Liz Magor, talking about the work Pearl Pet
Polymerized gypsum, polyethylene
27 × 29 × 26 cm
Courtesy the Shlesinger-Walbohm Family Collection, Toronto
This work is called Pearl Pet. It’s one of maybe six works I’ve made where I’ve taken a stuffie, or toy dog. I haven’t been very discriminating when I choose the toy dog. Because I want to take this toy dog that is not noble, is maybe sickeningly cute, and I want to transform it into something more respectable, something with a bit of… what would the word for that be? A bit of dignity. I want to restore some dignity to it. And the reason I would want to do that is that I want to honour the desire we have for emotional completion or expression. And that desire for emotional experience is often degraded or vulgarized by the objects that we interact with. So I’m taking it back to respect that need to express emotions. In the case of Pearl Pet, I think he was an IKEA stuffie. I think he had an IKEA tag on him. It’s long gone. But the first thing I noticed was that he had that super long nose. I don’t know if that’s intended to make him ridiculous or more cute, but it does attract your attention and makes him a caricature. He also had really stiff legs. He wasn’t curled up like this. So I do a lot of manipulation in all the cases where I have a pet on a box. I’ve changed them quite a bit to give them weight. Some of the things I do is I will open up the pet and take out the stuffing material and fill it with sand so that it’s got more gravity. Which kind of extends into an emotional feeling of more gravitas than silliness. So there are all sorts of manipulations I’ll do to the object to try to get to that condition that I’m seeking, which is to not be afraid of the emotional content of objects. And maybe, I also have to say, it’s possible that objects don’t have emotional content but they are screens on which I project my emotions, so I’m operating from that point of view in most of these works.