Barbara Berry, Feast Offering (2005), oil on wood [Xchanges Gallery, Victoria BC, Sept 7-24]
Nova Scotia artist Barbara Berry creates collage-style compositions with imagery breaking out of the picture plane and extruding from the edges of the format. Like psychedelic narratives, the wooden constructions combine flora and fauna with figures and scenes from Tibetan Buddhist murals and scroll paintings (thangka).
The pieces incorporate references to primitive art, particularly masks, as well as early Christian art. Some of the works are based directly on the lives of Buddhist saints and Tibetan deities. Berry is particularly interested in female saints, deities and goddesses (dakinis).
Berry assembles her cut and carved relief forms of animals, humans, birds, plants and deities much like jigsaw puzzles. But her work is not for the faint-hearted. The most vivid images depict charnel grounds (cemeteries) in ancient Tibet. As well as being spiritual places where people would go to meditate and contemplate death and impermanence, the charnel grounds were physical places where corpses would be cut up and disposed of, allowing predators to feast upon them.
Berry earned a BFA at the Parsons School of Design (1981) and an MFA from the University of Colorado (1984). She has exhibited in Halifax, St. Catherines, Antigonish and Ottawa in Canada, and in Vermont, Massachusetts and Colorado in the United States. Most recently, she has taught foundation courses in drawing at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. This is her first exhibit on the West Coast.