Spotlight: Artist Shary Boyle Brings Hardcore and Sideshow Vernaculars Together in a Carnivalesque Museum Debut in New York

At Museum of Art and Design, Boyle turns her multidisciplinary practice toward ideas around identity.

Shary Boyle, detail of Judy (2021). Photo: John Jones. Courtesy of the artist and Patel Brown Gallery.

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What You Need to Know: The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) located on New York’s Columbus Circle is currently presenting the solo exhibition “Shary Boyle: Outside the Palace of Me.” The show encapsulates Boyle’s experimental, multidisciplinary practice, featuring both traditional works such as painting and ceramics, as well as boundary-pushing sculptures, such as life-sized automatons and machine-based sculptures that are coin-operated. Boyle collaborated with a dynamic and extensive team—ranging from an acrylic nail artist to a robotics engineer and amusement park specialist—to bring the breadth of her vision to life. Together, the show interrogates the forces that forge both our inner and outer selves, as individuals and as a collective. Organized by the Gardiner Museum of Toronto, the exhibition will be on view at MAD through February 25, 2024.

About the Artist: Toronto-based artist Shary Boyle (b. 1972) was part of the city’s punk and hardcore music scenes in the early 1990s, and her involvement extended to an interest in not only music but the elements of performance, including costumes, poster and tee design, and making zines. These zines, along with early drawings, were produced in a compilation publication, Witness My Shame, by Conundrum Press in 2004. In the late ’90s and early aughts, she started working with synthetic polymer clay before beginning an exploration of porcelain and lace—and her practice has continued to expand across mediums and genres through today. In 2013, Boyle represented Canada at the 55th Venice Biennale with her project Music for Silence, and subsequently, she participated in the 2017 Gyeonggi International Ceramic Biennale in South Korea, and the 2021 Kaunas Biennale in Lithuania. She received an honorary Doctor of Fine Art from the Ontario College of Art and Design University and has been the subject of nearly two dozen solo shows worldwide to date.

Why We Like It: A core element of Boyle’s artistic practice centers on collaboration and mentorship, allowing her to explore new practical approaches to her creative lines of inquiry and move nimbly from genre to genre. Working across sculpture, drawing, installation, and performance, and delving at times into the realms of kinetic and mechanical construction, Boyle’s oeuvre is essentially boundaryless and defies easy categorization. The present exhibition on view at MAD highlights the many facets of Boyle’s dynamic work and practice, with elements like coin-machine mechanics and animatronic humanoids evidencing her collaboration with specialists in relevant fields to each of her creations. The presence of the human figure across the show—ranging from humorous ceramic depiction to uncanny animatron—brings to the fore ideas around selfhood, and the diversity of their construction presents inherent parallels with the myriad ways identity is shaped, from both internal and external influences.

See featured works from the exhibition below.

Shary Boyle, Pupils (2019). Photo: John Jones. Courtesy of the artist and Patel Brown Gallery.

Shary Boyle, The Collaboration (2019). Photo: John Jones. Courtesy of the artist and Patel Brown Gallery.

Shary Boyle, The Sculptor (2019). Photo: John Jones. Courtesy of the artist and Patel Brown Gallery.

Shary Boyle, White Elephant (2021). Photo: John Jones. Courtesy of the artist and Patel Brown Gallery.

Shary Boyle, Centering (2021). Photo: John Jones. Courtesy of the artist and Patel Brown Gallery.

Shary Boyle: Outside the Palace of Me” is on view at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), New York, through February 25, 2024.

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