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Courtesy Walter May

Local artist makes everyday objects into art

By Rachel Woodward, March 29 2016 —

One New Work is a three-part exhibition taking place at the Glenbow Museum over the next year. The show aims to take pieces of work by an artist and find ways to place those works in new contexts. The first exhibition, showing at the museum until May 29, is Walter May: Object Lessons.

Walter May is a Calgary sculptor who has been creating visual pieces for around 50 years.

One New Work is curated by art critic Nancy Tousley. She believes it is important to give audiences a history of the art they’re observing.

“I proposed it to the Glenbow with the idea that I would take one new work by an artist and put it into a context. The context can take many forms,” Tousley says. “With Walter’s show, it’s all his work. There are seven pieces that span 15 years. It’s very focused. The idea here was that other earlier work that was related to the new work would provide the context, and in this case, it has to do with processes that Walter has used in his work over many years and materials and objects he has used.”

May’s newest piece in the exhibition is called “Still Life with Canes.” The artist says he often works with objects he can find multiple meanings for.

“[I use] lots of tools, like the typical tools that you were used to looking at — but also a cane, which is a tool you use for supporting yourself,” May says. “It speaks about ideas of functionality and dysfunctionality. One of the things that art can do is present objects or images in new ways so that people begin to think differently about the world around them.”

The seven pieces vary in style and form. Tousley says three of the works in the show have never been seen before.

“I am quite interested in his work, and the way he works is consistent in many ways over a long period of time which made it very interesting to show, in a very focused way, similarities and differences in his work,” she says.

By using objects that seem insignificant in daily life, May hopes to present them to audiences in a way that will shift their perspectives.

“I am interested in looking at things, looking at objects and the natural world and seeing what I can do with what’s available to me,” he says. “Part of the way that I like to work has to do with something that already has a history or a certain amount of baggage, and being able to develop that. You’re hoping that people will see what you see and sometimes people see more than you see, and that’s even better.”

Walter May: Object Lessons is showing at the Glenbow until May 29 as part of the three-part series. Admission to the Glenbow is free on the first Thursday of every month.

The second and third parts of the exhibition will take place over the course of the year.

For more information about One New Work, visit glenbow.org

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