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Best-laid plans

Arts & Entertainment

Best-laid plans

Wendy Coburn's latest project features a series of toy U-Haul trucks and trailers. IMAGE 1 OF 1
You'll want to move in with Wendy Coburn's latest work after the first glance
Wendy Coburn may be best known for her work The Spirit of Canada Eating Beaver, a small bronze sculpture that, for its delicacy and restraint, might pass for a Florence Wyle if not for the large, fat, hairy genus Castor chomping away between a woman’s legs.
The woman lies on her side, head propped up by her hand. She watches the beaver with a bored, almost critical gaze, as if to say, “Geez, you’d think a beaver would know how to eat beaver better.” 
In the other sculpture in the series, Leda and the Beaver, the woman eats out the beaver to much more apparent success. The beaver reclines in ecstasy, little front paws limp and relaxed, webbed hind feet splayed out indecorously. Let the woman show the beaver how it’s really done. Coburn has a thoughtful, pokerfaced quality, but her work betrays a deeply comical mind, a mind that is self-aware, sensitive and roguish.
The combination of formality and whimsy is a hallmark of Coburn’s work. Not just because she explores the lives of lesbians is the word dyke appropriate when describing her oeuvre. She uses formal techniques — bronzing, sculpture — to capture deeply emotional and charged moments. She creates indelible structures to contain the volatility of nature.
On Coburn’s dining room table sits a piece she’s yet to show publicly: a turkey baster cast in bronze, in the style of Jasper Johns’ Light Bulb 1 (Coburn often critiques or pays tribute to recognized work in her own).
“To me, that Johns piece says 'idea,'” Coburn says. “This is an idea as well.”
Coburn captures the relevant moments in the lives of queer women with respect and humour. The turkey baster, such an icon of gay and lesbian culture: sperm deliverer, ad hoc enema. To Coburn, these are objects worth creating long-term artifacts out of.
Coburn is skilled at all the mediums she works in, be it video, sculpture or photography. This last medium informs her latest work, titled U-Haul Suite. She is presenting this series of photographs at a realty office in Leslieville, also known as Lezzieville. The irreverence runs deep.
The photographs, except for one, appear in pairs. To make the series, Coburn worked with old-fashioned magic and new technology. She made the images in situ, building a screen and projecting images of natural harmony and disaster against it. She photographed a series of toy U-Haul trucks and trailers she had purchased on eBay in front of the screens. The effect is enchanting. The photos have a quality of early filmic special effects, like the space scenes in the first Star Wars movie.
The intention is to show the accumulation, both with objects and with emotions, that we acquire when we enter into unions. Sometimes we walk away with less, sometimes we walk away with more, but there is always a struggle when we try to find love and create homes for ourselves.
The Deets:

U-Haul Suite
Photographs by Wendy Coburn
Opens Thurs, Sept 13, 7-10pm
Runs till Thurs, Oct 25
Core Realty Group
747 Queen St E, Unit 102
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Great show
These photos are witty and gorgeous, and the choice to show them at a realty office a stroke of genius.
A tale of two Wendys
It appears that the author of this article, QuAIA supporter Sasha Van Bon Bon, likes Wendy Coburn much better than she liked the late Wendy Babcock. After Wendy Babcock, an advocate for sex workers, committed suicide in August 2011, Sasha Van Bon Bon wrote the following in her column in NOW Magazine: (quote) I knew Wendy. Not well – her erratic emotional energy scared the shit out of me. I am wary of women (and whores in particular) who are so unpredictable. They remind me that so many of us are troubled, not getting the help we need and beset by misfortunes both personally and within the business. They remind me that I can be unpredictable, too. When you want nothing more than to be loved, this is a trait you must work continuously to hide. You must be cautious of people who betray it with such a stunning lack of restraint...Wendy was obviously gifted, obviously tormented, obviously a beacon for suffocatingly bad luck –lurching about putting carts before horses, yelling into megaphones, burning bridges and being raw, rowdy and exposed. (end of quote) See http://www.nowtoronto.com/columns/sasha.cfm?content=182213
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