Shary Boyle: Outside the Palace of Me

Display Date: 
September 25, 2021 - January 4, 2022
Level 4 Main Gallery

Circulated by the Gardiner Museum
Curated by Sequoia Miller

Outside the Palace of Me is a major exhibition of new work by Canadian visual artist and performer Shary Boyle.

Borrowing a line from UK poet Kae Tempest’s 2017 song “Europe Is Lost,” Outside the Palace of Me assembles the artist’s ever-mounting anxieties about global crises, within the context of identity theatre.   Reflecting on contemporary constructions of self through the language of costume, character, set design and stage effects, Boyle explores how we see each other, and how we see ourselves.

In our evolving political and cultural reality, the distinction between personal integrity and public persona has become dangerously blurred. We are encouraged by social media to perform our brand for an invisible audience. Yet at the same time, role-playing and self-examination are essential tools to gain perspective on historical relationships. As global responses to racial and economic injustice, colonial violence, gender fluidity and environmental crisis deepen and divide us, artists ask themselves: what is our responsibility for, and relationship to, dominant narratives? Is identity static, or something we shape and define, ever-moving, between us all?

Outside the Palace of Me is a multi-sensory installation including drawings, ceramic sculpture, life-sized automatons, two-way mirrors, coin-operated sculpture and an interactive score. Reimagining the museum as a collective performance space, the artist is working closely with a scenic designer, robotics engineer, amusement park innovator and costume artist to joyfully envision a set for humanity and imagination.

Boyle mines histories of craft and obsolete technologies to connect our current realities to legacies of the past. Revolving the stage on her uncanny characters and their destabilized audience, she urges viewers to think critically about how we create both ourselves, and the world we inhabit.

About the Artist

Shary Boyle works across diverse media, including sculpture, painting, installation and drawing. She is known for her bold, fantastical explorations of the figure. Highly crafted and deeply imaginative, her practice is activated through collaboration and mentorship. Boyle’s work considers the social history of ceramic figurines, animist mythologies and folk art forms to create a symbolic, feminist and politically charged language uniquely her own.

Shary Boyle’s work is exhibited and collected internationally. She has performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York (2008), The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2006) and the Olympia Theatre, Paris (2005), and her work has been included in the National Gallery of Canada’s previous three Canadian Biennales. In 2016, she exhibited in Ceramix: Ceramics and art from Rodin to Schutte, organized by the Bonnefantenmuseum in the Netherlands and travelled to La Maison Rouge in Paris, and Cité de la ceramique in Sèvres, France. In 2017, Boyle co-curated and participated in the touring exhibition Earthlings produced by the Esker Foundation. Her sculptures were featured in South Korea’s Gyeonggi International Ceramic Biennale, as well as the Phaidon, UK publication Vitamin C: Clay and Ceramic in Contemporary Art.

Shary Boyle is the recipient of the Hnatyshyn Foundation Award and the Gershon Iskowitz Prize. She represented Canada with her project Music for Silence at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013.

White Elephant Resource List

Through A Glass, Darkly: On Shary Boyle’s Outside The Palace Of Me By Michael Crummey 

Main Banner Image: Outside the Palace of Me exhibition. Gardiner Museum, March 2021. Photo credit: Toni Hafkenscheid.
First Image: Punch, Shary Boyle. 2019. Ink, gouache, fineliner and acrylic on paper. 76 x 58.5 cm. Courtesy the artist. Photo credit: ImageFoundry
Second Image: The Procession, Shary Boyle. 2021. Stoneware, acrylic, gold leaf, bronze. Courtesy the artist.