I'm Feeling Lucky in Review

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I’m so pleased to have been included in I’m Feeling Lucky, an exhibition co-curated by Natasha Chaykowski and Alison Cooley, recipients of the 2014 Middlebrook Prize for Young Canadian Curators. The exhibition is on display at the Minarovich Gallery at the Elora Centre for the Arts and also includes artists Elizabeth MacKenzie, Alana Riley, Zoe Heyn-Jones, and Jessica Wiebe.

Chaykowski and Cooley posed two key questions that steered their findings for this experimental exhibition: Can an exhibition be curated using Google search? And if so, what are the implications on knowledge formation, art-world social structures, taste-making, and other pillars of curatorial practice?

Focusing on three thematic terms – “memory,” “knowledge” and “history”, and narrowing their search to artists working in certain media and within a given region, North America, the two discovered the work of the artists represented in the exhibition.

I’m Feeling Lucky functions on two planes; it is at once an exhibition of contemporary art that examines history and collective memory, and is simultaneously an exercise in questioning the currencies of exhibition production. The exhibition plays with ideas about the popularity of curating in a digital age, the mechanisms by which artists gain exposure, and the circulation of knowledge in contemporary art,” said Chaykowski and Cooley.

Vancouver-based Elizabeth Mackenzie’s multi-layered series of ambiguous portrait drawings called Reunion bring to mind notions of family, community, and the overlapping interconnections that exist between immediate and extended members of society. Upon a closer examination of the work, I began to understand that these individual portraits were of the same person. Some images offer slightly more facial recognition than others, which were reduced to mere suggestions of eyes, noses and mouths. I sensed something of history in the work, as if the artist was recollecting the past and conjuring up fading memories.

Reunion, 2001-ongoing. Powdered graphite on vellum.    

“Each of the hundreds of drawings within the Reunion project is based on a single photograph of my mother,” said Mackenzie. “She died in 1991, more than ten years before this project began, so the drawings were a way to call forth memories of her and give her a presence in the here and now. As I move through my own middle age, the same period of life I best remember my mother, I am increasingly aware of my own mortality, the limits of my life. As I grapple with aging I’m better able to understand the circumstances and struggles of her life.”

Tell Me Your Secrets and I’ll Tell You Mine, a wall installation featuring a series of wire forms encased in hog intestines, reflects on memory and identity and explores the space between intimacy and distantiation. There's an interesting duality that exists between the rusting wire structures and the fragile membranes that covers them – thin skins stretched over skeletal frameworks that are simultaneously repulsive and attractive.

When making this work, I was thinking about the experience of feeling alone in a crowded room and the detached, shallow conversations that often transpire at parties and other social gatherings. We all have a desire to be known and understood and yet we often remain guarded – wondering how people would react if we were to expose our true self. According to the developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, one must first have a solid sense of their own identity before they are able to experience intimacy and connection with other people. With a strong sense of self, it’s easier to open up to others, and be known in an authentic way.

Tell Me Your Secrets I’ll Tell You Mine is an expression of these ideas. The installation resonates a visceral vulnerability similar to the delicate nature of relationships in our modern society. Some of the forms are grouped together in clusters and some are separated from the others. Each form has an opening that allows viewers to get a glimpse of what is inside – a small offering of written communication. Some of the openings are wider, allowing for better insight, and some are more closed off, as if sheltering it’s self and withholding the secrets within.

In an essay about the exhibition Chaykowski and Cooley write, “In the reiteration of organic-like forms, the work similarly evokes the themes of remembering as repetition and memory as always never fully accessible, that are expressed visually in both MacKenzie’s and Riley’s work. Repeated forms, gestures, and secrets here all speak to the ways in which memories hide in the fissures of time and material”.

Tell Me Your Secrets and I’ll Tell You Mine, 2012. Wire, gut, wax, paper, and fabric.

Works included in the exhibition:

Elizabeth MacKenzie, Reunion, 2001-ongoing. Powdered graphite on vellum.

Visual artist and freelance photographer Alana Riley’s The Impact of Six Months, 2010. Digital print.

Jessica Wiebe, Root of Funding, a Peaceful Irony, 2013. Collage

Jessica Wiebe, Children’s Scribbles Lifting Kites, 2013. Collage.

Zoe Heyn-Jones, a Toronto-based researcher and visual artist who creates handmade Super 8 and 16mm films. Graces, 2014. Super 8 film converted to digital and installation.

Leslie Pearson, Tell Me Your Secrets and I’ll Tell You Mine, 2012. Wire, gut, wax, paper, and fabric. http://www.lesliekpearson.com

The exhibition will run from October 11th – November 29th, 2014.

Elora Centre for the Arts
75 Melville Street, Elora, ON N0B 1S0

Gallery Hours:
Monday to Friday, 9am - 5pm
Saturday & Sunday, 12 - 4pm
Sundays after Oct 11, closed