Turn of the Century
Star October 5 MM, EYE
October 5 MM, Ottawa Xpress July 22, 1999, Ottawa Xpress May 18, 2000
Vegas roll on orphan hubcaps
Dechene showing 12 illuminated discs at Swizzle Gallery
Toronto Star What's On Editor
I called Ottawa artist Reuel Dechene during last Sunday's sunny
afternoon to ask him about an upcoming Toronto exhibit.
I started by apologizing for keeping him indoors on such a beautiful
``That's okay,'' he replied. ``I'm on a portable phone. I'm out
back making noise with my grinder.''
He was working on his craft - he's part electrical magician, part
entertainer, part artist. Actually, Dechene is a part-time artist
at this point. A civil servant by day, he has an exhibit of wheel
covers opening at College Street's Swizzle Gallery tomorrow.
Starting with orphaned hubcaps - ``there's a lot of construction
around Ottawa, so it's not hard to find them at the side of the
road'' - Dechene literally weaves magic with light and colour
to create art.
Taking ``two to three weeks per piece,'' the 35-year-old Dechene
sidles up to his drill press, punctures the metal, then adds ``140
to 200 lights per hubcap.''
The lights in question are multicoloured Christmas bulbs (the
small 2 1/2 to 3 1/2-volt type). And he says he's fitted as many
as 250 per disc.
The works are hooked up to a little control box which allows for
eight to 16 variations of flashing and blinking. Dechene rigs
everything in precise sequence to create specific lighting effects.
``I was inspired by the neon glitz of old Las Vegas,'' he says.
``The effect is like a midway carnival ride - a ferris wheel or
He has also set up the electrics so that each hubcap's light show
is always in synch with music written in four-four time.
He describes the overall effect as ``crazy, whirling, kaleidoscopic.''
Dechene, who grew up in Montreal and the village of Arthur, Ontario,
has a general arts B.A. from Concordia University. He had his
artistic epiphany eight years ago, when he moved to Ottawa.
He also says his wife, artist Eliza Griffiths who currently has
a show on in Toronto, ``has nurtured me quite a lot.''
Torontonians will be able to view Dechene's art over the next
three weeks - 12 fully electrified hubcaps plugged in and hung
on the gallery's walls behind blacked-out windows.
``The only visible light source will be 12 Sexy Wheels, throbbing
to Dechene's selection of music, as viewers lean back in their
space age bean bag chairs,'' the gallery says in a release.
The show, Sexy Wheel Cover Up, opens tomorrow at 8 p.m. at the
Swizzle Gallery (1162 College), and runs to October 22. Info:
536-4669. The space is open Saturdays and Sundays from noon to
5 p.m. - or by appointment.
You can also see Dechene's art by visiting http://www.magma.ca/~reueld.
Check it out
is a Highway
low rider kitsch
Until July 31,1999
Artguise, 590 Bank St.
by Molly Amoli K. Shinhat
Pink Passion Parisenne,
down one of the icons of our century, the car, Reuel Dechene transforms
the humble hub cap into a brilliantly lit, mandala-like pulsating
metallic ball. A low-tech product of this millennium.
Cyclonic Reducer." The Chevrolet Motor Division hub cap looks
like it was made to be rigged this way. The diamond and triangular
shaped wedges in its outer rim reflect the criss-cross bars wrapped
around the centre. White Christmas lights form geometric shapes
that look like arms. Around this centre, lights spiral around
to the outer rim. The effect is entrancing.
2 is one of 14 hub caps rigged by Dechene in Carnal: low rider
kitsch, currently pulsing away above the art supply displays
at Artguise, the art store and gallery on Bank.
to ignore the standard male interior decorating accessories --
empty pizza boxes -- as a student, Dechene drew inspiration from
Christmas lights. "When I was looking for a cheap way to
decorate my apartment," he says, he thought to use cheap
miniature lights from Jean Coutu. Later, he became interested
in sequenced lights, making signs for cultural events in town.
do get a lot of taxis in my neighbourhood, living in Centretown,"
notes Dechene of looking for hub caps, "and they're all,
like, 15-20 years old. I usually luck into them in springtime
when highways and roads are in their worst shape." Once the
cap is found, it can take Dechene anywhere from 20 to 60 hours
to clean the cap and rig it with lights.
well as the obvious -- Christmas -- the circular design conjures
up images of Catherine wheel fireworks and Spirograph, a children's
game. Using circular plastic templates, one template's teeth fitting
into the other, complex symmetrical circular or oval designs can
be easily produced.
