Friday, March 16, 2012

A Virtual Tour of Fiona Crangle's "Be Prepared"

In the Upper Gallery, Crangle's "Baroque" Series:

"Rufina", Agatha" and "Cecilia"

"Lucy" and "Catherine"



Three from the "Medieval" series, in the Mezzanine Gallery
From L to R: "Catherine", "Dorothy" and "Margaret"

And in the front window:

Go here for close-ups and further information.

Artist Statement:

"In art, the idea of human goodness is packaged and delivered to us as beauty. Saints, the definitive do-gooders, are rendered as exquisite creatures: glowingly beautiful, artfully posed, often adorned with arichness usually reserved for more worldly personas. During the Baroque period and especially in the hands of Zurbaran and Caravaggio, the paintings of these perfect young things mix desire with the desire to be good, creating a push/pull response in the viewer.  Allowing light and dark to fight for space on the canvas reflects the conflicting nature of the viewer's response.

It was the overlapping iconography of "sainting" and "scouting" that initiated this body of work: hagiographic symbols litter the insignia, motifs and especially the badges of the world of scouts and guides.  The trials and stages of each saint's quest towards ultimate goodness can be mapped out via an accumulation of scouting badges. The symbols that throughout art history have visually identified each saint - originally for an illiterate audience- are also found in the Catalogue of Scouting Honours. But the similarity does not stop at the symbolic; both these young female saints and Girl Guides are in pursuit of a goal of self betterment, moving toward an ideal vision/version of themselves through a series of challenges. And importantly, both groups are adolescents.

Adolescence is a short lived period of idealism. Physically, we are at our most ideal, like a young Greek kouros or kore, with lithe and supple bodies poised at the cusp of adulthood.  Emotionally, this is a time of black and white belief systems, of unshakeable idealism. The saints depicted in Be Prepared have been chosen because at the root of their stories they are defiantly stubborn in a way that only a teenager can be. They have made choices that no amount of forceful persuasion can sway. Most often their stories involve rebuffing the advances of a man that responds to their physical desirability- the ideal beauty of adolescence enhanced by their innate goodness that polishes it to perfection.  This holds true to images of adolescents today- their ripening beauty compels us to stare and in fact demands it.  And yet the gaze that returns ours is aggressive and challenging, masking an uncertain reaction to the invitation to become a sexual being. The contemporary faces of the girls used for the blended Girl Guide- saints in Be Prepared are armoured with a modern belligerence.... Look, but don't touch."

-Fiona Crangle (January, 2012)

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