Practice as Playground: Getting to Know Court Gee

If there’s anything I know about Court Gee after our recent conversation, it’s that she’s passionately committed to the act of play. Her warm and seriously unserious spirit is apparent the moment I arrive at the apartment she shares with her roommate. Some of its features include a bed (for guests) in the storefront window alcove, a stairway gallery of art objects and oddities, and Court’s comically dungeonesque studio space in the basement. The same fun-loving sensibility expressed in her home design choices is also reflected, if not amplified, in her art practice.

Some work in her studio

Fruit storage in the studio

A small part of the staircase gallery wall

In her work, Court uses mass-manufactured objects, things she finds while treasure hunting along the aisles of Dollarama or Value Village. Sometimes she has an idea already, other times she’s stumped and just goes looking for inspiration. She tells me she can spend a while searching before the right item turns up. Drawn to, say, a cheery, solar-powered, flower-shaped dashboard accessory, she’ll examine it and think, “I like this object. maybe I’ll get one… Maybe I’ll get fifteen”. And that’s how it tends to start.

Most often, she’s attracted to things that are brightly-hued and unabashedly artificial. Her works sing in choruses of hot pink, neon green, highlighter yellow, energetic reds and blues. Likewise, Court is inclined towards the synthetic texture of hard plastic and rubber, smooth or polished surfaces, and occasionally the phoney fuzziness of a plush toy or fake tarantula.

She’s also interested in objects which might hold personal or socio-cultural memories, such as familiar household items, craft materials, ornaments, and toys from her middle-class upbringing. Sometimes she buys things just to use at home until they happen to find a place in her work. As a way to address taste and accessibility, it is important to her that these objects lack the prestige traditionally associated with fine art objects, and that they have a widely recognizable meaning or function which she can then react to.

By foregoing most “from scratch” methods of sculpting and choosing to base her practice around these found objects, Gee challenges herself to find playful new strategies to explore form and meaning. These are often deceptively simple but thoughtful gestures like joining two or more unlikely things in unlikely ways and, drawing from the formal playbook of the Minimalists, using repetition and grid formations to express her wonderfully absurd sense of humor.

For instance, sixteen foil-wrapped, chocolate Easter bunnies, while charming and innocent on their own, become bizarrely menacing when arranged in a grid. Their rigidity and uniformity heightened by this subtle act, they form an uncanny little army. It’s at once funny and a bit unsettling —contrasting starkly with the jolly, nostalgic feelings associated with the treat in advertisements and in our imaginations.

Image courtesy of Court Gee:

Another of Court’s strategies is to pay special attention to the placement of the objects in relation to the gallery space. A pile of plastic fruit sits nonchalantly in a corner. An odd nook is home to an exhausted-looking, slumped-over bag of potting soil sprouting pipe cleaner blooms. She likes to hide works high up on walls, put things on mounted speakers or in secret cupboards; she's leaving “little treats” for the viewers who attend to unexpected places (fun fact: she also does this in her apartment).

She tends to think of the exhibition space as a landscape, which is fitting given the recurring motifs of gardening, soil, and bouquets of flowers in her work. I ask Court about her use of this sort of imagery and what it means to her and to her practice. “Gardens, whether they’re real or not,” she says “are places where anything could happen. There’s a magic to them or a playfulness”. She references notable gardens from folklore, religion, and art history — the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Eden, The Garden of Earthly Delights. The environments she creates with her exhibitions evoke the mystery and sensory abundance of these proverbial gardens, each sculpture and installation like a curious new variety of plant.

A little man hiding on the ceiling of Court's apartment

O.A.S.I.S. (like the song), Image courtesy of Court Gee:

During my visit, Gee lets me in on her approach for titling her pieces, another part of the creative process that she has come to embrace as an avenue for play. I learn that she often finds her titles in common phrases or in niche Netflix shows. When the Rabbit Has the Gun, for example, is the name of an episode of Friday Night Tykes, a childrens’ sports documentary series. “I like to steal a little bit,” she laughs, “and if I’m using objects that are already made it just feeds into the whole practice”. The unexpected tacking together of the out-of-context names and the works they supposedly describe generates interesting new associations and reinforces the overall sense of silliness.

Refreshingly but unsurprisingly, Gee is never precious about her work. She’ll deconstruct sculptures and find new uses for their parts once they’re no longer being exhibited. When she sells a piece, she’s happy if its new owner finds their own way to display or alter it. If a young man sees her bouquet-shaped assemblage of melted freezies, lady liberty (the one in new york), and responds with the old, “That’s not art. I could make that”, she is delighted (yes, this actually happened). She’s glad if her work gets people involved and thinking about their own feelings toward the material things which populate their lives. It’s all part of the fun!

lady liberty (the one in new york) Image courtesy of Gourt Gee:

One of the last things Court tells me is the story of some earlier works which are now in the custody of Patel Gallery ( ). During a trip to Dollarama, she bought a pack of Reece’s Pieces, a stick of deodorant, and a few other items. At home, she replicated the objects as close as she could with Crayola air-dry clay and paint before replacing them in their respective spots in the store. Apparently, a few weeks went by before she came back and her simulacra were still there, untouched. A weird experiment-slash-art-prank. Fantastic. Just another example of Court doing what she does best: taking things and structures in the world and making them into a game. She plays, and we have the pleasure of playing along.

Wanna see more? Here's her website!

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