THE Gynocratic Art Gallery

value the brain & cut the priviledge

August 2017 – Tanya Doody

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by Laura Sbrizzi

A quiet gesture can rouse intense and tremendous meaning. A simple action can stir deep, emotional and mental responses, often more so than any verbal explanation could evoke. In the very physical yet intellectual work of artist Tanya Doody, her subtle poetic performance does exactly this. The work also displays a unique form of communication between mind and body.

Doody’s practice is grounded in performance art and ceramics, two mediums that she blends expertly after having worked with them for many years. She received her BFA in Visual Arts from the University of Victoria, her MFA in Fine and Media Arts from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University (NSCAD), as well as diplomas and certificates from programs focused on ceramics [1]. I can only assume that her current work, which is so fully realized, is the outcome of a long, careful exploration of artistic mediums in conjunction with ponderings of the relationship between the limitations of the human body and the malleability of sculptural mediums, and the meanings we ascribe to metaphors.

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Doody speaks the names of important women in her life while placing clay in her mouth during Invocations. Performed at Anna Leonowens Gallery, March 8th, 2012.

Through her practice, Doody questions whether or not “an object outside of the body” can act as “a catalyst for producing renewed strategies of embodiment” [1]. Two vastly different mediums (performance and ceramic art) converge brilliantly in Tanya’s work, creating a poetic bridge not only between the actual means of creation, but between our bodies and our surroundings as well. The self in relation to the other is explored in gentle and thoughtful ways as Doody incorporates tactile elements into her performances.

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Clay hands that Doody wore during her performance of the ongoing series Greeting/Touch. April 2011.


Although it is clear that experiencing her performances in person would produce a different effect than viewing her performances as a videos online, her actions, gestures, settings, and surroundings—every variable and element of her performance—creates a mood that invokes the senses and rouses feelings of instinct; it’s hard to ignore in any form of viewing. In pieces like Anxiety Action, mood is especially important—and palpable. The sound of eggshells slowly cracking underneath Doody’s feet as she delicately gathers a rope to restore in her “prosthetic gut” invokes our sense of sight and sound in a subtle but somehow overwhelming fashion [2]. Viewing it, one can almost feel the eggshells cracking underneath oneself, thus manifesting an atmosphere of anticipation or anxiety simply from the interaction between body and object, and the harsh sound of shells cracking, cutting through the silent room.

<p><a href=”″>Anxiety Action</a> from <a href=”″>Tanya Doody</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

In this performance, Doody playfully interprets the cliché “walking on eggshells” literally and metaphorically. It is striking that a performance structured around a phrase often vocalized is acted out without any verbal components—and this is exactly what makes the piece, and many of Doody’s other works, so successful.

It’s powerful in every sense of the word. Watching her carry out one of her performances is both visually and mentally consuming. Perhaps this is due, in part, to the poetry rooted in her work; many of her performances employ familiar ideas or tropes. It is what she does with these tropes through her actions and the introduction of physical objects that changes our perception of what was once familiar. She parses clichéd phrases and lays them bare for audiences, expanding them beyond their generalization.  Doody challenges her audience to meditate further on an idea that is often simplified, often by introducing ceramics as the object(s) that the body must interact with. Because of the way she employs it, the ceramic element feels both unique to Doody’s practice and entirely necessary for the meaning of the piece to be conveyed.

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In Launch, Doody thrusts ceramic doves into the air, as if to set them free, but of course, they shatter against the gallery floor. Anna Leonowens Gallery. March 7th, 2012.

Perhaps most indicative of her ability to bond her mediums seamlessly, one informing and upholding the other, is her piece Moment + Memento. In this work, Doody invites her audience to participate in the performance by shaking her hand. She infuses her ceramic work into this piece by holding a porcelain tablet, marked with the words “moment” and memento”, in the hand that each participant shakes. When Doody and the participant shake hands, the porcelain between them ‘remembers’ the embrace, thus forming a unique artifact that captures the interaction. This act not only engages Tanya and her audience with something physical, but it also forces her audience to think about the notion of connection, time, and memory. She fuses her interest in embodiment with broader concepts and bridges a gap between the body and what is outside of the body.

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Ceramic slabs from Moment + Memento, performed by Tanya Doody, at Anna Leonowens Gallery on November 14th, 2011.


Image: Jacquelyn Bortolussi

Again and again, Doody’s work balances the simple with the complex, the subtle with the fully-charged, the physical with the cerebral. Duality is an element that crops up through life in oddly inexplicable ways, but through her work, Tanya Doody communicates these phenomena astutely.

Doody continues to explore her performance and ceramics-based practice in ways that form a connection between artist and audience, and between artist and object. Doody collaborates with other artists in performance art, and she is currently furthering her own work at a summer residency in Alberta. In the fall, she will begin instructing a ceramics course at the University of Lethbridge. I expect that we will continue to see thoughtful and powerful work from Tanya Doody as she moves forward with her career and unique practice.

If you wish to view more of Tanya’s work, please visit her website ( or WordPress blog (

Many images were sourced from Tanya’s Website at:

  1. Doody, Tanya. “About – Tanya Doody.” WordPress, n.d.
  2. Doody, Tanya. “Anxiety Action.” Tanya Doody: Intermedia Artist. Cargo Collective, Oct. 2011.

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Unpacking the studio. (Image from Doody’s instagram feed)

“My work poses the question: can an object outside of the body be a catalyst for producing renewed strategies of embodiment? In search of different and poetic uses for objects, paths are traced that lead back to the body. I often employ ceramics, a material traditionally used in the production of functional items for human use, as a way to re-connect the body to its environment, the bodies of others, and itself.”

– Tanya Doody


Greeting Gesture / Poetic Prosthetics
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


Images: Monika Sobczak


Ceramic slabs from Moment + Memento, performed by Tanya Doody, at Anna Leonowens Gallery on November 14th, 2011.


Halifax, NS, Canada
Anna Leonowens Gallery. March 08, 2012. International Women’s Day. Full Moon.

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Action/Object #1
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

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Casting the support beams in the gallery with porcelain paperclay sheets. August 2013.
Image: Graham Macaulay




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