Exploring the identity paradox

Roulotte by Mika Goodfriend from his installment Snowbirds at the FOFA Gallery
Roulotte by Mika Goodfriend from his installment Snowbirds at the FOFA Gallery

Art is a dialogue between the artist and the spectator. Artists are storytellers, forever intent on the ritual of showcasing their unique vision, of expressing their understanding of complex themes and issues. At times, a piece will represent a part of an artist’s story, a shard of who they are. Other times, artists will take a step back and delve into their observations of the world and all that surrounds them. Thus, unsurprisingly, artists may often take completely opposite paths to expose their views and spur our imaginations.

The FOFA Gallery’s most recent installments, Snowbirds and Falling Through a Mirror, are both intent on exploring the theme of identity, delving into what provides us with a sense of belonging as individuals. That being said, the artists, Mika Goodfriend, Tammy Salzl and Emily Jan, could not have more diametrically opposed approaches when it comes to exploring this theme in particular.

Snowbirds, the portion of the installments that belongs to Goodfriend, gives the impression of wanting to provoke some sort of reaction amongst its viewers. Unveiling a sort of stagnant truth about Quebec’s “Snowbird generation”, viewers are left to deal with this photographic instance of truth, often fighting back defensive sentiments in a spot of cultural vulnerability.

Goodfriend was just awarded prizes in the BMO 1st Art! Invitational Student Art Competition, for two of the pieces in his photography series, Benoit et Suzanne and Reynald et Marylda. Snowbirds, he explains, was made to take an anthropological view on the immigration (or rather the export) of Quebec culture.

The photography truly has a “social documentary approach to it,” as the gallery descriptor so eloquently puts it. Shot entirely in an RV trailer park in Breezy Hill, Florida, the snapshots meticulously study the habits of what Goodfriend considers a generation that should be treated as an “endangered species,” underlining the fact that these retirees are the last of Quebec’s residents to immigrate “en masse.”

The second part of the exhibit, put on by the FOFA Gallery, is a joint venture between Jan and Salzl, who have formed a collective for the occasion. Combining their artistic mediums of choice, the artists showcase both painting and sculpture in one given space. The collaboration is titled Falling Through The Mirror and, coincidently, will remind its spectators, one more than one occasion, of a horror-filled version of Alice In Wonderland.

Salzl, the painter portion of the duo, has completed a master’s in Fine Arts at Concordia, specializing in painting and drawing. Her portion of Falling Through a Mirror has a mythological feel to it, combining the role of humans and animals in a way that is reminiscent of fairy tales. The result is an eerie but captivating series of portraits that will leave the weaker of heart with goosebumps. Much like Goodfriend, Salzl deals with the concept of identity: as she puts it in her artist’s profile, she is illustrating “true parables from a fairy tale book about a society distorted and chaotic.”

As for Jan, her sculptures are breathtakingly horrific, in fascinating sense. Selkie, the main piece she is showcasing, is a seal-like looking carcass that is realistically strewn across the gallery’s main portion of space. With the FOFA Gallery plunged in darkness, lit up only by a few selective spotlights to showcase the work of the collective, Jan’s work takes on a mythic feel. Viewers will easily be reminded of those dark fairy tales told by creators like the Brothers Grimm, and how close to reality these stories always seem to be. Jan’s work is the meeting place for fiction and reality, a place where we find ourselves pushing the limits of our comprehensive imagination through art.

Falling Through The Mirror and Snowbirds will be on display at the FOFA Gallery (main floor of the EV building) until April 4. Admission is free of charge. For additional information, visit http://fofagallery.concordia.ca


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