Bite My Tongue Press Release
BITE MY TONGUE: ART WITH TEETH
When Marcia Pitch was studying to be a sculptor at the California College of Arts of Crafts in the late-1960s, she began collecting the proverbs, clichés, adages and colloquial expressions that are seen in this exhibition. Although the Vancouver-based artist went on to obtain a teaching certificate from the University of British Columbia and subsequently lead high school art classes for many years, she eventually returned to art-making on a full-time basis. Prior to her work in assemblage, a form of artistic expression which has been her focus during the last decade, Pitch created large-scale sculptural installations in the 1980s. But regardless of size or media, two common threads run through all of her work: social commentary and black humour.
As with her earlier exhibitions, Off the Wall: Decompose/Recompose (1993) and Straight from the Pile: Contemporary Rococco Sculpture (1993), Pitch continues to use manufactured kitsch, reclaimed objects and magazine clippings in Bite My Tongue: Art with Teeth. In her artist’s statement, she notes:
I am driven to reuse, rethink and redefine. I have taken images from their original contexts and reworked them, giving the viewer new insights into our past and present. These wall pieces are reminiscent of shrine-like tableaux of folk art altars that meld the conscious and unconscious and are an expression of life’s joy and tragedy.
One of the most obvious tragedies to which Pitch’s art points is that of our culture’s voracious appetite for consumption.1 The vast number of indestructible – “plastic doesn’t rot,” reminds Pitch – and identical manufactured objects contained in this exhibition should jolt anyone with an environmental conscience. Pitch’s emphasis on using many analogous plastic parts also implies another downfall of our supposedly post-modern society: the pervasiveness of conformity. The artist, however, is also fascinated by all of this plastic. She comments that, “although I am speaking about our ‘throw away’ society, I choose junk that is aesthetically pleasing to my eye. In some sense I love this urban garbage.”
Pitch introduces textual elements in Bite My Tongue: Art with Teeth to further underline the irony inherent in her art. “I am intrigued with the historical references of these expressions that usually contain a basic truth, a piece of wisdom, a slice of life,” says the artist. These idioms and proverbs are the starting point for the works shown here. Pitch often begins a piece by taking a phrase and making it visual. For example, in Shooting the Breeze, she was inspired to twist the original intent of the expression – chatting in a casual manner – by placing the words in the context of violent imagery where a person is shown shooting through bars at the air with a gun. The result is a combination of discomfort and amusement.
The intimate scale and sculptural quality of these works allow the artist to form densely layered and visually textured scenes. “By intensifying and compressing the images into these small dynamic surfaces,” says Pitch, “I intend to seduce the viewer into discovering their multiple levels of meaning.”
Pitch acknowledges the influence of German artist, Hannah Hoch, a pioneer in the art of photomontage during the post-World War I era. Just as Hoch’s juxtaposition of photographic fragments and magazine clippings addressed societal issues of her time, so do Pitch’s assemblages translate and interpret today’s popular culture.
Winnipeg-born Pitch obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts (sculpture) from the University of Manitoba in 1968. She has exhibited in numerous solo and group shows across Canada, including Theatre Tableaux at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 1988. Between 1994 and 1996, she executed public art projects for the Vancouver School Board (Queen Mary School) and the Arbutus Shopping Centre (Vancouver). A recipient of several Canada Council grants, her work is in the collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Burnaby Art Gallery.
1 Pitch’s interest in casting a new light on the discards of society is shared by other Canadian artists. For example, Ottawa-based printmaker, Pat Durr, whose work was featured in Gallery 1C03 in 1999, uses materials found in city garbage bins in her art.