Skin Deep delves too deeply

Nadia Myre, the artist responsible for Skin Deep.
Nadia Myre, the artist responsible for Skin Deep.
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Fine Art Review: Skin Deep, or Poetry for the Blind @ The Union Gallery

Union Gallery, on the first floor of Stauffer Library, is a space usually devoted to students’ artwork, but for the next month, it is housing Skin Deep, or Poetry for the Blind, an exhibition by Montreal artist Nadia Myre. An artist of Algonquin and French-Canadian heritage, Myre attended Emily Carr Institute and Concordia University. Her best-known piece is a beading of the Indian Act, called Cont(r)act.

This exhibition displays a variety of media: sculpture, pencil drawing, painting and video art. The title appears to be drawn from a painting on display with Braille lettering on it. There are canvasses ripped and then stitched up, creating raised scars that, to me, symbolized a healing hurt. There are pencil drawings of abstract subjects, to which the audience brings meaning. I thought one was of a planet and moon with a visible connection. A person I was with thought it could be a breast.

One especially arresting piece is of a large felt sculpture that hangs from the ceiling of the gallery. Titled "The Spit Of Experience," it is made from discs of felt strung together and it sways gently from the breezes created by gallery attendees. At first glance it appears to hover, as it is suspended with what looks like clear fishing line. Its motion attracted my attention.

My enjoyment of this exhibit was mixed. In retrospect, I liked the act of engaging with the artwork more than I enjoyed the pieces themselves. To get something out of Skin Deep, or Poetry for the Blind, the viewer must be ready to supply most of the effort to get meaning from the work. Myre’s art is full of ideas, but these ideas were largely unintelligible to me.

I like thinking about what the piece might mean, but I would welcome some hint from the artist, even in the title, as to the intention of the work. I imagine a lot of thought went into these pieces, but this art gave me a lot to think about without providing much to lead my thoughts in any direction.

There are subtle elements of Native style in the pieces, patterns of dots and lines and a large stick of wood wrapped in red yarn, but what commentary the artist wants to be taken from these, I do not know.

The art itself has a minimalist look, with few colours of paint and much blank canvas. The pencil drawings have a hasty look to them.

From what I could tell, the themes included love, pain and the mingling of Native and non-Native culture, but I’m not entirely sure, which was a problem for me. I need to feel that through the art itself I can come to understand, however partially, something about the artist or the artist’s message.

This artwork wasn’t giving me enough to work with in order to feel somehow satisfied by the experience. Adding in that this art work was not as visually interesting or technically intriguing enough to make me want to spend lots of time looking at it, I cannot truly recommend Skin Deep, or Poetry for the Blind for the average art viewer.

The art in this exhibit was too oblique and required too much work for too little gain. Maybe this was the point of the exhibition, but, honestly, that is a point I don’t care for.

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