India, I remember a Hindu bus driver who had literally created
a shrine on the inside of his bus. Along with plastic figurines
of his chosen God set up in a miniature matching mandir or temple
and 2-D, brilliantly coloured reproductions, he had strung tinsel,
bright metallic wire, and Christmas lights all around the front
of the bus. I journeyed in a mobile house of God.
mandalas, a religious art form constructed of circles layered
within each other, the hub caps are mesmerizing. The archetypal
quality of the circular form, as old as life itself, combined
with the symbolic weight of the car, the over-the-top kitsch and
the flashing sequenced lights -- looking at one of them, I had
a hard time pulling my gaze away. To top it all, the caps are
interactive. Each is equipped with a switch that allows the viewer
to change the sequencing of the lights.
can see this as many people's answer to getting another Christmas
tree. Or, equally, as an ingenious alternative to the dance club
crystal ball. Can you imagine a car rigged up with these caps?
They would turn even a Lada into a chariot of light.
the imagination by Alia Kellock Heward
The Garden Construct The Ottawa Art Gallery annual silent auction
Thursday, May 18, 2000
Arts Court, 2 Daly Ave. 6 p.m., $40
seeds of imagination have taken root at the Ottawa Art Gallery
(OAG). Thirty six local artists, both relatively new and more
established, have been invited to explore the conceptual notion
of the "garden" for the OAG's annual silent auction, entitled
The Garden Construct. The artists have approached The Garden Construct
in a number of different ways -- from gardening as a practice,
to the aesthetics of the garden, be it wild or domestic, secret
or public, picturesque or formal, says Nancy Burgoyne, a member
of the event's organizing committee. Works fall under every type
of medium from painting and drawing to sculptural objects and
photographs. "Le jardin des rèves" by Carmen Ruschiensky is a
garden of a different sort, explains Burgoyne. The work is made
of shredded Lotto 6/49 and Nevada tickets intertwined to resemble
a crazy Snakes and Ladders game. "It's a wonderful piece, because
it's very playful and joyful and it too is about a kind of a garden,"
she enthuses. Geoffrey Wannacott's collage entitled "Party's Over...
in the Garden of Eden" depicting a nude constructed from various
flesh-tone and solid coloured pieces cut out from women's magazines,
is yet another take on the idea of a garden, says Burgoyne. Jennifer
Dixon's "Bowood," a photo etching/watercolour of a cupola on the
grounds of a stately manor home, is more representational of a
traditional "physical" garden. Dixon is well known for her photographs
of interesting, rare gardens around the world, especially in the
UK and Italy.
Along a more whimsical vein, Reuel Dechene's "Carnation"
flashes pink light in varying patterns. "Talk about your inorganic
gardening," Burgoyne laughs.
desClouds and Ron Noganosh offer puckish takes on garden tools.
DesClouds added wings to a spade and topped it off with a shelf
on which sits a music box cum old fashioned toaster. The box is
furnished with images of cows, whose butts twirl around when buttons
are pressed. Noganosh's shovel emblazoned with a bright sunflower
is entitled "Gogh Grow." But visual art is not the only delight
on the menu for the evening -- "culinary art" and sips from Pelee
Island Wineries and Hart Breweries will be on tap. Sheila Whyte,
of Thyme and Again Catering, has assembled a delicious array of
comestibles from the likes of Café Paradiso, Hopewell Kitchen,
Juniper and the Women's Culinary Network, to name a few. Some
temptations include organic greens wrapped in smoked salmon with
a mango-basil vinaigrette from Thyme and Again, herbed goats'
cheese balls on crispy artichokes from the National Arts Centre
and asparagus and Parmesan shards with black olive cream cheese
in a wonton cup. For those with a sweet tooth, Epicuria gets a
head start on summer with lemon petit fours. The $40 price tag
entitles attendees to munch and tipple to their heart's content
and there are several horticultural prizes to be won. Last year's
event, Paraphernalia raised more than $13,000, and Burgoyne hopes
this year's proceeds will at least match or exceed that number.
And, even better, a portion of the funds raised goes to the artist
themselves. Bids will be set in increments of $25, and bidders
can immediately mark their offers on the sheets provided. There's
no worry about missing any of the party action, assures Burgoyne,
party-goers will be given a five-minute warning before bid closures.
The celebrity hosts for the evening will be Dave Stephens and
Ed Lawrence of CBC Radio One's Ontario Today, and many of the
artists will mingle with guests. The OAG auction is fast becoming
a prominent event in people's spring calendars, Burgoyne remarks.
Everyone, including gallery members, artists, the visual arts
community and the collecting public, looks forward to it. "It
is really developing a reputation as the spring visual art event,"
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