HISTORIES: REVOLT IN REGINA
Regina in the 1960s offers a tale of two art communities and two competing visions of contemporary art. In the first half of the decade, the city had witnessed the dramatic rise to prominence of a group of abstract painters known as the Regina Five..
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Regina in the 1960s offers a tale of two art communities and two competing visions of contemporary art. In the first half of the decade, the city had witnessed the dramatic rise to prominence of a group of abstract painters known as the Regina Five. They and their contemporaries had established through the university art school an approach to painting and sculpture that was internationalist in outlook and modernist in its belief in a set of higher cultural values.
However, in 1969 when American artist David Gilhooly accepted an invitation to teach in Regina, the conditions were ripe for a ceramic revolution. Gilhooly brought with him an irreverent, anti-institutional outlook on life and art. It was in Regina that Gilhooly began to create a full-fledged parallel “Frog World” containing everything from tableaux-topped casseroles to busts of famous figures, including his first frog Queen Victoria.
Gilhooly had an immediate impact, especially on fellow faculty member Joe Fafard, who had been hired a year earlier. Inspired by Gilhooly’s attitude that art should be personally meaningful and fun, Fafard abandoned the minimal/kinetic sculpture of his graduate days at Pennsylvania State University and he began a series of plaster busts of his fellow professors, a “rogues gallery,” which he unveiled before an unsuspecting art department in January 1970. For the next two years, Fafard continued creating caricatures, launching satirical barbs at the entire Regina art community in plaster and clay. In addition, Fafard voiced criticism of what he perceived was an excessive reliance on imported styles and opinions, by stating, “We should abolish the reverence that we have for outsiders, just because they are outsiders, or because they are making it on the New York scene.” Ideological differences and personality clashes reached a flashpoint over teaching and grading practices, with the newer faculty being accused of disregard for traditional academic discipline. Gilhooly’s teaching position was not renewed for the 1971-72 academic year; isolated but defiant, Fafard held on for another three years before resigning.