CUAG opening three new exhibitions in January

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 “She also includes historical documents that she has uncovered in the process of her research into the exhibition, weaving a narrative, tinged with a good deal of humour, that both illuminates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.

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Series Exhibition at the Atomic Rooster

Photo by Kyle Fazackerley.
Photo by Kyle Fazackerley.

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.

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Artist ‘speaks truth to history’ at Carleton gallery

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.” 

This capsized canoes is one of the installations at the exhibition (photo by Yuko Inoue)
This capsized canoes is one of the installations at the exhibition (photo by Yuko Inoue)



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Go Forth and Multiply: Cara Tierney as Goddess of “Other”

Go Forth and Multiply: Tierney as Goddess of the “Other”

Brittany Gushue

Go Forth and Multiply explores the photographic works of recent University of Ottawa MFA graduate Cara Tierney. The exhibition, curated by Sandra Dyck at the Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG), consisted of a series of self-portraits in which the artist appears as multiple versions of herself. As part of the graduation process, Tierney had to display her work in an exhibition demonstrating the knowledge and technique acquired during her studies. When Dyck was informed that CUAG would host a graduating exhibition, she immediately pursued Tierney. “I remember being very much impressed with her confidence, her eloquence, the strength of her work and she kind of stuck in my mind,” said Dyck. Tierney’s photographs possess strength referencing knowledge not only learned in her Masters in Fine Arts, but also from her Masters in Art History earned at Carleton University. Tierney explores the theme of identity in her photographs through the clever marrying of past with present.

Tierney posed like a figure model in several of her photographs, however, she did not appear naked. Instead she wore basic t-shirts with the word “NUDE” written across her chest. This could be interpreted as a shy artist’s attempt to avoid exposing themself but it was evident in her photograph, Shooting the Rapids (2011) (Figure 1) where a representation of Tierney was shown sprawled completely naked in a boat that nudity was not the issue. Tierney said, “Initially, I was really looking at the representation of female bodies in art history. But it’s also with regards to being a transgender person and how society kind of puts you at odds with your naked body.” Go Forth and Multiply explores the concept of identity as a fluid, multi-faceted and negotiable construct and one which allows a space for the complex transgender identity. Tierney re-writes art history both metaphorically and actively from a transgender perspective. She achieves this through the manipulation of photography, creating a multiplicity of self that is synonymous with transgender identity; an identity which does not maintain a single construct, being neither completely male nor completely female.

The photographs hung neatly spaced against the white walls of the gallery. The minimal installation techniques encouraged the viewer to interact and interpret the works on their own without the interference of text panels. This approach to display allowed for a deeper discourse on the issues Tierney raises in her self-portraits.  “I am exploring identity construction from a queer perspective, a transgender perspective and 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,”  said Tierney. One photograph stood out in particular for its exceptional appropriation of a renown painting from the canon of art history, Sandro Botticelli’s La Primavera, Allegory of Spring (1478) (Figure 2).

Primavera (2011) (Figure 3) is Tierney’s self-portrait adaptation of Botticelli’s original mythological scene. Tierney had to cut from hundreds of photographs in a process to create one single edited photograph as seen in exhibition. She would load up a canoe with photographic equipment then proceed to an area of obscurity where she could pose freely. Once there, she would set up the tripod with a camera on timer to capture the various poses seen in the final photograph. Since Tierney used a technical process which relied heavily on an editing process, the viewer can be assured that each work was deliberate and created to convey a message specific to the artist’s desire. In Primavera (2011), seven figures and a reflection of a figure appear in a clearing of the woods. On the left-hand side, three images of Tierney appear half-naked in white shorts with breasts duct-taped over. Two of these three figures (in place of Botticelli’s three graces) seem to adore a mirror that reflects another figure of Tierney (the third grace), naked and duct-taped from her breasts to the bottom half of her body. The figure on the farthest left-hand side is a self-portrait of Tierney, with breasts taped over, in place of Botticelli’s figure of Mercury. In the centre, Tierney appears as the original Venus with one breast taped over and again half-naked. On the right-hand side appears Tierney’s interpretation of Zephyr in pursuit of Chloris who then transforms into Flora. However in Tierney’s version, a self-portrait portraying “culture” pursues “nurture” who then transforms into “nature,” holding a hand-full of sex toys.

