INTERNal Affairs: Out of the Woodwork

INTERNal Affairs is a series by GCAC Curatorial Intern and CSUF Art History major Shauna Hultgrien.

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Hello Internet friends! Did you miss me? I apologize for my absence but alas, duty calls. We have been quite busy here at Grand Central Art Center; between hosting an assortment of very talented (and extremely amusing) artists in residence, entertaining a variety of visitors, and of course, Spring Break 2014, I’m afraid that I have neglected my reporting duties. Well dry your eyes Internet Art Community, I’m back! As a student who is almost (hopefully) finished with my undergraduate studies, my opportunities to carpe spring break are rapidly coming to a close. I decided that I should do what any good Southern Californian college student would do and use my well earned vacation time to head north to the frosty terrain of Montreal, Quebec. So grab your beanies, scarves, and parkas as I walk you through my experience with our northern neighbors.

After the initial shock of experiencing a place where temperatures fall far below my comfort zone of 76 degrees Fahrenheit, I slapped on some long johns and three more pairs of socks and set out to see what this city was all about. The coffee and quaint cafes quickly won my heart and it also wasn’t long before I was on a daily double rationing of Poutine— the Canadian delicacy of fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds. When I had finally topped off my dining experiences with all the maple syrup I could handle, I was ready to explore the art scene of Montreal.

The Museum of Fine Arts Montreal did not disappoint. The institution boasts a wonderful collection of timeless masterpieces. From Caravaggio to Picasso, my eyes were rewarded at every turn; but my countless years as a student of the arts as well as my privileged position at GCAC have polished my tastes and given me an insatiable appetite for all things Contemporary. The Museum had a nice little Contemporary collection and I was especially excited to see their newly acquired piece, “Long Hair Hobo No.2” by Southern California’s very own Allison Schulnik. I soon realized, however, that in order to experience the cutting-edge art of the times I needed to leave the comfortable walls of this state-funded institution and make the journey to Old Montreal and their sea of high-end galleries.

Old Montreal consists of a long stretch of winding cobblestone road, lined with buildings that look like they were transplanted directly from a quiet Parisian rue. The buildings seemed to follow a consistent restaurant-gift shop-gallery pattern and prospects looked promising for art finds. A brief round of peeking into gallery windows left me disheartened; the displays were so kitschy and generic they would have been comfortably at home on aisle 12 of Wal Mart’s Home Decor section. Refusing to believe this beautiful section of the city was completely void of compelling work, I made another round. And another. And another. On my fourth, and what I swore to be last walk up the street I noticed a small gallery I had overlooked on a bend in the road. A hooded boy stood ominously in the window holding a small bouquet of flowers that commanded the entirety of his attention. The creepiness of the scene prompted a sincere intrigue and I had to get a closer look. I went inside and shed four of my ten layers then approached the boy for closer inspection. The boy was a boy in a Pinocchio sense; he was made entirely of wood and he was not holding the small bunch of flowers, but they were sprouting directly from his fingers. This hidden gem of a gallery is actually far better known than its modest location lets on. Galerie LeRoyer, I have since learned, is one of the galleries of Montreal with a very strong reputation and I was lucky enough to see why firsthand.

The wood carved boy is named, “Fioriranno i nevai”and is the work of Italian artist Willy Verginer. His impressive wooden sculptures were around every corner of the gallery and all maintained an eerily lifelike demeanor while each had a touch of Surrealism. The boy sprouted blue flowers from his fingers; a wooden woman stood plainly dressed barefoot with her head and raised fingertips coated in gold, complimented by the title, “Shine on Me.” A suited man painted grey with tires attached to his feet sits on the back of a large beige bull whose hind quarters match the grey of the man hid in the back of the gallery. I inquired as to why this beautiful and hilarious piece titled, “The Dark Side of the Bull,” was tucked away from plain view only to learn that it had been sold. As had four other works that called the gallery home just a week earlier. I found this to be no surprise at all. The ease with which these figures emanated the realness of living beings left me in awe of Verginer’s careful craftsmanship. The work at LaRoyer more than compensated for the framed wallpaper of the other galleries.

Unfortunately for us, Internet friends, I did not have the $10,000 it took to make one of these pieces mine. I do count myself lucky however to have experience done personally and I hope that you all will be able to do the same. In the meantime, do come see us here at GCAC, we have quite a bit coming up for you in the summer. Having experienced the art scene in Montreal left me with a feeling of gratitude for the nearly unrestricted access to art that we enjoy here on the West Coast. We have so many talented artists here that their work is spilling out of the metropolis of L.A. and right to our doorstep here in Orange County! I know this can be overwhelming so remember: Grand Central Art Center in the heart of Santa Ana is a great place to start. Well friends, it’s been a joyous reunion and I am happy to have been able to share my experiences with you but it is time for me to go enjoy the weather I missed dearly. This is your GCAC intern, over and out.

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