Sir Wilfred Grenfell College Art Gallery will launch its 2007/08 program season with Recalling Belvedere, an exhibition by Newfoundland artist Colette Urban. The installation features photographs, videos and a three-dimensional model of Urban’s house in Meadows Point and represents Urban’s interest in exploring the landscape, heritage and culture of Newfoundland. Rooted in her response to this physical location, Recalling Belvedere reflects her interest in how memory can recall or reconstruct an idealised notion of place.
A belvedere is a building, such as a summerhouse or roofed gallery, situated to command a fine view. Urban’s belvedere is a heritage home in Meadows, located on the west coast of the island of Newfoundland. “This site,” said Urban, “haunts and holds me in a very peculiar way”. Central to the exhibition is the performance Belvedere. Filmed at the Bowmanville Zoo in Bowmanville, Ont., the performance is represented in the exhibition as a projection on the inside walls of a portable tent-like fabric enclosure.
The elephant may seem like a peculiar addition to memories of the Newfoundland landscape. For Urban, however, this unlikely character enriches the project in many ways – its inherent and acquired characteristics illustrate her desire to understand this place and her longing for this landscape. The performance is "a representation of the exotic, gentle and majestic spectacle of my belvedere," says Urban, inasmuch as it is a representation of the exotic, gentle and majestic spectacle of the elephant. The elephant is used as a metaphor to represent the physical scale of the island and its particular qualities. The elephant’s large size, like the island of Newfoundland, demands attention. The elephant’s matriarchal social structure, its extended community, and its prodigious memory serve as reminders that Newfoundland was once a proud matriarchal society before European exploration and colonization.
Colette Urban’s visual art practice incorporates her work as an educator, entrepreneur and community arts leader. Urban has established the Full Tilt Creative Centre studio residency program, art gallery and multi-media performance space on a 25 hectare farm in McIvers, on the North Shore of the Bay of Islands. She also restored two salt box fisherman’s houses in Meadows, which have been the site of several successful artists’ residencies.
An exhibition catalogue, Colette Urban: Recalling Belvedere, accompanies the installation.
Recalling Belvedere continues at the gallery until Nov. 3. The public is invited to a reception in honour of the artist on Sept. 27, 7-9 p.m. Collette Urban will speak about the installation at 7:30 p.m.