Artists combine feminine creativity for Just Figures

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The female form has long been an inspiration for sculptor Frith Bail. She has created work exploring the changes in the body, be they through the natural aging process or something more invasive, sometimes as an exploration of her own changing body. 

She said she does figurative work as a way of centering herself. 

“This vessel that we live in is always changing and I feel like I have to go back and figure it out again,” said Bail. “The female figure is something that is about finding your centre and also in relationship to other women. We are very social creatures. There is a movement that happens in the space between two people and I like playing in that negative space.”

She said the exploration of self was revisited once more when she was recovering from breast cancer surgery. Life’s changes and aging are themes in the work that is being shown this month as part of the Just Figures exhibit at Mad and Noisy Gallery.

Bail is one of five artists, all women, whose work is on the subject of the human form.

She has included three series in the show – simple figures are an examination of the changing body and female spirituality while another piece, entitled Walking Women, is about formative experiences that imprint on people and become part of their souls.

“I grew up in the Laurentians and I always walked in the woods with a group of women. It’s a very core image of mine that I keep repeating,” said Bail. “The idea is that who you are, your soul, your being is mirrored from the environment.”

She wanted to recreate on the wall women moving through their environment.

She said they are called “inscapes” because, “when you are in an environment, it gets into your soul and becomes part of you.”

Bail, who splits her time between the Creemore area and Toronto, fires the clay in troughs while she is in the country. She collects wood shavings from woodworkers in the area, trading for pottery from her line of functional dishes.

Bail works in terra sigillata, invented by the Greeks. 

Sawdust firing, an ancient technique, was rediscovered by contemporary artists.  

It’s like painting with smoke. They come out gray with varying results depending on the temperature of the fire and the affects of the minerals, like salt, that are added. 

“It’s so fun. You just leave it up to God,” said Bail. “You imagine what it could be, because I have been doing it so long, so there is some sense of where you are going with it but if it’s a windy day then it gets really hot but if it’s a cool day, the fire is less hot.”

She said the ancient techniques and processes have been incorporated into her work.

For sculpture, I was always struggling to find a surface that really resonated with the pieces and added to them,” said Bail, adding that traditional glazes haven’t worked. “I just love the sawdust smoke firing.”

For these pieces, Bail presses leaves into the wet clay, which gives a texture while grasses added to the kiln during the firing process adds another dimension. The smoke gives it the gray colour.

Meet the artist at a reception from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17. The show runs until Nov. 30. Also included in the show are painters Grace Afonso, of Hamilton; Rossana Dewey, of Halliburton; Eleanor Lowden, of Toronto; and Sherry Czekus, of Waterloo.

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