A few years ago, I made one of the most detrimental decisions of my life which was to tell a LaSenza scout to basically go fuck herself (not in so many words). What she didn’t nor I knew was that I was also experiencing my first manic episode of a now life-time illness I struggle with – BiPolar Disorder.
It started with a response to an expiring Ad I had on kijiji to a modelling inquiry I posted:
”My name is Julie from LaSenza Model Management, we’re currently seeking 2 female models for an underwear advertising poster. The 2 models we are looking for will have their back to the camera for the poster and their face will not be revealed. Please let me know if you are interested in this shoot and if you can reply with any portfolio describing the stance above. Best Regards, Julie.”
Of course I responded affirmatively and excitedly, saying I would send in shots from previous photo shoots I had done as well as the amateur shots she requested in my lingerie. The best part was more than 95% of my underwear came from that retailer, as well as, my clothes.
My friend Emma Davidson got together that weekend and took hundreds of test shots: all of which looked amazing and I still thank her to this day for being tasked with taking boudoir and nude shots of her good friend, A.K.A. me.
What happened next is embarrassing for not only my career for but me as a person since I lost complete control of my mental faculties and started to experience paranoid delusions (a sure symptom of my disorder).
I asked Julie for a waiver to send nudes via the internet on advice from a well meaning friend who now looking back had no clue how the modelling industry really worked. I asked for a waiver to ensure the photographs were kept private and only for the selection process. She misunderstood me and assumed I meant I already expected a contract:
“I am not quite sure what to offer you in terms of a waiver as we are only in the prospect stage but I will contact our management. Any model who performs for a professional shoot that is placed on display for La Senza is usually paid by contract $9,500.00 (before tax) but does NOT establish a modelling career with La Senza unless we feel your work may be beneficial to us throughout several seasons. I’m currently attempting to fill the last three tryout spots in the final submission, please keep in mind these contract terms are only if we feel you are someone who fits what we are looking for.”
My brain started to spin out, jumping from one thought to the next and becoming oddly extremely feminist. How dare this woman try to take my image? (not that she was but in a manic paranoid delusion I thought she was attempting to) And then I began to think of the nature of the shoot and how she only was interested in basically my ass (a great feature but come on!) I felt a duty to womankind everywhere to reject this notion: that woman are only good for their bodies. So I responded in anger that I was worth more than just a “fine ass” and that I would never ever wear LaSenza underwear again (which I didn’t).
I was so angry I went to the school newspaper and decided to write an Op-Ed on the exploitation of people like me and interns at major corporations who are expected to give their work over without rights to it and without compensation. They were really excited to run it until they realized it was a potential lawsuit waiting to happen. I felt like my voice needed to be heard.
I became so paranoid that at one point when I was at my sickest I had left my web camera on from taking a selfie, and thought it was “them” i.e. LaSenza watching me to track down the dirt I was collecting on them for this potential story.
Long story short, I was admitted into the Ottawa Civic hospital and was diagnosed with BiPolar disorder. The reason I was so angry was I was coming off heavy drugs like cocaine, MDMA, marijuanna and speed which I had become accustomed to seeing on set at the various shoots I was doing in the city. I had officially spun out. I think LaSenza approaching me made me realize how NOT ready I was for this industry and I am actually thankful.
Today, I am proud to say Ive been clean ever since and never intend to do drugs like this ever again in my life. And if LaSenza were to approach me I know I am good enough and I am the type of role model they would want working for them: someone who has faced adversity, fallen, conquered and rose from the ashes like a phoenix.
So LaSenza I ask you, Am I Good Enough For You Now?
I laid on the bed, tears calmly streaming down my cheek while my mother held my head in her lap. The doctors had called her in late that night to stay with me since I was exhibiting suicidal tendencies.
Did they stop to think about the copious amounts of drugs they had prescribed me?
She had tears in her eyes too and I wanted to wipe them away but instead laid there saying calmly “I’m just going to smash my head against the toilet over and over again until it’s…over.”
She soothed me, ran her fingers through my hair, “Britt, you will get through this.”
“No, I won’t. It’s too late, what’s done is done…I am done. Just take me to Dad, I want to be in heaven with Dad.”
She continued to stroke my hair and then I awoke the next morning…
January 06 2016.
Carol Sawyer’s solo exhibition The Natalie Brettschneider Archive, curated by Heather Anderson, is one of three new exhibitions opening at the Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG) Jan. 18, along with Mathew Reichertz’s Garbage, and the group exhibition Continuum: Abstraction in Contemporary Indigenous Art.
