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This article was published 29/9/2010 (2459 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Dominique Rey takes an oddly beautiful look at the "unbeautiful," as she calls it, in an intriguing, unsettling show at the University of Winnipeg's Gallery 1C03.
Some of Rey's paintings and drawings are inspired by her work with the Abzurbs, a neo-Dadaist collective of musicians, artists and actors who like to experiment with play, performance and general mischief. The Winnipeg-based Rey also draws on archival photographs of early 20th-century carnival sideshows, images from 1950s burlesque, and the gorgeously grotesque fairy tales of British writer Angela Carter. (Plus, there's a touch of that "scary clown" vibe.)
Some images show masked and costumed characters, the denizens of the "travelling circus of (my) imagination," as Rey writes in her artist statement. Others feature the so-called "freaks" of the sideshow, the tall and the short, the rubbery contortionist and the three-legged man. Many of Rey's subjects mix up categories our culture likes to keep separate -- human and animal, male and female, "the marvel and the monster."
Some of the oil paintings deliberately flirt with ugliness, with off-putting colours and queasy details like poxy blemishes, smeared mouths and sharpened teeth. The black-and-white ink-on-paper works take another approach, their tender, subdued realism making a nice counterpoint to the fantastical subjects. Dog Faced Man, dressed elaborately in an embroidered jacket and sash, has a haughty handsomeness, while the splotches covering Cowgirl can't hide a disarmingly sweet face.
If historical freak shows allowed the audience to feel safely smug and distanced, Rey's exhibit wants us to get up close. Vibrating between fear and desire, these works challenge the conventional lines between the beautiful and the ugly, the familiar and the alien. The show's title, Pilgrims, might be a reminder that we're all wayfaring strangers.
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Threatened habitats, environmental imbalances, human interventions in the natural world -- these are serious themes, but Mary Anne Barkhouse takes a playful approach. Barkhouse, a Vancouver-born artist of the Kwakiutl First Nation, is literally playful: This concise, elegant and thoughtful exhibition at Urban Shaman references playrooms and children's toys.
Animals who stand somewhere between totems and toys move through lands and water systems marked out in the interlocking rubber mats sometimes seen in kindergarten classrooms. Inviting us into this transformed space, Barkhouse seems to be asking whether our culture "plays well with others."
Barkhouse's wooden buffalo is a breathtakingly beautiful sculptural object. It's also a rocking toy that is in a delicate ecological relationship with the nearby wolves, who retain a lean and hungry look even as they are re-imagined as old-fashioned pull-toys.
In another work, Barkhouse constructs a dollhouse, a glass-backed cube of international modernism, complete with a teeny-tiny Mies Barcelona daybed and a Corbusier chaise. It's an undeniably cool place, but maybe a poor fit for its inhabitants, who happen to be stolid, big-bummed beavers. This comic juxtaposition is a reminder that 20th-century humanity's dream homes and ideal cities didn't necessarily take all the world's inhabitants into account.
Pilgrims by Dominique Rey
Gallery 1C03, University of Winnipeg
Until Oct. 9
Game by Mary Anne Barkhouse
Urban Shaman, 203-290 McDermot Ave.
Until Oct. 9