Eve Damie Fine Arts
by MATTHEW WOODLEY
57 Reincarnations of Nefertiti,
at La Maison de la culture Mercier
(September 14 to October 27, 2002)
Eve Damie’s sculptures have saved a whole lot of stuff from a sorry afterlife. Take the ingredients in just one of her works: a lamppost, a whale bone, a house key, a jumble of wooden knickknacks, a magnet, a cedar heart, a plastic owl, a rubber toucan and the bust of an Egyptian queen. All of these elements are assembled into a statue standing three feet tall and painted in a careful explosion of colours. This one she calls “Every hour, perched like an owl, she is Queen on top of her tower.”
By chance, the queen is Nefertiti, wife of Akhenaten, pharaoh of Egypt from 1367-1350 B.C. Chalk it up to a brush with royalty at a store in distress: “I was walking down St. Lawrence boulevard, and I passed a shop,” Damie recounts. “So I went in and saw a bunch of Nefertiti busts. I just bought one of them and studied its structure, and I thought, This is very interesting” and “Well maybe I should buy more. So the next day I went down and bought 70.”
The outcome is Damie’s newest exhibit, 57 Reincarnations of Nefertiti. In it, the bust that appears 38 times (“See, I was hoping for 57 but they kept getting bigger and bigger”), in what she calls “an experiment in the repetition of portraiture.” Her sculptures are anything but repetitive, though.
Back to the aforementioned ingredients: Damie would go out on moving day and find stuff. “People throw out beautiful antique furniture, like really nice, all different types of wood-cedar, mahogany,” she explains. “And I would go out with my saw and screwdriver and take the parts that I like.” Throw in some yard sales, flea markets, gifts, forgotten finds and the concept that anything’s a keepsake. “I feel like an archaeologist, digging up objects,” Damie muses, “and they kind of remind me of orphan nomads that I’m giving a home to, that don’t really have a place.”
Many of Damie’s found objects are animals, which she has a thing for. She used them exclusively in her art until the queen appeared and prompted some research into Egyptian history. When she found out how little is known about Nefertiti, she saw the chance to “reinvent her as guardian of the animal world.” Each reincarnation has a different story. “Every hour, perched like an owl…” is based on Damie’s cat (“Well, actually, I had to give it to my mother because my partner’s allergic,” she says). In another called “Alchemy in the kitchen of the vegetarian cooking Queen,” ol’ Nef is surrounded by a slew of creatures. Never at a loss for context, Damie explains: “Well, she’s trying to be vegetarian, and then there are all these animals around who want to be her friends. So she doesn’t want to eat her friends… It’s surrealistic to some extent, fantastical I would say.”
57 Reincarnations of Nefertiti, at La Maison de la culture Mercier, until Oct. 27, 2002.