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An exceptional table by Bruce Gray recently added to New Brunswick Museum’s Sheila Hugh Mackay Collection of Strathbutler Award Winners

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.

Bruce Gray, coffee table: Earth, 2020, curly yellow birch, ocean-ground granite, screened sand and deer antler, 56.5 × 172.7 × 53.3 cm, Sheila Hugh Mackay Collection of Strathbutler Award Winners, purchased with funds provided by the Sheila Hugh Mackay Foundation Inc., 2020, New Brunswick Museum Collection. Photo: Rob Roy

Portrait of Bruce Gray 2020. Photo: Rob Roy

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.

Sawing Log. Photo: Bruce Gray

Preliminary Plans. Photo: Bruce Gray

Original mock-up. Photo: Bruce Gray

Glue-up. Photo: Bruce Gray

Refining hole for antler by hand. Photo: Bruce Gray

Experimenting with sand * recess depth * set duration. Photo: Bruce Gray

Cutting recess by eye. Photo: Bruce Gray

Sand Application. Photo: Bruce Gray

Complete sand fill. Photo: Bruce Gray

Threaded brass insert mount in antler. Photo: Bruce Gray

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.

Earth. Photo: Rob Roy

Earth. Photo: Rob Roy

Earth. Photo: Rob Roy

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.