Shifting Boundaries

Functional art -- multi-purposed and elegant
An exploration of natural building materials.


The extent to which buildings shape our life becomes obvious when we think about it and stop taking them for granted.

We create buildings. Buildings affect us. We create more buildings - a feed-back spiral of making and cumulative experience. Yet our notions and experience of buildings has become limited and, as the curator believes, removed from what was once a more fundamental relationship to structure, to material, to making, and to our own needs.

The Mary E. Black Gallery continues to remind us through its exhibitions of how craft and design questions can enlarge our personal experience, and can help us reconsider many of the decisions which we daily take for granted.

Chris Tyler, Mary E. Black Gallery.

Curator's Statement

Shifting Boundaries explores these ideas, through materials literally under our feet. Using simple elements like straw, clay, stone and fibre it investigates meanings of structure in society, as well the potential to use these in the creation of, not only buildings but community as well.

Human, animal and plant shelters were once inexorably connected to the earth. Local materials determined shape, use and longevity; there was a magic in this cohesion. Not the magic of incantation, (though perhaps the hard labour of days gone by, did by-times invoke the spirits) but the magic of something working; when materials dance and shift into patterns and rhythms which touch deep chords, resonating in and beyond the maker.

Magic happens as we listen to the materials around us, listen to language nearly forgotten in the Industrial World's urgency to learn high tech linguistics.

Pushing the Limits and Coming Full Circle

Growing public concern around the environmental and health costs associated with modern building methods has given rise to a reexamination of natural building materials and how they can be used in the modern context. These materials offer the promise of non toxic, biodegradable, low tech structures which allow us to live more lightly on the earth.

The process of direct involvement with personal building projects shortcuts the many 'experts' we have built into our lives, making it possible to disengage ourselves from myriad professionals who define where and how we live and ultimately ... who we are.

Shifting Boundaries investigates natural building materials in contemporary and traditional applications. The structures are linked together by their earth based origins, and by the artist's intent to move us in simple and playful ways towards a point where we realize anybody can do that, and so perhaps, we shall.

The shapes and materials used in the exhibition liken boundaries to frontiers which validate us on a daily basis. Poetry of form and the mammoth silence of entered spaces shaped with natural materials leaves us with a strength and integrity we can bring to other parts of our lives. Earlier cultures understood these relationships and what they meant to the health of the planet. Memories of those connections reside in all of us, there for the summoning.

Kim Thompson

Tradition and modernity are merely two sides of the same coin - and must be dealt with simultaneously. Building cannot be a rigid dogma, but a living organic, ecological project. It is about continuity, based on memory, common sense and experience, and is the foundation of innovation.

Hasan Uddin Khan

Take a virtual tour of the exhibit!

With gratitude to our many sponsors!

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Cob & Clay      Thatch      Straw      Stone      Fabric      Wikuom      Technology