The viewer’s eye is immediately drawn into the centre of the photograph where a self-portrait of Tierney as Venus stands. The goddess of love is replaced with an agitated-looking Tierney who has one of her breasts duct-taped over. This rejection of a primary female erogenous zone and yet the inclusion of it as well suggests the complexity of the transgender identity, being neither strictly female nor strictly male. Tierney becomes a new goddess, the goddess of the “other,” the queer and marginalized population within society. It is important to note that this photograph cites but does not quote art history. Tierney has removed an important element from Botticelli’s original Primavera, causing a major shift in subject matter. There is no representation of Cupid, changing Botticelli’s scene on love to the difficulty a transgender person experiences when confronted with their own body. This is further emphasized by the two groupings of figures on either side of the “Goddess” Tierney. The three Tierney “graces” interact with one another in a sensual embrace of exposed bodies. Two half-naked and duct-taped representations seem to almost caress a completely naked and duct-taped figure of Tierney. The bodies represent the fragmented manner in which a transgender identity may appear when forced to reconcile with either/or notions of gender.

The eye then wanders to the right-hand side where the viewer is forced to grapple with the image Tierney is trying to convey using words ambiguously in place of Botticelli’s mythological figures.  However, just like Tierney’s more open construct of identity, interpretations do not need to fall into an either/or category of right or wrong. Tierney 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 but I am not giving you that information cause I want you to decide where that comes from and where’s it going in relation to yourself.”  “Culture” pursues “nurture” which then turns into “nature.”  We grow up in a society where people are told at a young age that people fall into neat little boxes of either/or categories. This then turns into our “nature” and how we perceive others and ourselves. “Nature” holds a handful of manufactured sex toys implying that “culture” i.e. society creates a false identity but more importantly a manufactured sexual identity in  which people are expected to fall in either or categories of male or female. “Goddess” Tierney stands alone, caught in the middle, suggesting identity is capable of a middle-ground where individuals need not feel conflicted or pressured into meeting these either/or constructs.

Go Forth and Multiply was sharp, engaging, but most importantly it was informative about the niches society chooses to maintain and box people into. Through the presence of Tierney, the almighty goddess and artist, a new space was created which embraced the transgender identity. Tierney demonstrated quite cleverly that there needs to be a new discourse on the manner in which society categorizes people. Identity is officially open for negotiation.


















Figure 1:

Title: Shooting the Rapids

Artist: Cara Tierney

Date: 2011

Location: CUAG



Figure 2:

Title: La Primavera, Allegory of Spring

Artist: Sandro Botticelli

Date: 1478

Location:Galleria degli Uffizi



Figure 3:

Title: Primavera

Artist: Cara Tierney

Date: 2011

Location: CUAG

Source:  Go Forth and Multiply exhibition catalogue




Barolsky, Paul. “Botticelli’s “Primavera” and the Poetic Imagination of Italian Renaissance Art.”

Arion: A Journal of Humanities and Classics 8 (Fall 2000): 5-35.


Galleries unite under in outdoor film festival

In collaboration with Gatineau gallery AXENÉO7, SAW Gallery hosted the opening of their Summer Nights cinema and music festival July 27.

Viewers gathered in SAW’s courtyard to watch Belgian filmmaker Johan Grimonprez’s “Double Take” projected under a star-filled sky.

The film uses two narratives in unison featuring Alfred Hitchcock, director of the renowned thriller “Psycho,” and his professional doppelgänger Ron Burrage in a montage of clips. 

The result is confusion as to whether the character is truly Hitchcock or his double. Viewers were then exposed to clips of the Cold War’s Kitchen Debate in 1959, Hitchcock’s film “Birds,” and even scenes of Ron Burrage impersonating Hitchcock. 

The film appeared to have no order other than chaos, exemplified by the random infiltration of Folgers Coffee commercials.

