Artist and Red Deer College instructor Robin Lambert explores the socio-economic landscape of Alberta through mixed-medium sculptures in his latest exhibit ‘Because it never occurs to us that we cannot’ now on display at the Red Deer Museum + Gallery until until March 18th.
“It’s talking about the cycles that we get caught up in, here in Alberta—that boom/bust,” Lambert said.
The show explores themes surrounding the pioneering spirit of Alberta and the benefits and downfalls of this cultural outlook.
Lambert’s sculptures are primarily made out of porcelain, wood and thread.
They visually depict the delicacy of the province’s current climate by juxtaposing fragile ceramics with industrial imagery.
Lambert creates towering sculptures intended to look like poorly-constructed, dilapidated grain elevators and utility line towers, that are quintessentially Albertan to make viewers think about the province’s history of innovation and enthusiasm for development through construction.
“The title of the show is a paraphrase of a quote talking about the DNA of Alberta,” Lambert explained.
He said the spirit of Alberta is what allows us to can live in a part of the world that’s -30C in the winter and can be +30C in the summer, but that same spirit has caused us problems, too.
“We have some difficulties, you could say, with the people who were here before us,” Lambert said.
Adding that he believes Albertans will likely cause problems for future generations if things continue on the current trajectory.
“It’s a wonderful energetic idea (this pioneering spirit) but if you don’t consider your actions from the past and in the present, how are you going to know how things are going to come about in the future?”
Most of the sculptures give a sense of being in a state of falling apart and being repaired.
Red thread is used to hold works together and conjure a sense of the cycle of wounding and healing.
“From my point of view, it’s pretty hard to deny that we are pioneering and enterprising, but we’re also a colonizing and oppressing people and they kind of go hand-in-hand,” he said.
The artist said he does not intend for the exhibition to be a commentary on whether this spirit of Alberta is a positive or negative thing.
Rather he intends to create awareness of it and its effects.
“This is a thing that is happening and we need to address it or things are going to continue to fall apart,” he said.
He notes that these cycles exist both on a provincial level and an individual one. “There is a stereotype in Alberta of people who live paycheque to paycheque, and ‘the party’ goes on and on— this attitude perpetuates the boom/bust cycle on a micro level as well as a provincial, national and international level,” Lambert said.
One piece in the exhibit, titled ‘These Dreams You Have, Storys You Tell, Partys You Throw, Part II’ (according to Lambert the title is deliberately spelled incorrectly, to convey the idea of a drunk narrator) has faded colours on a birthday-style banner indicating that every party fades with time.
The banner is made of highly-crafted porcelain triangles, intended to look like bunting seen at a child’s party.
The piece conveys a sense of tragedy through the heaviness of each ceramic wedge nailed to the wall and glazed in a dull, grey-green colour. There is a permanence to the banner that a paper banner doesn’t have, as if to say, the party can’t last forever, Alberta.
The exhibit is on now until March 18th at the Red Deer Museum + Gallery.