Artist of the Week: Cynthia Girard

Cynthia Girard is a visual artist, satirist and poet. At the core of her work is the practice of painting, which she extends into other media such as installation, sculpture and performance. Her work challenges long maintained hierarchies and rejects the traditional idea of artistic genius, favoring instead elements of vernacular culture and the applied arts. Girard’s influences are intentionally eclectic, borrowing from various movements such as abstract art, Dadaism, cartoons, Op Art, feminist craft, decorative arts, conceptual art, children’s illustrations, burlesque theatre and surrealism. Juxtaposing politics with whimsical imagery to produce distorted worlds, the artist invites the viewer to take part in her theatrical experiment—a carnival where identities are suspended momentarily to make way to new fantastical hybrids.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I was born in Montreal; I am a visual artist and writer. French is my mother tongue. I teach visual arts at Université du Québec à Montréal.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? Grandville; he is an illustrator and caricaturist who lived and worked before the French Revolution. I love his drawings of animals taking human poses. Also volcanoes—I don’t know why really but I love to read about volcanoes and specially Haroun Tazieff, a vulcanologist from France who writes beautifully about his thoughts and expeditions, especially the one at Mount Erebus, a volcano in Antarctica.

Unicorns and Dictators, installation view, Esker foundation, Calgary, Alb. 2014.

If you were a drink what drink would you be? Just water so my dog would drink me and I could become part of her.

What artists are you interested in right now? Cosima Von Bonin, Virginia Woolf and Robert Bresson.

Le gendarme / The Policeman, acrylic on linen, 182 x 152 cm, 2014.

What’s your absolute favorite place in the world to be? A lake in a canoe alone with my dog in the north of Quebec.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I am working on a series of 12 very large paintings, the size of Velasquez equestrian portraits, about 9 by 12 feet. I work with the idea of animals being human, the reverse of Nature/ Culture. They behave like us but are little confused about it. The paintings are highly colored with too many patterns like a hallucinogenic drug trip.

Caterpillar, Cocoon, Butterfly, paper mâché, photocopies, gouache and wood, 240 x 180 x 180 cm, 2014.

Tell us about your work process and how it develops. It is like building or fishing; I put my line in the water and really I don’t know exactly how it will turn out. But I do choose the lake and my bait, so I have restrictions.

What are you reading right now? I am reading an Ursula Le Guin’s novel.

What do you want a viewer to walk away with after seeing your work? Bewilderment maybe if I understand what it means. Like a stain in their brain.

The Last Unicorn, acrylic on linen, 182 x 137 cm, 2014.

What were you like in high school? I was a bad student I guess, unmotivated, dreamy and impolite.