Artist and students see beauty in humble spud


Above: Claire Brunet and students with the bronze potato sculpture, partway through the lost-wax process. Left to right: Ogi Dobrilovic, Lisa Cowen, Catherine Vamvakas Lay, Lisa Spensieri, Claire Brunet and Margot Whitfield 

The humble spud is being raised in status, figuratively and literally – as an object of symbolic beauty in two imposing bronze columns conceived by artist Claire Brunet, with help from some York Faculty of Fine Arts students. The art will be part of an exhibition May 31-June 22 at the DeLeon White Gallery, 1096 Queen Street West, Toronto.

Brunet, the 2003 artist-in-residence in York’s L.L. Odette Sculpture Studio, Fine Arts Building, is working with seven Faculty of Fine Arts students to mount an exhibit of two columns of potatoes, first moulded in wax and then in bronze. She and her capable assistants are incorporating a pair of ears, eyes and lips into the two bronze potato towers as a reference to the human element/variable in this precarious era of genetic modification. This project will serve as part of a larger installation at the gallery.

Right: A sample of Brunet’s art

Brunet’s residency at York, which finishes at the end of the month, consists of a mix of lectures and hands-on workshopping, giving her students a rare opportunity to put their new knowledge into practice and contribute to a large-scale, professional work.

Back to the potato as art…. Brunet chose to use the vegetable in her art because she sees it as a universal symbol of survival, one which is meaningful in myriad cultures. Through this creative project she is exploring issues of bio-engineering, the chemical manipulation of food and what she calls the “Nature Age” (post Stone Age & Bronze Age): our current place in history in which environmental awareness and sensitivity is key to global survival.

More specifically, Brunet is interested in the dangers and advances of technology linked to food, how chemicals are simultaneously jeopardizing our health and aiding in the survival of developing nations. She is also interested in the transfer of DNA from animal to vegetal forms.

Born in London, England in 1957, Brunet received her MFA from the Université du Quebec in Montreal. She has been working as a professional artist for over 20 years and is a respected member of the Canadian arts community. Her work has also been well received in the United States and Europe, particularly in France.

For further information about Claire Brunet’s exhibition, visit

York’s Faculty of Fine Arts artist-in-residency program is made possible through the generosity of Louis L. Odette, a long-time friend and supporter of the visual arts program at York University.