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Bellevue Arts Museum brings provocative "Camp Fires" exhibition to the United States
Richard Milette, Hydria 13-4165 with Hate, 1994. Ceramic and plaster. 40.5 x 41 X 31 cm. Collection of the artist. Photo: Richard Milette.

BELLEVUE, WA.- This Winter, Bellevue Arts Museum is showcasing the work of three influential Francophone Canadian artists: Léopold L. Foulem, Paul Mathieu, and Richard Milette. These artists have been making their distinctive mark in the world of ceramics for more than three decades, exhibiting internationally, writing publications, receiving numerous awards, and teaching. Traveling from the Gardiner Museum in Toronto, Ontario, Camp Fires addresses subversive ideas about queer identity through clay. After traveling to Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Musée McCord in Montreal, Quebéc, the exhibition makes its first and only stop in the United States at Bellevue Arts Museum.

“Camp Fires will resonate with many people who have—like the artists—felt their life experiences and sexuality have been excluded from mainstream contemporary culture.” Said Stefano Catalani, BAM’s Director of Art, Craft, & Design. “We strive to make Bellevue Arts Museum an inclusive and safe environment to discuss issues of identity. The themes at play in Camp Fires align perfectly with this goal.”

The exhibition explores the concept of "Camp" as manifested in the works of Foulem, Mathieu, and Milette. "Camp" has been identified as a concept, an aesthetic sensibility, and a form of oppositional critique central to gay and lesbian culture. The exhibition presents a survey of the artists' work spanning their careers, including a consideration of their subversive historicism, their conceptual use of clay, and Queer identity and sexuality. Camp Fires deploys the concept of Camp, not as a fixed attribute of specific objects, but as an inherently political Queer signifying practice, strongly associated with performative identity and with subversive appropriation.

As suggested in the exhibition’s subtitle, the works on display evoke a Baroque sensibility. As the exhibition’s curator Robin Metcalfe explains, “All three artists were raised in Catholic culture which is steeped in the Baroque, which itself was appropriated in the construction of queer identity: aristocratic and aesthetic sensibilities were appropriated in the 19th century by people constructing a new homosexual identity.”

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