Art exhibit features sculptures Saskatoon artist created from descriptions of lost objects

An art exhibit in Regina features stoneware monuments of lost objects participants described to a Saskatoon artist.

Exhibit in Regina includes text panels, and visitors can guess which object is being described

Jessica Morgun, one of the artists featured in the Art Gallery of Regina's new exhibit, said the above sculpture is her favourite in the exhibit, (Submitted by Jessica Morgun)

A Saskatoon artist is using stoneware monuments to recreate lost objects — or at least her vision of them.

The Imagined Objects exhibit at the Art Gallery of Regina features sculptures and drawings by Saskatchewan artists Jessica Morgun and Tamara Rusnak.

Morgun's stoneware monuments are created from her vision of a lost item participants described to her. She interviewed local community members in February about lost items, asking people to describe the objects while focusing on non-visual senses.

"I had them remember it just in terms of how it felt in their hands, what it smelt like, even what it tasted like, kind of like a material memory of the object," Morgun told CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend.

"From that description, I created these stoneware pieces that try to represent what they described to me and become kind of the object's second life," she said.

She even asked participants to imagine putting the object, or part of it, in their mouth.

"One person described how the longer it stayed in her mouth, the more it started to disintegrate and kind of fall apart," she said.

"I thought that was really interesting and evocative, so thinking about something that was kind of frail and porous that could possibly start crumbling when it encounters moisture."

When Saskatoon's Jessica Morgun created her art for this show, she asked people to describe a beloved object they had lost without telling her what it was. She explains to host Shauna Powers how she brought those lost treasures to life again in clay.

Morgun said there are also text panels on the wall of the exhibit with one or two sentences explaining the description she was given, then people at the exhibit can try to find which sculpture the text panel is explaining.

"They get to kind of play the guessing game and use their imaginations as well," she said.

Morgun also gets to play a guessing game of sorts, as she doesn't know what many of the lost objects actually are.

"I like not knowing because it keeps the mystery around those objects and it makes them a little bit more special or sacred," she said.

However, Morgun said some participants preferred to tell her what the object was as a way of saying goodbye to it.

She said on one occasion the sculpture she created was very different from the object that was being described, while another time she had a pretty good idea of what was being described but didn't want to make an exact replica. 

"I try to kind of remove myself from a guess when I'm making the object because, of course, the point is not to make a copy of the object. It's to kind of get the feeling of the object," she said.

'Poignant and absurd'

The Art Gallery of Regina described Morgun's stoneware monuments to lost belongings as "poignant and absurd" in a news release about the exhibit.

"I think those are great adjectives," she said.

"Some interesting things happen with the challenge of translating these lost things into stoneware.… Some of these objects are malleable, they're soft, or they have fur, or they have qualities that are really difficult to translate into clay."

Morgun said for one sculpture she tried to create a soft and pliable texture that had tiny tendril using what's called an extruder, which essentially makes long strings similar to spaghetti noodles.

"What it ended up looking like was just a bunch of ramen noodles," she said with a laugh.

'What it ended up looking like was just a bunch of ramen noodles,' Jessica Morgun said with a laugh when describing the above sculpture. (Submitted by Jessica Morgun)

When the exhibit ends, Morgun said she's going to return the sculptures to participants as a way to help replace the missing item or give it a second life.

"Even though some of the objects are silly, some of the lost things look kind of humorous, it is about loss and it is about grieving," she said, noting that participants often described objects that represented an important time or relationship in their life.

"I feel like people found it a valuable grieving experience, a way to say goodbye to the object, but also look forward to a new life for that thing — or at least the memory of that thing — and kind of reflect on the human relationships and connections that that object really represents."

Imagined Objects runs from Aug. 6 to Sept. 26 at the Art Gallery of Regina.

With files from Saskatchewan Weekend