Making art is one thing. Making art that makes the artist a living is something else altogether.
By any measure, 57 year-old Knowlton resident Marc-André Fortier is a successful artist. His monumental sculptures of four Canadiens’ hockey legends outside Montreal’s Bell Centre have become part of the city’s visual culture.
A 12 x 8 x 8 foot Fortier shoe in a fountain anchors the sprawling Dix30 South Shore shopping mall, while he sells maquettes of his larger pieces to wealthy patrons, and moves insanely detailed digital prints in limited editions.
He has the meticulous artistic equivalent of a basso-profundo saxophone currently towering in residence at Theatre Lac-Brome, though he would love it to find a home either indoors or out at the Montreal International Jazz Festival.
And two recent life-size bronze pieces, The English Pug and the French Poodle, animate Old Montreal’s Place d’Armes, where they became the subject of a controversial article in the New York Times.
All of this is created in a compact atelier Fortier built on Knowlton Rd. in the village, with an ordered living space upstairs. He has, however recently returned from China, where he created ten stainless steel sculptures he could not do here.
He has been living his dream for 32 years, working alone, sharing his vision with foundries and galleries, and occasionally collaborating on commission. And he has paid his way doing it.
“I started small and got bigger,” the charismatic Fortier understated recently in the workshop he shares with some of his older pieces, and some brand new work.
It took a toll on his health. But it also brought Fortier instant fame in a hockey-mad town and led to other work – like The Pug and the Poodle, also known as The Two Snobs. The work features two characters, one a fastidious English stereotype clutching his pug, the other a soignée French woman with toy poodle coddled in Chanel- suited arms. Both sport typically outsize Fortier noses, pointed high in the air.
Both are entirely amusing, and ridiculous, as they were meant to be; Fortier’s work contains many elements of elevated satire. Yet the New York Times writer chose to weigh in on the hoary old Two Solitudes controversy, though the city is decades past that Anglo-Franco divide. And he failed to mention the sculptor’s name in the process.
As an artist Fortier was irked. As a human being with an absurd sense of humour, he was amused. His upcoming Townships revenge, a one- man show of his latest work, at The Bombardier Cultural Centre, in Valcourt, May 27 to August 12, 2018.