Time Out Chicago

Published: October 3, 2007


Alicia Eler


Barry Lorne. The Butcher’s Wife, 2006.

At first glance, Barry Lorne’s bizarre agglomerates of carnival tents, halos from medieval depictions of saints, floating faces, wandering dogs and a plethora of steaks painted on Baltic birch seem like half-baked efforts at conjuring random imagery.

Upon closer inspection, it’s possible to piece together open-ended stories of a far-off childhood, a mean old butcher and his wife, and a lurking bald man with a goatee. It’s not obvious, but the Calgary-based artist’s abstract paintings are attempts at melding his childhood in British housing projects with the new Canadian identity he assumed as a teenager.

The most haunting piece is Rat Catcher’s Apprentice, in which a black dog saunters beside a pink man with a golden halo whose features are outlined in blue; he stands behind a boy whose jacket is covered in white text. Busier pieces like The Butcher’s Wifeshow the same man—who is always in profile—with a woman made entirely of steaks. As they stand in front of a black and white–striped carnival tent, the words “shadow of death”—a haunting reference to Psalm 23—float nearby inside the outline of a bunny. 

Much like a poet engaging in free association, jotting down whatever words come to mind even if they don’t make complete sense, Lorne fills his pieces with specific characters from another time and place who seem disconnected. Although a little more information about the characters and their significance would be helpful, together these pieces work as a clouded window into one man’s memory.