Billie McLaughlin is a Canadian conceptual artist, teacher and mother who was born and raised in Windsor-Essex. Her work uses sculpture, installation and performance art to explore the act of “play” as crucial elements to human development and quality of life. Billie strives to challenge ideas around gender and identity, and her research focuses on better understanding childhood development, nature verses nurture, the power of play, imposed gender constructs and understanding her own queer identity.
McLaughlin seeks out and transforms materials that have been deemed no longer useful. She is interested in encouraging conversations about self identity and the feelings that surround the concept of “otherness” while inviting the viewer to step back into the imaginative world of childhood. McLaughlin’s latest body of work is a performance series where she builds large structures, made of found materials, in public spaces.
Growth is a colourful and absurd structure justing out of the concrete on Maiden Lane West in downtown Windsor. This large wooden sculpture is built mostly from salvaged lumber. McLaughlin has used materials and building strategies that contradict and challenge the traditional and societal expectations of beauty and femininity.
This 15-foot structure seems to be growing out of the sidewalk, but offers the viewer little indication to its purpose. This monumental tower looks like a fortress built from a child’s imagination. Brightly coloured text that would typically be on a shipping crate covers the entire surface, transforming the text from a basic instruction to a pattern with a flexible interpretation. In architecture, towers are purposefully created to act as a monumental element of construction; McLaughlin hopes that the whimsy of her sculpture, paired with its basic construction elements, inspires audience members to explore alternative ways of creating and problem solving that blur the lines of gender constructs.
Big Idea is a conceptual collaboration between McLaughlin and Bombardier that shines light on the fragility of ideas. A transparent cube balances on a toothpick, covered by one of DENIAL’s signature motifs. This narrow perch cautions the viewer and reminds them that ideas are unattainable without action. McLaughlin’s sculptural aesthetic of crude construction juxtaposes the precision of Bombardier’s designs in an absurd and whimsical contrast. Bombardier and McLaughlin, both Windsorites, are determined to build a stronger art community in their city.