December 2018

John Scott, Mask from Bunny Boudoir, 1983, acrylic, cardboard, wood, 64.5 x 23.2 cm. Collection of the MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie. Gift of Brian Groombridge, 2017. Photo: André Beneteau

John Scott
Mask from Bunny Boudoir, 1983
acrylic, cardboard, wood
64.5 x 23.2 cm
Gift of Brian Groombridge, 2017

John Scott is an eminent contemporary Canadian artist. His prodigious multi-media practice is steeped in political activism and includes painting, drawing, sculpture, video and installation. Scott draws from an iconic apocalyptic lexicon of characters and motifs—among them warplanes, cruise missiles, bombers and anthropomorphic bunnies—all conveying an impending sense of doom and depravity.

Mask from Bunny Boudoir is ephemera from Scott’s Bunny Boudoir, a major multi-media installation of a woman’s private, curtained chamber adorned with furnishings and overrun with imagery of temperamental bunny faces. The bunny is a reoccurring symbol in Scott’s practice, representing the crisis of living while prompting an awareness of death. In his works, the bunny is suffused with autobiographical and political themes, operating as both metaphor and reality. The bunnies are victims and perpetrators of technological warfare, menacing and docile, female and male.

Above the entryway to Bunny Boudoir a phrase in Latin reads “vanitas vanitatum, omnia vanitas”, which translates to “vanity of vanities, all (is) vanity: earthly life is ultimately empty.” The statement comments on living as a vacuous activity, burdened by questions of morality, sexuality and identity. The relationship between vanity and identity is probed, as the statement insinuates that art history has often coded vanity as a female attribute. Here, Scott’s bunnies take on the role of feminized icons. In this sense, Mask from Bunny Boudoir is an object symbolizing mischief and mystery, allowing the wearer to anonymously and safely circumvent and explore the limits of identity. The act of masking provokes an inquiry into the malleability of gender. As remarked by Scott, masculinity is an area of investigation in his practice as it presents “an almost exorcism of certain tendencies within myself.”[i]

Scott’s work is held in the collections of major museums, among them the Museum of Modern Art, New York City; the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. His works have been exhibited at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; the Vancouver Art Gallery; A.I.R. Gallery, London, England; and the Faulconer Gallery at Grinnell College, Iowa. Scott studied at the University of Toronto and the Ontario College of Art. In 2000, he was the recipient of the Governor General’s Award. John Scott lives and works in Toronto.


[i] National Gallery of Canada, Education Division. John Scott: Interview in Conjunction With Apocalypse Tram-Am. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 15 July 1994. Outtakes for What’s This? Understanding Contemporary Art educational video.