rodRod Bergeron knows how to get and keep a viewer’s attention!  He has created a two-part sculpture installation for a feature exhibit to be held at The Colborne Art Gallery this October, entitled Home.  I recently toured the work at his Baltimore, Ontario studio.  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 possiblitities 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 exclaimed, “I didn’t know where to stop!”  He cut out housing, workplaces, stores, parks and even racks that include thirteen tiny bicycles, all from cardboard Tim Hortons’ cups.

Bergeron is poised to graduate next spring from OCADU and this installation was made for his thesis project.  The artist’s wife, Kim Bergeron, is a built environment and health specialist. Together they have become fascinated with the health and wellbeing of city dwellers.  Kim works hard to affect policy that will improve the quality of life and the workability of a city, and Rod makes some of these ideas visable.  Cupville drew keen attention when it was displayed at Grey to Green: a Conference on the Economics of Green Infrastructure held in Toronto this August.  The piece represents the most controlled of environments.  It is clean and precise, and everthing 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.  The artist served in the Canadian Armed Forces for ten years.  This work is carefully crafted from repurposed toys.  He uses fragments of the bright everyday world of children to entice the viewer to attend; 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.  We are confronted with the gulf that exists between what we think we 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 on October 4, 2014 at The Colborne Art Gallery at 51 King Street East in Colborne, with a reception from 2 – 4 pm.  The artist will be present and all are welcome to attend!  The show continues through November 9, 2014.

Annie McDonald