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Resounds: Renee Audette

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Anna Paige
Renee Audette

Renee Audette’s works will catch your eye. At first, they appear charming and whimsical, but at closer inspection they reveal a duality that displays a much darker side. A retrospective of the past two decades of her work opened in December at Kirks' Grocery in Billings.

Audette's works, including several large-scale sculptures she created from 2007 to 2009 while in residency at Helena's Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts, were on display.

Audette, who lives in Billings, said when pulling these ceramic sculptures from storage after more than a decade, she had a renewed excitement for the works, which feature intriguing female characters. Using a slip-cast method, the ceramic sculptures were created from plaster molds and hand assembled with intricate detail. There’s a whimsy and a playfulness to them, but something isn’t quite right.

Each female archetypes embodies ideas of body image and conventions of womanhood in child-like characters surrounded by fanciful elements. The works — a cake made of kittens, a child leapfrogging with ducks that could have walked off the page of a Dr. Seuss book, another in a bathtub filled with blue cats, yet another in a bathing costume surrounded by flocked pink rabbits — are sweet with an otherworldly oddness that makes the viewer slightly uncomfortable.

Smaller works include paintings with wide-eyed characters, three-dimensional canvases with doll and animal figures, and delightful porcelain sculptures assembled from broken bits of other ceramic works.

The retrospective brings works from Audette's basement, as well as newer pieces created during her year-long residency at the Yellowstone Art Museum in 2018 to current works.

Corby Skinner is an independent marketing professional with an enormous capacity for assessing issues and creating positive, effective messages.
Anna Paige is a poet and educator and co-founder of Billings Area Literary Arts, created from a desire to connect writers to one another and grow the literary community of Billings.