What: Mind Body Context
When: April 1 – 29, 2017
Where: Scott Gallery (10411-124 Street)
Artists: Kun Chen, Madison Dewar, Jasrin Dhatt, Jacob Dutton, Brad Fehr, Jessa Gillespie, Alexandra Gusse, Robyn Hamel, Ashna Jacob, Lindsay Kirker, Wei Li, Angela Marino, Meghan Pohlod, and Becky Thera
In response to the recent suppression of identity that has taken place in the United States, a local exhibit looks to bring artists together in a visual discussion about identity.
Mind Body Context is an exhibit that examines the spectrum of identity in search of a common understanding. Curated by fourth-year BFA student, and Scott Gallery assistant Breanna Barrington, the exhibit features works from 14 undergraduate and graduate fine art students from the University of Alberta that explore issues of identity in both interior and exterior contexts.
“I hope viewers take home a new perspective on different expressions of Canadian identity,” Barrington says.
Artists displayed in the exhibit provide personal insights into the spectrum of identity in their choices of medium and theme. For instance, Angela Marino, an MFA candidate in painting at the U of A, combines figuration and abstraction to examine the way disease alters the individual.
“For me, identity within this context is relating more to what I perceive my mom to be after having multiple sclerosis … my work is about what I viewed as her personality and how it changed as her disease progressed,” Marino says.
She describes the difficult process of accepting her mother’s altered identity as a result of her affliction.
“I felt like I had lost the person who raised me, and had to learn to accept this new person in my life,” Marino says.
The exhibit is best understood as the sum of its parts. Although packing the works of 14 artists into a small subsection of the humble Scott Gallery is initially overwhelming, spending time in the seemingly cramped gallery enhances the theme. Works that initially appear to clash with each other develop into beautiful comparisons.
The first wall gallery visitors encounter Jacob Dutton’s painting Distance, where two cold, play-doh palated subjects represent how modern relationships are characterized by complacency. On the same wall hangs Becky Thera’s To Be Powerful, which examines the frustration and isolation experienced by rape victims. At first glance, Dutton’s expressionist work and Thera’s traditional embroidered dress seem as though they should not exist in the same time period, let alone share a wall in a gallery.
In Distance, a yellow and purple subject demonstrate how meaning is produced through attributes of the body. Each different colour carries its own emotional weight. Meanwhile, Thera uses floral imagery, a dress, and diagram of a uterus to examine how signifiers of gender have been historically used in the narrative of female oppression. Both artists attempt to deconstruct elements of human identity.
The exhibit is limited in representing the full spectrum of Canadian identities; a characteristic of Mind Body Context that Barrington herself acknowledges.
“(While) I was not able to shine a light on the full spectrum of Canadian Identities, we were able to show a good range of artists who currently live in Canada, and for whom identity is a subject of their artistic exploration,” Barrington says.
Though limited in representation, this exhibit is still versatile in its approach to dialogues about identity. The works as individuals and as a collective provide viewers entry points to discussing issues of identity in the modern day.