When Annette ten Cate drove into Medicine Hat 10 years ago to begin her residency at Medalta, she was welcomed by the first ground squirrel she’d ever seen. As the ground squirrel — or gopher, colloquially — scampered playfully across the street, ten Cate was instantly charmed by the sweet creature. Soon after, she discovered that the ground squirrels were considered by many to be expendable pests.
This seemingly inexplicable dislike for an essentially harmless creature is a central idea in ten Cate’s newest exhibition of ceramic sculptures: Go-Pher a Float. Here, viewers will find a population of ground squirrels embarking on a journey regularly enjoyed by Medicine Hat locals: a float down the South Saskatchewan River. By depicting local wildlife in a fun way, sometimes sporting human attire and engaging in human activities, ten Cate inspires feelings of camaraderie and kinship between the viewer and the natural world. Go-Pher a Float ultimately encourages people to view these animals as an integral and delightful part of their world, rather than separate and expendable.