Sunday, April 11, 2010
On Saturday a friend and I went to the Equinox Gallery for a showing of new work by Gathie Falk. There were a lot of people there because Gathie always attracts attention.
The critics Ann Rosenberg and Robin Laurence were among those who'd come. There were also Elizabeth Klassen and Tom Graff, Gathie's close friends from way back. I've known these three for a long time, back to the days in the early 1970s when I played cello and finger cymbals in a theatre piece by Tom called, I think, Portable Palestrina at the Vancouver Art Gallery -- one of his unforgettably strange theatre pieces. The song might have been an old, luscious Edwardian tune called It's Never Too Late to Be Sorry, which he sang in his big lustrous baritone that won him a place in the Metropolitan Opera auditions, which he couldn't go onto because as an American, he'd come up to dodge the draft.
Someone I knew back then once described Gathie, Elizabeth and Tom, who lived together in a house in Kitsilano, as "a houseful of elves." But that wasn't accurate and didn't begin to say what they were. Even then I recognized their unique brilliance. Being with them was as close as I'd probably ever come to knowing what it must have been like to be with the Sitwell clique -- Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell.
But there was an element of nuttiness to the Sitwells while Gathie is as sane a woman as you'll ever meet. No one I know has a greater eye for beauty and its infinite vagaries. She'd once made what she considered the perfect waffle and instead of eating it, nailed it to the wall over an archway and believe it or not, it wasn't funny. She was a potter at the time and produced a line of coffee mugs glazed in a mouth-watering color she called "rotten apple red." I longed to have some but was too poor to buy any.
Over the decades she's become an art star with her work collected by major galleries and museums. The most amazing thing about her is the range of what she produces and its absolute consistency of vision within its stunning thematic scope. Many of her pieces are epic in size (she calls herself a conceptual artist though I've never liked the term: what art isn't conceptual, excepting the butterflies and flowers of, say, the Ontario Watercolor Society, but that isn't art, it's mimicry).
Her new show is much smaller in scale, however. It's a collection of still lifes and there's nothing stiller or less magical about them for their littler dimension. Probably they could only be small, like the title piece, which shows a round table top bearing white cups and saucers, a plunger full of coffee, flowers, silverware and a dreamy looking chiffon cake.
It, and all the rest of her pieces, hum with a quiet sense of small pleasures magnified by an aura of, in a phrase that Gathie's used before, "a veneration of the ordinary."