With the NHL season on ice, Canadians have been forced to turn to alternate methods to fulfill their need for a hockey fix – but Kitchener artist and educator Liss Platt has just said, “Puck it.”
Platt, a veteran conceptual artist, has decided to take to the ice herself, in an effort to meld sport with high art during her Feb 5 performance piece on the Rideau Canal entitled Puck Paintings.
The piece is part of an upcoming exhibition at the SAW Gallery called The Winter Life. The exhibit, which takes place Feb 3-Mar 19, will be presented in collaboration with this year’s Winterlude festival.
During the performance, Platt – a veteran hockey player – shoots a puck against a white surface the size of a hockey net. The puck rubber leaves different marks based on the speed and angle of the shot, which often make scuffs that look like falling feathers.
“People look at my paintings and say, ‘That reminds me of my garage door when I was a kid,’- you know, things like that – so the cultural significance of the mark resonates for people,” she says.
Platt adds that her performance is an interactive one, in which the public is invited to participate as well.
“People can come and talk to me about paintings, about what I do, they can take shots – and people who can’t shoot, I’ll teach them how to shoot. So that’s all part of it – it’s not a performance like on a stage, it’s an activity that engages the public,” she says.
Platt says her puck paintings also invoke “action painting,” made famous in the 1960s by artists such as Jackson Pollock.
“This is kind of like my intervention into action painting, only using low-art – you know, sports and hockey – so it’s bringing together two worlds,” she says. “It’s a sporting gesture and I am elevating it to an artistic gesture.”
Platt, an associate professor in the multimedia program at McMaster University in Hamilton, says her Puck Paintings have become one way for her to bridge the gap between her life as an artist and educator, and her life as an avid athlete.
“It has always been a struggle to balance my life as a jock and my life as an artist and academic, so I was sort of thinking about how to explore the tension between these two,” she explains. “Although there is more ‘sport art’ around and there are more artists ‘out’ about being jocks, I really wanted to deal with this identity of myself as being an artist and a jock…. We have stereotypes about jocks and we have stereotypes about artists, and I wanted to find some sort of practice that would bridge this gap.”
In addition, Platt says the Puck Paintings have also become an avenue to expose people to conceptual art who might not otherwise be interested in it.
“I make abstract art, which is very esoteric and exclusionary, but I use hockey, and that brings hockey people in,” says Platt. “But the whole project is about bringing people into art and into sport – both ways – making artists more interested in hockey, because hockey can be aesthetic.”
But while the rest of Canada waits for the spring thaw between the warring factions of the NHL, Platt won’t be sitting around, waiting for the boys to take the ice: she’ll be turning spectacular snapshots into the aesthetically pleasing.
“This is what I do: I make art and I show it,” she says. “And if I am doing that, I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.