Why are there not more art exhibitions in the dark? Turning lights off and casting a simple and directive lamp on each piece would give people the visual pleasure of experiencing art one-on-one without distractions from other people in the gallery. At the Gordon Snelgrove campus gallery, three MFA students and I do just that to engage with the subverted wonderland installation that is Elizabeth Babyn’s “Interconnected Refuge”.
There is plastic everywhere: saran wrap, bags, and veils all twisted and hung together to shape today’s inescapable consumerist culture. Dreamy light from Elizabeth’s projector video colors the translucent textures in the space. I feel like I have walked into some kind of vision quest.
Elizabeth and the other students with me—Riisa Gundesen and George Gingras—are all part of a joint show with MFA grads from Lethbridge. Much of the work that is up in the Snelgrove represents what these students are currently exploring in their own artistic mediums, but some of the pieces are older works as well.
Next to Elizabeth’s ‘refuge’ is a pathway of illuminated globes on the floor. Again, another glow-in-the-dark series! (I love this). I discover that the surfaces are petri dishes that have been covered in snail tracks! Wow! The artist’s name is Sarah Stringam and her work, aptly named “Snail Saunter”.
In the center of the gallery, George Gingras’ work hangs across from Corinna Wolf’s, and it is easy to see why. As artists who both draw inspiration from their own Metis heritage, George and Corinna depict animal spirits and their relationships to human beings. I find the pieces intensely provocative but soothing at the same time. George tells me about his pieces: “These are actually from a few years ago. What I am working on currently right now is more to do with muscular physique. “ He shows me a few images of work in-progress taken in his studio.
The human body is a source of inspiration for Riisa as well whose visceral paintings stop me in my tracks. Riisa explores the “selfie” and its societal connotations. She describes how selfies have been viewed as a “silly thing that silly girls do”. Her paintings are modeled after 15th century art styling, but the women she features are holding smartphones and taking selfies. The view from my end is candid. Riisa goes on to explain that she is interested in the “pretense of the nude, the glamourizing and sexualizing that goes into the naked body to make it socially acceptable.” Her painting titled “Nike”, after the Greek goddess of victory, is a graphic portrayal of plastic surgery. It actually makes my skin crawl. But I’ve always been a fan of art that makes me uncomfortable.
Other MFA students being showcased at the Snelgrove include Anahita Akhavan, Andrei Feheregyhazi, Shona Fitz-Gerald Laing, Jessica Morgun, and Megan Morman.
The Kenderdine and St. Thomas More galleries are also located on campus and are a part of the YXE Art Passports. (re)visit: interpreting the collection is a series divided between both College Art Gallery spaces and the Kenderdine Art Gallery. Between all these galleries, there is plenty of art to take in and three more stamps to collect on your passport!