Multiplying Identities in CUAG exhibition


Cara Tierney challenges ideas surrounding identity  through her photographs, now being shown at CUAG. (photo provided)
Cara Tierney challenges ideas surrounding identity through her photographs, now being shown at CUAG.
(photo provided)

Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG) hosted the opening of Cara Tierney’s MFA graduation exhibition Go Forth and Multiply Aug. 30.

The title, coined by CUAG’s new director and exhibition curator Sandra Dyck, alludes to the Church of England’s early 17th century King James translation of the Bible’s “Genesis,” in which Noah and his sons are encouraged to “go forth and multiply.”

“I was thinking about obviously the idea of procreation and how our society is very much linked to the heterosexual relationship and procreation as the norm,” Dyck said.

“So that was a clever way to reference the norms of our society and also the multiplication of the self [Tierney] is engaging in.”

Tierney’s photographs are bold and thought-provoking self-portraits of the artist from a queer, transgender perspective. She explores the multiplicity of identity through the physical multiplication of herself within a photograph.

“I am looking at the effects of language in society on identity formation and how identity isn’t a singular concept. It s actually made up of multiple parts which is why you see multiple me’s interacting with myself, sometimes happily, sometimes not so happily,” Tierney said.

In one photograph, a blue-shirted Tierney hands a red shirt to a red-shirted Tierney handing over a blue-shirt. Curator Dyck points this out as one of her favourites because it “opens up this idea of dialogue, of openness, and of multiplication.”

“The idea that we can be many different persons in this world and that we don’t have to let society completely define us by these very narrow boxes that we’re always trying to fit into and also to make other people fit into,” Dyck said.

In Tierney’s Reclining Nude Series (2011), you see her reclining in typical nude poses, some referencing works from the study of art history, in which she mastered at Carleton. She is not actually naked but instead suggests nudity through the use of grey t-shirts with the word “NUDE” placed in bold, black, capitalized letters across her chest.

“It was a way of being a reclining nude without having to take my clothes off. But it’s also with regards to being a transgender person and how society kind of puts you at odds with your naked body” Tierney explained.

Tierney prefers to leave an impression rather than a statement, suggestive like her reclining nudes. “ I did try very deliberately in these images not to be prescriptive, not to tell people this is how things are or this is how things should be. Rather, I tried to create images that hang hopefully in a kind of in-between space.”

Carleton art history student Daniela Molinari was impressed with the exhibition.

“Usually I don’t appreciate photography as much as I should but I like this. It’s well thought-out,” she said.

”There’s a sense that something’s happening, something may have happened before the picture and something ‘s probably going to happen after that picture. I am not giving you that information because I want you to decide where that comes from, and where’s it going in relation to yourself,” Tierney said.

The exhibition runs until Sept. 30, and Tierney’s “Artist’s talk” will take place on Sept. 29. – See more at: