Stories in Silver and Stone
November 17 - December 10, 2022
The work of Michael Massie is unlike that of any artist. From sleek, angular silhouettes, to delicate creatures modeled from reality, Massie’s sculptures transcend the conventional limits of Inuit art and design. We were proud to showcase Massie’s 100th Teapot in 2021, and almost two years later, we are honoured to present this selection of never-before-seen works in Massie’s first solo exhibition at Feheley Fine Arts.
This latest body of work marks a continuation in Massie’s refined practice. Impacted in 2020 by the Covid-19 pandemic, which resulted in increased time spent in his studio and bouts of isolation, Massie has revisited themes of balance, movement, caricature, and memories of his childhood with renewed force. During this time, Massie’s studio practice was forced to evolve. Work was difficult at times, the artist recalls, and spending time in the studio alone for eight to nine hours each day had “more downs than ups,” producing an “overwhelming silence.” During long walks through the forest near his studio, he found inspiration for his designs in newly-found vistas or an oddly-shaped shadow. Despite these challenges, additional time to ponder over his designs allowed Massie to produce works that reflect the epitome of his skill, honed throughout his over-thirty-year-long career. Selected works incorporate his signature plethora of rare woods and materials including sterling silver, bone, brass, moose hair, and anhydrite stone, among many others.
Massie’s work has often been described as reflecting the intersection of his manifold Inuit, Métis and Scottish heritage, merging traditional Inuit techniques with contemporary western elements of design. After his inaugural solo exhibition at Spirit Wrestler Gallery in 2005, Massie shot to widespread critical acclaim. His work has been exhibited across Europe and Canada, and is part of many prominent permanent collections including the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada, the Smithsonian, the Heard Museum, and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. In 2022, Massie’s 101st teapot Bakeapples, Partridgeberries, and Tea (2021) was acquired by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Department of Modern and Contemporary Decorative Arts.
Systematicness remains essential to Massie’s practice. Facets include: unique stories to accompany each individual piece; photographs of himself with each finished work; a high silver finish; and keeping refinement and caliber of work consistent-an important component of each completed piece. Massie’s stories are notably an important aspect to his work, and have been included since his earliest creation. For example, the story of Take 37 (2020) details Massie’s memory of his high school drama class, one of the only creative outlets offered to him. Animated features like the drooping of the drum symbolize the frustration of having to repeat takes over and over.
While form and function are king in the design of Massie’s teapots, these conventions are freshly abandoned in The Non-functionali-tea (2021), a slender, crescent-shaped teapot made from sterling silver and purple heart wood. Massie demonstrates a revision of his own penchant for beautiful and practical design.
Simultaneously elegant and functional, Intensi-tea (2021) was named for its challenging and “intense” design process. Massie persevered through many iterations and difficult stages of development in order to achieve the final piece. The feat of creating this piece mirrors the experience many of us shared during the pandemic lockdowns.
Massie revisits his favourite insect, the dragonfly, in Making Love in the Tall Grass (2020) – a work which stands out among the rest for its intricacy and fine detail. For Massie, who has depicted the dragonfly several times before, it has always been a challenge to portray two dragonflies together. The importance of process and learning in Massie’s practice is evident here—perhaps this is the true thesis of the exhibition.
His works propose a vision of perseverance and enchantment that promise to inspire and delight.