Google Jade Rude if you want to feel a little better about yourself. You’ll instantly be barraged with images celebrating your own attractiveness. While she’s produced a substantial body of sculpture, installation and video, the Calgary-born, Toronto-based artist is best know for her text series You Look Great.
She originally pitched it as a billboard for Toronto, aiming to give commuters a little positive reinforcement. The project struggled to find support in a large-scale format, but that worked out for the best. Reconceiving it in multiple mini-versions dramatically extended its reach — it became her personal pop song.
Reflective surfaces are a favourite material for Rude. In addition to words, she shapes them into picture frames, cheerleader pompoms, toothbrushes and huge abstract sculptures.
“I’m attracted to mirrors for their endless dimensions,” she says. “As you gaze at your reflection, you not only see how you perceive yourself, but also how you perceive your immediate environment.”
Lanky, androgynous and tattooed, the half-Norwegian creator blends modelesque beauty with a quirky sense of humour. A self-described “non-heterosexual” since Grade 3, she’s become adept at using what makes her unique as a fodder for her art. Diagnosed with an unidentified learning disorder as a child, she perceives letters as hypervisual sculptures, rather than symbols that indicate concepts.
Though it meant a struggle in learning to read and write, her unconventional relationship with text is part of the reason it plays a huge part in her art. Along with You Look Great, she’s had success with her series of playful pillowcases proclaiming Hold Me and a collection of trophy sculptures emblazoned with the phrase Do What You Want.
Her current exhibition, The Golden Solid, ditches words in favour of pure reflection. The work found its inspiration in Romanian astrophysicist Mario Livio’s book The Golden Ratio, an in-depth look at the “magic number,” phi (1.6180339887 if you’re curious). Appearing in everything from mollusc shells to the shapes of galaxies to Greek architecture, the book examines the history of a set of digits that has obsessed artists, theologians and mathematicians for 2,000 years.
In the case of The Golden Solid, she’s used the number in both literal and figurative senses, allowing it to plot both the spatial layout of the installation as well as adorn its surfaces. The result is an opportunity for narcissistic encounter, inside an explosion of light.
“I wanted to create something where the viewer becomes integrated into a theatre of art,” she says. “When you step inside, your body is integrated into the environment through reflection; at the same time, light is refracting throughout the gallery space. I’m hoping it’s an experience so strong that people will want to camp overnight to revel in its formalist serenity.”