Artist’s New Work Marries Stars and Spores

Prof. Diane Borsato (bottom left) brought together mushroom-gatherers and star-gazers for her latest art project.

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Mushrooms. Stars. Not much in common, you’d think. Indeed it was their difference that inspired artist and U of G Prof. Diane Borsato, School of Fine Art and Music, to bring them together for a new exhibit at Access Gallery in Vancouver.

Borsato’s art has always been about the unconventional, and that’s why Access Gallery curator Shaun Dacey thought she’d be a perfect fit for the new exhibit “Field Work,” which opened June 26.

Dacey explains: “I’ve been a fan of Diane’s work, and I approached her with the ideas I was considering.  For me, Diane’s social practice projects offer subtle interventions in the everyday world.”

The result is Terrestrial/Celestial, Borsato’s contribution as one of five artists who each interpret the “Field Work” title a little differently.

“Each artist is interested in presenting an event or collaboration that he or she developed,” says Dacey. “They create objects for the viewer to access the events each undertook, making connections between the artists’ collaborations outside of the gallery and the viewers in the gallery.”

Borsato’s project brought together mushroom-gatherers and star-gazers one day this past May.

She arranged an afternoon mushroom foray held by the Vancouver Mycology Society with members of the Vancouver chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. That evening, the astronomers welcomed the mycologists to an evening star party at the Anthony Overton Memorial Observatory.

The Guelph professor chose these groups precisely because they were so different.

“Mycology is visceral — it relies on all our immediate and proximal senses, and it is concerned with the fecund and ephemeral,” says Borsato, an amateur mycologist. “It exists in a time scale of seasons and of hours, as things can decay and dissolve before you even empty your basket.

“The practice of astronomy requires amazing feats of conceptualization and imagination. It’s concerned with the elemental and the otherworldly, and things exist at distances, in numbers and in time scales that exceed comprehension.”

Yet Borsato also notes their similarities: “Both practices are much assisted by a range of technical devices from microscopes to telescopes, and by enthusiastic teachers who can animate everything from tiny spores to a speck of distant light.”

Serving more as an event planner, Borsato brought together the groups and let them decide how to interact while she and others photographed their activities. Photos and text comprise a slide show that explains the event.

“The installation at the gallery consists of a digital projector on a plinth, projecting her slide show onto a gallery wall,” says Dacey. “This evokes ideas of amateurism, like a family slide show or one used in a classroom, or perhaps during a presentation by one of these groups.”

The exhibit runs until July 24. For more information, visit www.vaarc.ca/.