Origins and growth. Where do we come from and where do we go from there?
These two themes are central to many of the works by Canadian ceramicist and clay artist Victor Cicansky, to whom Graceland University played host from March 28 to April 1, 2016. During that week, Cicansky held several live demos in the ceramics room of the Helene Center and delivered an artist talk in Carol Hall.
Much of his presentation focused on those two themes mentioned above. The bulk of his talk was centered on his experiences growing up with his Romanian immigrant family in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, and how those experiences influence both his art and his daily life.
“Any human experience is material for art making”. For Cicansky, this meant drawing on simple memories such as lying in the furrows of the field his grandfather had just freshly plowed, or canning vegetables in the fall.
His talk was full of little familial anecdotes that lead to a whole series of art pieces. For example, one time, his grandmother left a large cabbage sitting in a chair and when he asked her why, she said, “Cabbages have to sit too.” This eventually led Cicansky to create a series of ‘Armchair Vegetable’ pieces.
The city of Regina also plays a large role in many of his works. Towards the end of his presentation, he talked about the history of the town and how it was built on Cree hunting grounds. The Cree’s name for the area literally translates to ‘Pile of Bones,’ and referred to a practice where the Natives would stack up piles of bones so the buffalo would come back and visit their fellows. Cicansky then showed us how this history influenced him to make a series for the city’s Centennial Anniversary.
The imagery in his works is primarily food and garden based, but the food in his work is so much more than food. Growing up before supermarkets really began to emerge in that part of Canada, Cicansky had a deeper connection to growing and preparing food than most of us do now. In fact, most of us have no idea where our food comes from nowadays. In Cicansky’s eyes, this creates an isolation. When we become isolated from our food, we become isolated from a central part of our way of life. How can you have a sense of who you are if you know nothing about the food that sustains you? It’s for this reason that Cicansky has joined up with a group in Regina that is reeducating people about where food comes from and how to grow it. For Cicansky, growing food is pivotal not only for human survival but for our humanity as a whole.
On the whole, Cicansky uses his art as a way of expressing his own idiosyncratic experiences as well as a method of exploring the way his origins serve as a continual influence. His works are colorful and fun, but are also a reminder of how even the smallest, simplest experiences can be the ones that define us for a lifetime.
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