New public installation in front of McMaster Museum of Art
Covenant ― a life-sized bronze sculpture of an encounter between two coyotes ― was permanently installed in front of the McMaster Museum of Art on Wednesday.
Artist Mary Anne Barkhouse is an accomplished contemporary Canadian artist with First Nations heritage. Her work was acquired by the Museum in June with the support of the Donald Murray Shepherd Trust, the Canada Council for the Arts and the artist.
“We anticipate that the McMaster community will adore the coyotes and embrace the dialogue that this work opens up,” says Museum Director Carol Podedworny. “Mary Anne Barkhouse’s sculpture is an important addition to McMaster's collection.”
Barkhouse often uses animal imagery in her work―wolves, moose, beaver, and in this case, coyotes―to examine environmental concerns, indigenous culture and social behaviors.
"Negotiation is at the core of experience for any living thing," says the artist. "Whether it is at a wedding or a staged armed conflict or a chance meeting between two coyotes. We size up the other side … decide to either play or fight. It is all part of a natural order that is as old as time itself."
Covenant also provides a fresh point of entry for interpretation and discussion of McMaster's art collection, which is one of the largest on a Canadian campus with more than 7,000 objects.
An obvious tie connects Barkhouse's work to German artist Joseph Beuys' seminal performance, I Love America and America Loves Me (1974), which involved the artist living in a gallery with a wild coyote for seven days as a symbolic act of reconciliation with nature. The McMaster Museum of Art is home to a major work by Joseph Beuys, Intellect Economy Law (1984).
Podedworny anticipates that simply looking across the lawn from the Barkhouse to the Henri Gaudier-Brzeska bronze bird bath sculpture, commissioned from the French artist a century earlier by British art critic and writer Roger Fry, will invite comparison.
Born in Vancouver, BC, Mary Anne Barkhouse belongs to the Nimpkish band, Kwakiutl First Nation. A graduate of the Ontario College of Art, she has won numerous awards and grants for her sculpture and art installations. Her work can be found in collections across Canada.