There was, however, a clever purpose to the disorder.  That purpose was the suspense which remained intertwined with the appearance of the Folgers commercials. The minute the crowd seemed to comprehend the abstraction, a commercial would re-appear.

The viewer indulges in prolonged suspense unfounded in popular cinema today. The suspense relies on fragmented clips that hinder the viewer’s understanding of the narrative.

The audience is left with an impression rather than something concrete — that to have a double is a dangerous thing.

The multidisciplinary festival ran until Aug. 5 and combined cinema, performance art and music in a down-to-earth camping environment unlike any other.

“When we started thinking about it being in the summer then we decided to kind of build it around the summer camp experience,” SAW curator Jason St-Laurent said.

St-Laurent mentioned the stereotypical artist’s lack of a car as a contributing factor when deciding on a theme. “We can’t get out of the city so we decided to create an experience where urbanites can camp like everyone else.”

It was the camping experience that allowed the festival to take on an informal quality where participants could freely interact with the artists and their work.

“We wanted to create a dynamic where people would feel comfortable, where it’s very unpretentious, where people can connect with the artists and not feel trepidatious meeting artists,” St-Laurent said.

The environment lacked the aforementioned pretention, as volunteers served baked beans and chili as the core menu. “

It’s not your traditional gallery opening where someone’s playing the violin and people are eating canapés,” St-Laurent said. The festival took place at SAW Gallery but then shifted in venue to Gallery AXENÉO7

in Gatineau, where festival-goers had the opportunity to camp onsite. The desire to bridge the gap in the art world between Ottawa and Gatineau was one of the underlying reasons for the collaboration between the two galleries.

“There is Ottawa and there’s Gatineau and that river is actually quite a big divide when you think about it. We wanted to take away the divide between those two communities that function somewhat independently of each other, and to create something that would bring Québécois here and Ontarians over on that side,” St. Laurent said.

There was no binding theme for the works in the festival except a cutting-edge prerequisite. “We wanted to show a very innovative, groundbreaking film in video and that is what brings everything together. We really wanted to just show works that push the limits,” St-Laurent said.

LAL, a Toronto-based band known for their songs on social justice, performed after the film screening as the musical performance of the night. Lead singer Rosina Kazi expressed her enthusiasm with the festival’s opening. 

“As a band, this is where we are best. Outside, at night. So the fact that they’re having the festival outside is magical and I wish more people would do stuff like this,” Kazi said.

Festival-goer Chloé Ropp was also pleased with the cinematic evening under the stars. “I had a great time at Saw Gallery and during the opening.  I can’t wait to go to AXENÉO7 next weekend and to see what the end of the festival has to offer.”

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Editorial: Let’s see more visual arts

Carleton is many things, but a haven for visual arts isn’t one of them.

There aren’t enough studio sessions geared towards making visual art, there aren’t enough clubs to bring like-minded students together, and there isn’t enough gallery space devoted to students.

Despite the lack of opportunities at Carleton, students have still gone on to become visual artists. After graduating from industrial design, Andrew King did some cartooning for the Ottawa Citizen, took courses at Algonquin College and is now a full-time painter. King and many other students have found success as visual artists — but only after leaving Carleton. There should be more ways to discover and develop their skills throughout university.

Carleton may not have the resources to start up a fine arts program right now, but there are simple ways it can create an environment that’s conducive to visual arts.

The literary community started up university presses like In/Words and the Moose and Pussy. For aspiring actors and actresses, Sock ‘n’ Buskin is both a theatre company and a club. There are a number of dance troupes and classes, but when it comes to visual arts, there’s practically nothing.

Only one club on CUSA’s list of clubs and societies relates to visual arts — Visual Arts Carleton, which president Brittany Gushue says needs more people and a better space.

Carleton has a strong base of design-oriented students with its industrial design and architecture programs. But there aren’t enough outlets for these students’ creative work, and those that do exist need strengthening. There’s plenty of potential for a visual arts community.

It’s just up to Carleton to paint a campus where it can flourish.

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