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Camp Fires

7 years ago

Gardiner Museum presents Provocative Exhibition


May 29 – September 1

Sensual Show a Major Partner Event for WorldPride

Camp Fires: The Queer Baroque of Léopold L. Foulem, Paul Mathieu and Richard Milette opens at the Gardiner Museum May 29 and runs through September 1. This provocative show – a Major Partner Event for WorldPride 2014 Toronto – reveals the concept of “Camp” in the work of three important Francophone Canadian ceramic artists: Léopold L. Foulem, Paul Mathieu and Richard Milette. Curated by Robin Metcalfe, Camp Fires addresses subversive ideas about queer identity through clay.

“It’s not what you expect from a museum like the Gardiner that has so many beautiful, traditional objects in its collection,” says Kelvin Browne, Executive Director & CEO. “We are a part of the discussion for contemporary ideas. With Camp Fires, as with last year’s acclaimed Transformation by Fire – a show dealing with women overcoming violence through clay – we demonstrate that the Gardiner isn’t afraid of contentious issues.”

He continues: “Camp Fires focuses on three exceptional Canadian artists, Léopold L. Foulem, Paul Mathieu and Richard Milette, who work with clay and are known internationally. Their work is provocative, has remarkable insight about gender issues and Queer Identity in particular. I personally think there’s humour in this exhibition too – and that’s refreshing.”


“Léopold L. Foulem, Paul Mathieu and Richard Milette are among Canada’s most important contemporary ceramists on the international stage,” says Robin Metcalfe, Curator of Camp Fires and Director/Curator of Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery. “They are notable for their wit, a deep understanding of ceramics history, a willingness to engage with the theatricality and excess of Baroque visual aesthetics, and a frank and ribald engagement with the sexual body.”

“Camp” has been identified as a concept, an aesthetic sensibility, and a form of oppositional critique central to gay and lesbian culture. Camp has been variously understood to include elements of irony, exaggeration, excess, humour, sentimentality, theatricality, artifice, parody and devotion; as a disputed field of appropriation and counter-appropriation and of alternative signifying codes.

The three featured artists have worked with themes of Camp and gay male experience in their art for more than three decades. Their shared feeling that they’re outside the artistic and social mainstream has helped them create aesthetically powerful and intellectually stimulating bodies of work, rooted in, and critical of, conventional art history, ceramic history and contemporary culture.

The exhibition presents a survey of the artists’ oeuvre spanning their careers, including a consideration of their subversive historicism, their conceptual use of clay, and Queer identity and sexuality. Camp Fires deploys the concept of Camp, not as a fixed attribute of specific objects, but as an inherently political Queer signifying practice, strongly associated with performative identity and with subversive appropriation.


Camp Fires features adult content and explicit sexual themes. Due to the suggestive nature of the objects, the advertising for the exhibition – featuring the slogan “Clay is so gay” – does not show imagery of the work, but features a warning that suggests people, particularly parents, preview the provocative objects on the website first, at www.gardinermuseum.com/campfires.


Camp Fires: The Queer Baroque of Léopold L. Foulem, Paul Mathieu, Richard Milette is a Major Partner Event for WorldPride 2014 Toronto, presented by Pride Toronto, and will be on the official roster of cultural activities and destinations associated with the world’s largest LGBTQ festival, running from June 20 – 29. The Gardiner will also host a gay-themed party, “Summer Camp,” during Pride Week on Friday, June 27, as the launch for the outdoor Party on the Plaza series, featuring musical guests, food and drink.

“Thanks to incredible partnerships with exciting cultural institutions, like the Gardiner Museum, WorldPride 2014 Toronto will be unlike any other Pride festival ever experienced,” says Chrystal Dean, WorldPride Manager. “The arts and culture community, much like the LGBTTIQQ2SA* community, is vibrant and diverse and the Gardiner has brought a truly fascinating perspective, showcasing Franco-Canadian culture, and Canada’s rich cultural heritage.”

RBC is the exhibition’s Program Sponsor, with Xtra! as the exhibition’s Media Sponsor. Government support is generously provided by the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Province of Ontario, the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund, Ontario Arts Council, and the City of Toronto. The Globe and Mail is the 2014 Media Partner for the Gardiner Museum.


Located in the heart of Toronto on Queen’s Park Crescent across the street from the Royal Ontario Museum, the Gardiner Museum is Canada’s national ceramics museum, and one of the world’s great specialty museums. The Gardiner is committed to making a contribution to the medium of ceramics, as well as the community it serves, and is an inviting destination that inspires and connects people, art and ideas through clay. The Gardiner’s permanent collection comprises several extraordinary collections from sophisticated, dedicated collectors, making it one of the most significant centres of ceramics in North America. The breadth of the Museum’s holdings include pottery from the Ancient Americas, rare examples of Meissen, Du Paquier and Chelsea porcelain, Chinese blue and white porcelain, Japanese and Japanese-inspired porcelain, to contemporary ceramics – including an exceptional donation from Raphael Yu.

For more information, for details on exhibitions, events, workshop, clay classes, and more, please visit: www.gardinermuseum.com.


WorldPride 2014 Toronto is an international celebration taking place from June 20 – 29, 2014 that incorporates activism, education, and the history and culture of global LGBTTIQQ2SA* communities. WorldPride 2014 Toronto is presented by Pride Toronto, producer of Canada’s largest annual festival of LGBTTIQQ2SA culture and human rights, under license from InterPride.

Pride Toronto is the not-for-profit organization that hosts the city’s Pride Festival, an annual event in downtown Toronto during the last week of June and one of the premier arts and cultural festivals in Canada. It is also one of the largest Pride celebrations in the world with an estimated attendance of over one million people. It celebrates the history, courage, diversity and future of Toronto’s LGBTTIQQ2SA communities.

*LGBTTIQQ2SA is an abbreviation used to represent a broad array of identities such as, but not limited to, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, two-spirited, and allies.


To preview the exhibit, to arrange an interview with Kelvin Browne or Robin Metcalfe, to receive images or more information, please contact:

Danika Lochhead
Strategic Objectives
416.366.7735 x 290

Antonio Tan, Marketing Manager
Gardiner Museum

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