The upcoming exhibitions curated by Heather Anderson, Robin Metcalfe, and Wahsontiio Cross feature works from artists Robert Houle, Rita Letendre, Helen Wassegijig, Lance Belanger, and Alex Janvier.
The Natalie Brettschneider Archive narrates the life of a fictional artist and performer named Natalie Brettschneider, which Sawyer has staged since 1998.
“I am intrigued by Carol Sawyer’s ongoing, self-reflective project of ‘uncovering’ Natalie Brettschneider’s life and performance work,” Anderson said. “She also includes historical documents that she has uncovered in the process of her research into the exhibition, weaving a narrative, tinged with a good deal of humour, that both illuminates aspects of Brettschneider’s life, and underscores the obscured histories of many women artists.”
Reichertz’s Garbage, curated by Metcalfe, has a different style that calls to mind a giant comic book. Giant images on panels of up to 17 feet in height give the viewer the impression of walking right into the narrative.
Garbage is described on its website as a piece that “expands the narrative aspect that has characterized Reichertz’s work into a new, psychologically-charged realm that overlaps with popular printed matter.”
Continuum: Abstraction in Contemporary Indigenous Art, curated by Cross, showcases works by artists Robert Houle, Helen Wassegijig, and more who challenge the “so-called primitive” origins of abstraction.
Garbage will remain open until Apr. 3 and the other two exhibitions will remain at the CUAG until Apr. 19. Admission is free.
To see this article in its original context: http://www.charlatan.ca/2016/01/cuag-opening-three-new-exhibitions-in-january/
Atomic Rooster opened Sheena Kalmakova’s Series Exhibition May 4. Paintings from all four of Kalmakova’s series were displayed including Moon Series, Sun Series, October Series and The Crows Series.
Atomic Rooster is a small intimate space where people come together to eat, drink a fresh pint, and enjoy some art.
Kalmakova’s art gives the bistro a romantic, almost dream-like ambiance. Her series wraps around the restaurant and progresses through stages of subject matter and colour as the warm glowing backdrops of Sun Series progress into the more dark renderings of October Series.
“The scenes and subject matter I choose to paint are those that I need or want to spend time with, or those that have greatly affected me. My pieces are impressions of things I have seen, or they are my best physical depiction of a feeling that I have experienced,” Kalmakova said. “Painting is my entry point and method for processing, reflecting, understanding and dealing with my experiences.”
Kalmakova’s paintings are in various styles. She said she likes to experiment with different mediums and approaches in her work.
“Although the subject matter may be the same, the individual pieces within the series may vary,” she said. “I can understand how this deviation could be frustrating to an audience, much like when your favourite band puts out an album that explores a whole different sound than the one you’ve grown attached to.”
Kalmakova said she prefers to experiment rather than have her art become stagnant.
“I feel that experimentation and discovery are essential to the creative process to keep the work genuine, and avoids painting oneself into a ‘do-it-because-it sells’ kind of a corner,” she said.
Kalmakova strongly advocates showing artwork in a bar setting like Atomic Rooster because it is an accessible space.
“The Rooster is one of those fabulous venues that help support our local artist community,” she said.
Atomic Rooster also provides an outlet for local artists to create and express themselves in a laid back setting. Artists can gather once a month to draw live models. Elli Merkis, a server at Atomic Rooster, models regularly.
“They’re all different themes, the first one was Steampunk, the second one was rockabilly and this one ComicCon, next month apparently it’s supposed to be a glamorous, classic movie star red carpet,” she said.
All the events and concerts at Atomic Rooster, such as May’s “Ode to Comiccon” live-modelling event, are free. Dana Burton said she has been coming to the Atomic Rooster since she moved to Ottawa four years ago.
“I find the Atomic Rooster inviting and encouraging for local artists to produce work by giving them that option to potentially hang their art,” she said. “I find Sheena’s work especially interesting. It has this serene, beautiful, and almost dark quality to it that is striking.”
Kalmakova’s Series Exhibition will continue to hang on the walls of Atomic Rooster until June 8.
Gallery 101 hosted its first fall double opening, Real Job Interviews paraphernalia- re-enacting fiction and oskinikiskwēwak (Young Women) on Sept. 7.
Real Job Interviews explores Montreal-based artist Julie Lequin’s narrative process. Within the gallery space rests five of Lequin’s hand-crafted characters, on mannequin stands, which she intends on using in later videos.
Also featured is Saskatchewan-born Joi Arcand’s exhibition oskinikiskwēwak (Young Women), which displays mock advertisements along Bank Street. Playing with aboriginal stereotypes, she uses sarcastic phrases like “these feathers are digital” to poke fun at the absurdity of old advertisements.
