Artists are so intensely focused on their works, that they are usually unaware of how the art of becoming an artist is part of the process – that painting, writing, dancing, and in Peggy Grigor’s case, working with clay, are transformative acts.
About a year ago, though, a shift from shaping clay mostly on a potter’s wheel – something Grigor has mastered through years of practice – to sculpting clay into representational forms, working it on a bench, has brought that aspect her art to the fore.
“When I started doing the sculptural work, I started to get interested in doing faces and images of humans,” she said. And from there, the inspiration to do a series representing Gaia emerged. “It just came to me, let’s do Gaia, who is Mother Earth, because she needs someone to pay attention to her now,”Grigor recalled.
If we all paid more attention, and cared for the earth the way Gaia does, the planet would be a happier, safer place as far as she is concerned, and the garden series evokes environmental and ecological perspectives that are central to Grigor and family.
“I have two passions, one is working with the clay, which is the earth, the other is working in the garden, which is the earth,” she said. Both are centring, creative acts. “If we just listen to Gia, and follow her lead, basically just being a mother, nurturing, taking care of – if we all did that, then the planet could be saved.”
As much as Gaia is an example to others, she has been a demanding teacher for Grigor. As an experienced and skilled potter, she can turn out works quickly; creating images of Gaia has put her back into that expansive, but intensely frustrating learning mode that so often accompanies inspiration.
“The old life’s lesson, that I’ve never really gotten down very pat, is about patience, taking your time, paying attention to detail, which is what my sculpting teacher is constantly harping at me about,” she laughed. “So for me, it’s just about being able to take the pressure off and slow down, and really be meticulous about all the little fine details.”
At the end of the day, she hopes all that effort will change her world. “What I envision is putting the sculptures in the garden, and creating an experience of garden tours with the sculptures of Gaia around.”
Is that practical? Will it sell? That’s another question Grigor has wrestled with, and come down on Gaia’s side. “You can’t think about economics, you can’t think about ‘Can I make a living at this?’, if you want to be an authentic artist. You just have to be part of the art and let it happen.”
Of course, she adds, she’d love to sell some of her Gaia works. Due to the COVID19 pandemic the Rainforest Arts gallery is closed until further notice, but you can take a virtual tour of the Gaia’s Garden series at RainforestArts.ca.