Photo credit: Peter MacCallum

How often, while walking down the street, do we see something abandoned but familiar: a ball, a glove, or a shoe? How often, before we continue on our way, do we stop to consider such an object: How it came to be there, what it might once have meant to someone, and what its future will be?

Elisabeth Belliveau’s creatures are magical and full of wonder. In them, I can so easily recognize a frog or a rabbit or a bear, while at the same time so easily identify a glove and a ball and a boot. It is satisfying to see that someone has taken everyday objects, often casually cast aside, and made a new life for them. It is pleasing to realize that everything has the potential for a continued life. These objects, recognizable not only as urban debris but as symbols of childhood and home life, are repurposed, made beautiful. The work isn’t there to criticize, it is showing possibilities where there didn’t previously seem to be any.

Of course Belliveau must have other, more cathartic, reasons for making this work; that bunny seems sad, those fish seem to be arguing, that duck seems very bored, and that whale is thinking positively mean thoughts! But so are the people we pass on the street. How often do we consider them for more than a fleeting instant? By offering these creatures, either isolated or in their own worlds, Belliveau is providing us the opportunity to reflect on the moments of solitude, joy, anger, sadness, and frustration that we all experience in ourselves and with others.

I first met Elisabeth Belliveau during our student days at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary. Then, like now, her work involved an exploration of material. She began experimenting with concrete before she turned her attention to fabric. Since then, I have witnessed the evolution of her work in its many forms. In addition to her sculptural pieces, Belliveau draws, makes films, and self-publishes a bimonthly zine that is available at the caf she assistant-manages in Montral. Most recently, she has taken up tattooing. Consistent throughout her practice, is her careful attention to craftsmanship; Her work reveals a patient dedication to exploring the significance of everyday moments. In the most recent issue of her zine, she writes, “We are addicted to distraction.” The text floats above a meticulously rendered drawing of the view out her apartment window juxtaposed with drawings of shells and other sea objects. On another page with a drawing of a plant, she writes:

how we spend our time:
p.s. I wouldn’t change a thing

chewing mint leaves while sewing
going to the park swings at night
getting drunk at the kitchen table watching the hamster clean himself – it takes hours

Like her creatures sculpted from everyday objects, Belliveau’s drawings and words evoke a reflective mood and a specific frame of mind. It is as though she pushes the pause button so as to bring focus to moments and feelings that are rarely contemplated. How often do we stop and pay attention to our own frame of mind and the feelings we experience, before we continue on with our day? Belliveau writes, “What happens when the only thing familiar is that nothing is familiar?” Evident in all of her work, she pursues the answer to this question. She is generous to share her search with us.

ELISABETH BELLIVEAU, originally from Antigonish, NS, graduated from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2001. She has completed residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts, the Klondike Institute for Arts and Culture (Dawson City, YK), and the Confederation Centre for the Arts in Charlottetown, PEI. Belliveau spends her time making stuffed animals for a crafts collective, producing zines, running a little bakery and working at a caf. This year, Elisabeth learned how to skateboard and do graffiti. She is trying very hard to learn how to tattoo in her apartment.

Featured in YYZINE: VOLUME 5 ISSUE 1