“I really wanted to make a splash in fall and so celebrating both at the same time was a really good way to do it,” new director and curator, Laura Margita said.
“The fact that they were both women artists, and both doing work about identity pulled it together for me,” she said.
Lequin said the current exhibition is based on personal experiences.
“This new project that I am working on is based on job interviews, inspired by my own job interviews, job interviews I went to, to have a job, and job interviews I gave to other people,” she said.
Lequin described a video in her exhibit in which she plays two roles. One as the interviewee, and one as the interviewer. The interviewer is characterized by a strict principal of a Quebec General Vocational College, also known by the acronym “CEGEP.”
The exhibition emphasizes this pre-video process with look-books that show the characters de-constructed into random yet corresponding images. “Eeyore” from A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh appears as a symbol of depression and character trait of the principal.
Margita said the two exhibitions have are related by process.
“Both of them are process-based and both of them are identity-based. They’re both creating alternative histories or stories built out of their histories,” Margita said.
Arcand’s work is explicitly identity-specific as it explores her identity as a Cree and German-Canadian.
She re-created posters based on 1920 calendar pin-up girls. “They depict really stereotypical native women in scantily-clad outfits and just really project that fantasy world of the Indian princess as a vulnerable character to be sexualized,” Arcand said.
Margita said the initial use of these images was an old advertisement scheme in the 1920s.
“Those pin-up girls were in calendars that were marketed in the United States to bring hunters to the Canadian wilderness,” she said.
Margita said that they were “pin-up girls” and “sirens,” used to lure “great white hunters from the south.”
Arcand had family and friends pose as the original figures in a contemporary fashion to “take back the image.”
“In the original posters, the models that were used were white women so I’m in turn putting back a real native woman into the background that was created in the original illustration,” Arcand explained.
“Native women are still alive and strong. We’re human beings that deserve respect and we can laugh, can have fun, and poke fun at these images at the same time,” Arcand said. Margita, referencing both artists, said
“both of them share a strength that all artists would like to do — to be able to talk about their realities in a way that is engaging and beautiful and meaningful.”
Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG) opened its exhibition What Is Said and What Is Done June 18 in conjunction with Sakahàn, the largest exhibition of contemporary, indigenous works currently at the National Gallery of Canada.
The multimedia exhibition displays video, sculpture, photography, and installation pieces by Anishinaabe artist Rebecca Belmore in Belmore’s first solo show to be held in Ottawa.
CUAG director Sandra Dyck said she considers Belmore a senior artist with a strong presence.
“She’s always been somebody who speaks truth to history. There aren’t many works but the impact of the work is very powerful emotionally and aesthetically.”
The viewer is initially confronted with a video installation titled “March 5, 1819,” in which Belmore re-enacts a tragic moment in the history of the Beothuk people who resided in Newfoundland. The video portrays the brutal capture of a Beothuk woman, Demasduit, by colonial settlers and the murder of her husband Nonosabasut as he tries to rescue her.
The experience is visceral, overwhelming, and harrowing as the viewer stands between two projectors displaying the hopeless attempt of a couple to escape their enclosing captors.
Curator Heather Anderson described the state of the viewer as between both “witness and perpetrator.”
Belmore said she specifically placed the actors in contemporary dress so the viewer may relate to the man and woman on an individual, everyday level.
“I think history can be sort of cold and it seems very distant. What does it matter? Why should I care? But I think it really is about trying to give historic moments or individuals some kind of emotional landscape to be within,” said Belmore.
Anderson described the multiplicity of the exhibition’s title. “In a sense you can say, ‘what is done is done, let’s move on, move forward,’ but it’s also in a sense what is the difference between what is said and what is done. It could be read very tragic or you could also bring some optimism, some idea of change,” she said.
As the viewer walks through the gallery space, they are confronted with the ambiguous installation of a capsized canoe haunted by its lack of presence. It appears at the edge of an evocatively draped black cloth, suggesting the elegant motion of water.
“There’s an absence of whoever was in the canoe or if there was even someone in the canoe. It’s this idea of being in the process of turning over,” explained Belmore. “It is about the absent body and the idea of the power of water and that we should have more reverence for that body of water.”
The exhibition is provocative, powerful, and emotionally impactful. Belmore creates a temporal and spatial tension within her works through the representation of a people who are absent and yet alive in a historical and emotional moment of time.
“Our presence as aboriginal women is basically for the most part absent in history,” said Belmore. “I guess that’s why as an artist living in the moment here today I am interested in trying to look at that history or the lack of that history.”