Free Spirits Exhibition

Tuesday Oct 15 2013

With the Free Spirits exhibition, Québec City's Musée de la civilisation follows Gauvreau's profoundly human approach and questions the bounds between what is art and what is not, what is beautiful and what is ugly...

"I reject all of those labels which, deep down, when you really look at them and consider them more closely, are extremely disparaging. In the end they make art critics and art historians into a type of Culture Clergy who decide whether to light the altar candles or not." These are the words Pierre Gauvreau—the man so fascinated with freedom of expression—used to explain his love of folk art and its creators to gain recognition for them as artists in their own right. With the Free Spirits exhibition, Québec City's Musée de la civilisation follows Gauvreau's profoundly human approach and questions the bounds between what is art and what is not, what is beautiful and what is ugly, and examines the creative context to reveal portraits of men and women who are all too often marginalized, while also letting their works speak for themselves. Free Spirits runs through February 8, 2015.

Cultivating imagination as the earth
The perfect gateway ushering visitors into this universe teeming with unbridled shapes, colors, and creations is the painting Le paradis au milieu de mes jours by Charles Binamé, whose work captures Gauvreau's deep contentment in the middle of his lush garden filled not only with blooming flowers but also works of folk art sprouting here and there. Indeed, the artist cultivated his imagination as he did the earth! At his friend's request, Gauvreau collaborated on the work by doing part of the painting within the painting. And to play up the flight of fancy visitors will take in the exhibit, two works by Albert Deroy, La Pin-up and Le poisson, spring from the canvas.

Four themes revisited: beauty, liberation, indiscipline, and tradition
What follows is a circular presentation divided into four thematic showcases, where every work beckons the eye. The first theme, Beauty and Creativity, leads us into the garden of Marie-Anna Voisine, a woman from Bas-Saint-Laurent who rather than making her art about others, chose to make it about herself. She explored this self-affirmation through her garden a series of vivid windows made using diverse materials, colors, and shapes. In the background, Janine Carreau's painting reflects this exotic hodgepodge and pays special tribute to this exceptionally creative woman. In similar fashion, Pierre Gauvreau's Les vacances d'un cyclope in the second theme dedicated to Liberation offers a playful nod to another artist. The painting is reminiscent of the light colors for which Edmond Chatigny had a particular fondness. A farmer, Chatigny sculpted masterpieces inspired by day-to-day life, much like Alphonse Grenier, who had a rich yet visibly darker imagination, as evidenced by his "boîte à bonhommes" music box inspired by scenes of violent death and massacre.

The third theme, Untamed and Undisciplined, is dedicated to the work of contemporary artist Bruno Champagne, whose creations, like Gauvreau's, take a critical view of society. Whether it's Le con-damné (Diable), Le sapin de guerre, the huge chess game entitled D Génération X, or Le 100 abris, each of Bruno Champagne's works is a societal commentary in and of itself.

The last theme demonstrates that tradition has not been entirely abandoned by folk art. On the contrary, folklore (flying canoe), cultural events (Carnival), historical figures (Jacques Cartier), celebrities (Mag Dog Vachon), and religion all inspire and galvanize these artists, who then tackle these Traditions revisited through their own highly personal visions. An exercise Gauvreau often enjoyed, as evidenced by his composition Five O'Clock Mary made from a salvaged holy image and abstract shapes for an ironic take on Québec's cultural and religious tradition.

A floating parterre
As an end to this fantastic journey, the middle of the exhibition space offers visitors a floating parterre. Above the works hangs a stunning chandelier by Raynald Tremblay, and below, some of the Carreau-Gauvreau couple's archival documents are on display (photographs of paintings, anecdotes, and short films). Visitors can watch a video montage of individual folk artists captured by Gauvreau's camera in the 1974 documentary series produced by Télé-Québec, Si l'monde savait. Visitors can also learn more about the creative techniques used by folk artists and watch clips from the film L'immortalité en fin de compte, a 2003 documentary about folk art in Québec.

Bird garden workshop
This exhibition holds many a discovery for young children as well. A workshop was developed to give preschool-age children the chance to create a bird garden from recovered materials.

Don't miss the Free Spirits exhibition, a rare look into the world and techniques of folk art and folk artists, and a chance to soak up their unfiltered beauty, utopia, and above all, creative freedom. Runs October 16, 2013, to February 8, 2015, at Québec City's Musée de la civilisation. Alcoa is a partner in all Musée de la civilisation programming.

Media relations:
Québec City: Agnès Dufour, 418-528-235,
Montréal: Rosemonde Gingras, 514-458-8355,

– Musée de la civilisation –

85, rue Dalhousie
Quebec City (Québec) G1K 8R2
T. 418 643-2158
Toll-free 1 866 710-8031

– Musée de l'Amérique –

2, côte de la Fabrique
Quebec City (Québec) G1R 3V6
T. 418 643-2158
Toll-free 1 866 710-8031