As part of the ongoing development of the Sheila Hugh Mackay Collection of Strathbutler Award Winners curated by the New Brunswick Museum, a coffee table made by 2019 Strathbutler laureate, Bruce Gray of Kars, NB, has been recently acquired.
Gray’s recent work, Earth (2020), is made from a unique piece of live-edge, curly yellow birch accented with granite, sand and deer antler. The table speaks to the interconnectedness of elements in the natural world. The stone and sand are meant to represent the earth, the antler is the sky and the wooden top indicates the passage of time as well as the idea of space. Interwoven with this concept is the unusual arrangement and shape of the table legs – they are off-set and wider apart at one end of the table – which evokes the sense of an animal and movement. Gray’s inspiration is carefully considered. The annual growth rings of the cross-section of wood, the granite and sand and the multi-pointed antler speak directly to the passage of time. The embedding of the granite, sand and antler into the surface plane of the table top reinforces the unity of all the parts. In its functionality, this coffee table proudly displays its decorative art heritage while simultaneously making an artistic statement about time and the environment – their eternity and fragility.
All the materials Gray used for this work originated in New Brunswick, including: wood from a rejected yellow birch log that was purchased from the Fredericton Ranger School in 2005; a sea-smoothed stone from along the shore at Deep Cove, Grand Manan; “traction” sand from Kingsclear; and an antler from the Kinghorne Deer Farm on Grand Manan. The provincial associations of these local materials reinforce the overall significance of this creation.
This coffee table a powerful piece that transcends the boundaries between art and craft. It is a very worthy addition to the NBM’s Sheila Hugh Mackay Collection of Strathbutler Award Winners – a selection of contemporary artworks that compel us to reconsider some of the traditional definitions that characterize the visual arts in New Brunswick.