K-W Record, Body of Work Gives Her Joy

May, 2007, K-W Record, Kevin Swayze


Sculptor’s new show to feature figures of varied families
JANUARY 26, 2007

As a psychotherapist, there’s probably no question Jane Hook is afraid to ask.

As a sculptor, she’s just as blunt in searching out subjects.

“I’m looking for a gay male couple with children,” she says.

Not long ago, Hook spotted two young men buying groceries in the Zehrs on King Street. They had a child in tow.

“I walked up to them and asked…they had a little bit of alarm.”

It turned out the men were friends, not a couple.

Her search continues for subjects to fill in her first show, set for October at the Preston library and gallery, show-casing the “non-traditional family.”

So far, Hook, 45, has sculpted half-size figures showing a single mom, along with her adopted daughter and two dogs. Other works show a “very pregnant” lesbian couple, and a black woman and whit man who have been married 35 years. It’s not easy to find non-nuclear families to model for her show, in mostly whit, conservative Cambridge, she said.

“It’s looking too Caucasian. I’d really like some more ethnic diversity.”

Hook nearly hit pay dirt at Home Depot. She saw a black, disabled woman shopping in the plumbing section. The woman was with a white man, and with them were two beautiful children. The family was open to posing until Hook said the adults would pose nude.

“If you live the life of a psychotherapist, it’s amazing how bold you get. If you ask the questions, you’re amazed at the answers you get.”
Developing a body of work highlighting today’s varied family structures was Hook’s reaction to the antigay marriage letters Erika Kubassek wrote to newspaper editors in the early 1990s. Then there was Liberal MP Janko Peric’s published views on what constitutes a family. “It wasn’t a very broad definition,” Hook said.

“To me the nature of family is love, regardless of how it’s configured.”

Hook studied psychology and was a hospital social worker long before she graduated in 2003 from the Ontario College of Art. For now, both careers blend in her Cambridge home: a psychoanalysis practice upstairs, an art studio in the basement.

“I love sculpture, very, very much. It kind of fills me with joy. By the same token, I’ve spent my professional life helping people. I get an immense amount of satisfaction from that. They both kind of fulfill different needs in me.”

Crossover is everywhere between divergent careers.

“The work I do in my psychotherapy practice is in some kind of way the same things, honouring people, hopefully pushing people to think beyond how they would normally think.

When she has a candidate family ready to pose, she also draws on her psychoanalysis skills. Instead of telling them where to sit, she lets her subjects choose for themselves how they want to place themselves in relation to each other.

Professionally, it’s called “family sculpture,” where relatives in counseling act out where they would sit while watching television. Where they place themselves tells much about the family dynamic and personalities.

Forging a career as a sculptor creating figurines is “kind of a leap of faith,” Hook says.

“In fine art, I’m out of vogue.”

She’s hopeful it’s a niche market, with little competition.

Making sculptures is a lot of work. First, Hook must create a master in clay or modelling clay. That takes about 50 hours, with a model posing for a couple of hours at a time. Add another 30+ hours to get to a final piece molded and complete. Some works can take six months to a year.

Usually she casts work in a gypsum-based material that sets like a brittle concrete. Sometimes she’ll use bronze, when the expense isn’t a factor.

If someone commissions a half-size figure, it would likely cost about $5000. In bronze, the cost climbs to $10,000 or $15,000. A popular commission in her nascent art career is half-size figures of children. She’s done five over the past couple of years.

Hook also has a soft spot for old soldiers, and worries that Canadians will forget their sacrifices.

Last month, Hook donated a life-size bust of Second World War veteran Bert Frandsen to the Cambridge Archives for display. Frandsen is “just a lovely old guy” who lives across the street from her and agreed to pose.

“We’ve taken a shining to each other. He was in the war, and I wanted to honour him,” she said.

“He doesn’t think much about his contribution to Canadian society. I do. They’re old men who get who walked past on the street. They’re natural heroes, life size.”