COLBORNE – Rod Bergeron knows how to get and keep a viewer’s attention, as the community will discover when his show Home opens Oct. 4 at the Art Gallery of Colborne.
One part of the show depicts a utopian ideal entitled Cupville, that was first developed when Bergeron doodled city imagery on a coffee cup in class. He painstakingly carved out windows and doors, and soon envisioned the possibilities of this simple craft.
The cups were turned inside-out, and the artist didn’t stop using up cups and breaking X-acto blades until nine complete city blocks were created. He cut out housing, workplaces, stores, parks and even racks that include 13 tiny bicycles, all from cardboard Tim Hortons cups.
“I didn’t know where to stop!” he declared.
Bergeron is poised to graduate next spring from OCAD University, and this installation was made for his thesis project.
The artist’s wife Kim is a built-environment and health specialist. Together they have become fascinated with the health and well-being of city dwellers. Kim works hard to affect policy that will improve the quality of life and the workability of a city. Rod makes some of these ideas visible.
Cupville drew keen attention when it was displayed at Grey to Green: A Conference on the Economics of Green Infrastructure held in Toronto last month. The piece represents the most controlled of environments. It is clean and precise, and everything makes perfect sense. It depicts a world that could be.
The other part of Bergeron’s show, The War Machine Project, reveals a world that is by an artist who served for 10 years in the Canadian Armed Forces.
This work is carefully crafted from repurposed toys. He uses fragments of the bright every-day world of children to entice the viewer — toys activate memories and start us wondering.
Bergeron knows how powerful the use of toys can be, but he will not leave them as he finds them. He disturbs our response by placing and refitting toy elements into something completely new and provocative. There are clockwork references of history, but knights in armour are seamlessly merged with World War Two action heroes. Houses and trains turn upside-down, and army men grow dinosaur heads.
Viewers are confronted with the gulf that exists between what they think they want (Cupville) and Bergeron’s expression of darker problems of the world that exist today. The artist reminds us we have a long way to go.
Home opens Oct. 4 at the Colborne Art Gallery (51 King St. E., Colborne), with a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. at which the artist will be present.
The show continues through Nov. 9.
— Annie McDonald