handle themselves on any international stage," he told Information Morning Fredericton.

"And it really makes you feel good about this place, that it matters."

You picture people working metal, you picture oftentimes a man with an apron, all dark and pounding at a forge. You often associate metal with men, but it's not.- John Leroux, Beaverbrook Art Gallery

Her Metal consists of work from Brigitte Clavette, Kristyn Cooper, Kristen Bishop, Kristianne Levesque, Audrée St-Amour, and Erica Stanley.

Leroux said they are all part of the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. He said Clavette, who's a long-standing member of the New Brunswick art scene, taught all the other five women at a certain point in their lives.

"There's this kind of cycle, coming around, of the circle being unbroken," he said.

For her piece, Clavette said she went down to the vaults in the art gallery to find inspiration. She was looking for a painting of tables laden with food, with very strong light. But instead, she found herself drawn to an etching in black and white of a young woman and child looking at a piece of paper.

The Beaverbrook Art Gallery is opening 'Her Metal: Six New Brunswick Metalsmiths' on January 19. Brigitte Clavette is one of the artists who worked on the new exhibition. She says each of the women found an art piece in the gallery to inspire their piece of metalwork. 8:28

"That's not what I had in mind," she told Shift New Brunswick. "What are these two characters or people in the etching talking about?"

When she started researching, she learned that the etching, by Lucian Freud, was a response to a 17th century painting — one showing food and lots of light.

"It was such a perfect serendipity," she said.

So her piece became that sheet of paper, with different metal structures laying on top of it. 

Metal and women

Leroux said the metalwork department at the college has mostly always been run by women, which he said may surprise some people.

"You picture oftentimes a man with an apron, all dark and pounding at a forge. You often associate metal with men," he said. "But it's not."

John Leroux is the manager of collections and exhibits at the gallery. He shares the story behind the upcoming exhibit, Her Metal. 13:52

Clavette said she wasn't originally drawn to metalwork. She started her studies focusing on etching and photography, but after spending a few nights experimenting with jewelry, she decided to stick with it.

"I always say it's because I don't draw that well," she laughed. "I think the etching would not have taken me this far." 

Response pieces

Leroux said the artists were able to choose one piece from the gallery's permanent collection, and make a "response piece" to it.

"Some are funny, some are serious, but there's this fascinating relationship. And they're made of silver and bronze and these really rich materials," he said.

One piece is a headdress made out of copper, brass and sterling silver, adorned with a a stag head and a raven's beak and wings. It's made by Kristianne Levesque, and based on the work of an Indigenous artist named Carl Beam.

Leroux said the artist made that one for herself.

"She saw herself in this and with the raven, the idea of connections with nature and so on," he said. "It was very personal."

With files from Information Morning Fredericton and Shift New Brunswick

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