Terry Graff: Avian Cyborgs

14 September 2023 TO 17 December 2023


Art Gallery of Sudbury

251 rue John Street
Sudbury, ON

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Terry Graff

Terry Graff is not only the artist of this project but the primary motivating force on the organization of the exhibition Avian Cyborgs: The Art of Terry Graff, its circulation across the country, and the accompanying publication.

In the 1970s, Senior New Brunswick artist Terry Graff began fusing images of ducks with machinery as a visual expression of the process of becoming modified or transformed for survival in a dystopian world. This exhibition of 380 mixed-media artworks showcases two principal series, Warbirds and The Pandemic Horror Series, as well as a marvelous selection of assemblage sculptures. The artist began the Warbird series in 2015 with several collage-paintings of predator birds with combat weapons. He says that this series of absurd attacking Warbirds was inspired by the childhood experience of being dive-bombed by a robin defending its nest, chased and bitten by a Canada goose, mobbed by geese after lunch, and attacked by a flock of seagulls at the beach. In 2019, spooked by daily media reports, he was likewise compelled to interpret the pandemic’s emotional and psychological impact through the metaphorical visual language of horror films and Gothic fiction.

“Bird iconography continues to be my primary vehicle for expressing what it feels like to live in a time of crisis, of prevailing and pronounced anxieties and anxieties brought on by the real-life perils unfolding on the planet…”

Terry Graff
Avian Cyborgs: The Art of Terry Graff

“I was a horror fanatic when I was a kid. I collected Boris Karloff comic books and monster bubble gum cards, drew pictures of blood and guts, and enjoyed Hallowe’en more than Christmas. In fact, I celebrated Hallowe’en all year round, enlisting neighbourhood kids to join my horror obsession by dressing up like monsters to scare the living daylights out of other kids.”

Terry Graff
Avian Cyborgs: The Art of Terry Graff
Installation view in Gallery One.
Installation view in Gallery One.

“Horror was a blend of play and humour, influenced by horror-comedy films like Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein, Dr. Strangelove of How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, and A Bucket of Blood. For me, the horror genre is the ideal vehicle for examining complex ideas and feelings about the most troubling and uncomfortable existential themes of our time.”

Terry Graff
Avian Cyborgs: The Art of Terry Graff

There’s also a celebration in Terry Graff’s work of sheer ingenuity and the adaptive practical skill of re-purposing one object to bring another to creative life. This aspect of his material culture – making-do and making more – is deeply imbedded in our own homes, vehicles, backyards, garages, sheds and barns across Northern Ontario.

Purchase the exhibition catalogue online or in the Gift Shop.

Watch the recording of our special event “Art After Dark: Sci Fi and Pop Culture in the Art of Terry Graff” from Friday 27 October 2023.

In this full length interview with Terry Graff you can learn more about how he started making artworks of birds and machines, what inspired him to divert from his Warbirds series after so many years and much more.

Contributors and Funders: The artist, ArtsNB, Arts Nova Scotia, Bill Auchterlonie, Canada Council for the Arts, Demetra Christakos, Art Gallery of Sudbury and team, Greg Davies, Cape Breton University and team, Art Gallery, City of Greater Sudbury, William Forrestall and his students, Virgil Hammock; Office of Research and the Department of Fine Arts, St. Thomas University, Ontario Arts Council, and Mary Reid, Woodstock Art Gallery and team.

Image Credit: Terry Graff, Ornithotronix, 1979. Mixed media assemblage, 63.5 X 81.28 X 15.24 cm. Collection of the New Brunswick Art Bank.

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