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David Askevold: Donít Eat Crow 1994
Donít Eat Crow 1994
David Askevold first studied anthropology and art at the University of Montana in 1958. In 1963 he received the Max Beckman Painting Scholarship to study at the Brooklyn Museum School of Art. In 1968 he received a BFA in Painting and Sculpture from the Kansas City Art Institute, where he was taught by Gerald Ferguson. Upon receiving his BFA, both Askevold and Ferguson moved to Halifax to begin teaching at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.
Askevold soon pioneered new forms of conceptual art pedagogy. As a member of the NSCAD faulty he initiated the internationally renowned Projects Class, which involved students participating in conceptual artmaking by following instructions that were sent to them by artists such as Lawrence Weiner and Sol LeWitt. This class created a platform for the visiting artist program at NSCAD.
Although Askevold began his career as a painter and sculptor, he is best known for his photo and video work. He made his first video Fill in 1970. For brief periods of time, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he taught at various art universities such as the University of California, York University, and Minneapolis College of Art and Design. In 1985 he returned to NSCAD where he taught until 1992. Askevoldís work has been exhibited internationally, and is included in collections at the National Gallery of Canada and the Canada Council Art Bank, among others.
Donít Eat Crow, presents a fixed-camera perspective of a deck overlooking a backyard. A provisionally constructed platform, used as a bird feeder, is intermittently visited by crows. On the audio track Katherine Grevatt, a South Shore writer, reads letters she wrote to a friend between October 1993 and July 1994. The letters describe her day-to-day existence as she struggles to survive while working on her manuscript. In his catalogue essay for Fixations (1999), Robert Zingone describes the work,
The juxtaposition of the scavenging crow footage with the hand-to-mouth existence described in voiceover forms a compelling analogy. As the writer comments, swallowing her pride while contemplating the thought of applying for Social Assistance, ĎSurvival comes first.í She decides to Ďput embarrassment on the back burner.í She wonít eat crow. As the tape continues she returns to this idea repeatedly, as the crows return to the feeder.
As a whole, Askevoldís photo-based work, Once Upon a Time in the East, consists of 273 aerial photographs of Nova Scotian small craft harbours bracketed by two video monitors. One of the monitors shows continuous, colour footage of the Nova Scotia coastline with commentary. The second monitor shows black and white, silent footage of fish entering underwater trawler nets. The images all came from the files of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (Terry Graff, David Askevold Cultural Geographies and Selected Works 1998).
Another of his photo-based works, The Road Journal, in its entirety, consists of 100 highway images taken near fifty small craft harbors at various points along the coast. It also includes a small sampling of roadside images that were taken at different locations along the way. For the highway images, an instamatic camera was placed on a brick and shots were taken in each direction from the middle of the road. Ninety percent of the province was documented using this method (Graff).
These two works mirror each other in content, but are contrasted by their perspectives. Both use images taken of or near small craft harbours. However, one uses images that are taken from above the ground, while the other uses images taken so close to the ground that it becomes the main focus. Yet, it is these unconventional perspectives that make the images engaging and inventive. Each one allows the viewer(s) to feel a real connection to the Nova Scotian land and sea. In the exhibition catalogue Terra Firma: Five Immigrant Artists in Nova Scotia (1993), curator John Murchie comments, Askevoldís art has been to take materials which are available to all of us and to orchestrate them into a visually compelling documentary about the Nova Scotian land and sea. Landscapes and seascapes are among the most traditional subjects of art and, historically, have been the mainstay of Nova Scotian art practice.
KB and MT