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Diana Thorneycroft – 2016 Major Arts Grant

Known for making art that hovers on the edge of public acceptance, visual artist Diana Thorneycroft has pursued topics that often challenged her viewing audience.  She arrived on the national art scene in the early 1990s with her highly charged black and white self-portraits photographs that explored issues around sexual identity and the body in pain. From 2005 to 2015 Thorneycroft’s interest in Canadian identity emerged as she completed four different bodies of work that investigated and subverted notions of “Canadian-ness”.

Thorneycroft’s most recent body of work is an installation entitled Herd. A major component is the presentation of 150 plastic toy horses (half of which have been altered), ascending a 40 foot ramp. The transformed horses transgress boundaries pertaining to beauty, vulnerability and the grotesque. Herd opened at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound on April 3rd, 2016, and will subsequently tour to several other venues in Canada.

Thorneycroft is the recipient of numerous awards including an Assistance to Visual Arts Long-term Grant from the Canada Council, several Senior Arts Grants from the Manitoba Arts Council and a Fleck Fellowship from the Banff Centre for the Arts. She has exhibited various bodies of work across Canada, the United States and Europe, as well as in Moscow, Tokyo and Sydney., and was a sessional instructor at the University of Manitoba’s School of Art for 25 years. Since 2010, she has been focusing on her studio practice full time, and has gallery representation in Paris, Los Angeles, Detroit, Calgary, Winnipeg, London (Ontario) and Montreal.

Thorneycroft lives in Winnipeg with her partner, artist Michael Boss.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION: In the artist’s words

“Since 2012, I have been transforming plastic toy horses made by companies such as Breyer and Mattel. The culmination of this work is an installation entitled Herd that involves the presentation of 75 altered horses (along with an equal number that are unaltered), ascending a winding 40-foot ramp.

After modifying numerous horses, I began treating figurines in a similar manner. I imagined these new “beings” as the horses’ herdsmen, their sometimes kindly, sometimes nefarious caregivers, and like the animals in their charge, they too contain evidence of otherness and hybridity. In order for the mutant herdsmen to fulfill their role as custodians of the herd, I needed to provide a context. For this purpose, I returned to using the staged tableau landscape, a place where clues can allude to an allegorically rich narrative.

An equal amount of time will be spent preparing the objects to be included in each set as in the production of the individual photographs. The amount of detail that goes into the alteration and embellishment of the action figures will add an aura of authenticity to the fiction being presented. I will also be fabricating strange architectural structures that will become integral to the storyline and will continue making unusual furniture, like the totemic water chairs that appear in Birdmen (ranch hands and members of the selection committee).

To date, I have completed eight photographs. During the tenure of the grant I will be creating at least a dozen more. The final series, entitled Black Forest (still waters), will be closely aligned with other dark and cryptic contemporary fairytales.”

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