Art Crush of the Week: Lucy Sparrow

Amanda Brownridge

Art crushes. Like people crushes but only better. That glorious moment when you're scrolling through your Instagram feed and suddenly you stumble upon an image that stops you in your tracks and you just know that it is the beginning of something beautiful. You can't get enough and you fall down the rabbit hole of hashtags and hyperlinks.

Art Crush of the Week: Lucy Sparrow

Over the past several months we have had the pleasure of working with British artist Lucy Sparrow. We began selling small pieces in the gallery in March and this summer we launched Lucy Sparrow's Erotic Emporium: Le Sex Shop Feutré (The Felted Sex Shop) as a part of the Montreal Mural Festival. The exhibition was a huge success and an incredible sight to behold! We still have visitors coming into the gallery looking for it.

For the exhibition, Lucy Sparrow took over one third of the gallery and transformed the space over the course of a week. The walls were painted red, the lights were tinted, and the shelves were filled with everything from packages of felt condoms, felt vibrators, and felt S&M objects. There was even a stop-motion porn video projection on the wall, the characters made of felt, naturally.

In a recent article for Juxtapoz Magazine (by Evan Pricco and on shelves soon!) Sparrow discusses her felt installations and the effects that they have on people depending on the location in which they are set. With Cornershop (London, 2014) Sparrow created a normal sized neighborhood store with objects made entirely out of felt: felt candy bars, felt cereal boxes, felt everything! She recounts in the article that many visitors to the installation were individuals just looking for a snack, sleepwalking if you wish, who were very startled to find themselves in an art installation rather than an actual shop. Some would purchase items out of awkwardness while others were upset and felt trapped by the joke.

Similar occurrences took shape during the first edition of Madame Roxy's Erotic Emporium (Soho, October 2015). Both shows were in buildings that the viewer could easily wander into without knowing what to expect, right off of the street. Sparrow had visitors looking to purchase functional vibrators who were disappointed to only find their felt counterparts, or patrons of the actual brothel located upstairs from the exhibition who had wandered in the wrong door.

Evan Pricco elaborates; "In London, you could stumble into the Sex Shop, but when you recently did the Sex Shop in Montreal at Station 16 Gallery, there was no stumbling upon it because it was in a gallery. It completely changes the experience when you visit the work in a gallery, as opposed to your own installation. It serves what you're talking about in the fact that you are doing art. For every pop up, there's an experiential installation that takes time, and, when it's in the gallery, it reminds people that the process is fine art."

Sparrow responds; "Yes. I think it's really important I do both. Primarily, the most important thing will always be the installations, and that is the root of everything I've always done, and that will never stop -- offering people a different view. They might not actually come to the installation, because it's quite imposing, and quite often they don't last more than a week. The Cornershop was a real rarity in it lasting for a month. The Gun Shop and the Sex Shop only lasted 10 days. The New York convenience store in 2017, hopefully, fingers crossed, will be three weeks."

Here in Montreal, the installation for Lucy Sparrow's Erotic Emporium: Le Sex Shop Feutré was very clearly set within the gallery space. You had to pass through another part of the gallery to get to the installation and yet we still had visitors looking for actual peep shows, contact lap dances, and functional sex objects. It would seem that Sparrow's installations, no matter the setting, have very powerful effects on the viewer and tend to destabilize expectations towards objects in specific locations.

In addition to opening Le Sex Shop Feutré, we launched Lucy Sparrow's felt cabinets during the Mural Festival this summer. The cabinets continue to be available through the gallery, including a special Canadian edition created exclusively for the gallery titled In the Land of Milk and Honey which features objects sourced by Lucy during her first visit to Station 16 Gallery back in March.

We are huge fans of Lucy Sparrow's work and look forward to all of her future projects! She has a big installation in the works that will take the shape of a convenience store in New York scheduled for 2017 that will be a MUST SEE! Stay tuned for all sorts of felty goodness.

Did you read our last art crush blog post? Click here to learn more about the work of Abigail Goldman!