All that glitters isn’t gold

Samantha Mogelonsky’s exhibit deals with postcards and leaving

The island structures in Samantha Mogelonsky’s exhibit are made out of silver painted plaster.
The island structures in Samantha Mogelonsky’s exhibit are made out of silver painted plaster.
Photo: 
The formations on top of the islands in the exhibit ranged from plant life to windmills.
The formations on top of the islands in the exhibit ranged from plant life to windmills.
Photo: 

Samantha Mogelonsky’s Glitter Island World, recently on display at the Union Gallery, is reminiscent of preschool days — sticky Play-Doh hands and afternoon naps.

As I walked through the installation looking down at the metallic-coloured islands sitting on the floor, I had a strong desire to lie down on the floor and examine the structures from a child’s point of view.

On first glance, the shiny blobs look simply constructed — an afternoon papier- mâché project.

However, upon closer examination, the intricacies of Mogelonsky’s work shine through. The islands themselves are 3-D metallic miniatures of different island shapes and are made from wood bases. These bases are built up with silver painted plaster, while the objects that garnish the top of the islands are made from a variety of tissue paper, beads and glitter paint.

The assortment of handcrafted objects and manufactured items vary from tiny red flowers to miniature pink windmills.

The islands underneath these small constructions are different sizes, from tall CN Tower-like pillars to horseshoe-shaped, bungalow-looking islands.

I find a cave of marbles, beads and shiny bits of glass. With every blink of the eye, a new detail appears.

The installation is an individual journey where the viewer is free to imagine. There’s no explanation for the islands. They could be Neverland or Ha Long Bay.

Mogelonsky’s work attempts to create narrative environments with hints of the factual and fictional running throughout. “My sculptures examine nostalgia,” she writes in her artist’s statement. “I build imaginary spaces that merge the ‘made’ with found kitsch objects to reflect the intricate situational details of my practice.”

On the far wall above the islands, a neon blue sign reads “Wish you were here” in cursive writing. A stack of postcards, that visitors can take away, contains similar slogans splashed across photos of the islands set against vibrant sunsets. Above ground the mystical place no longer feels like an arts and crafts school room, but an adult world filled with consumerism and lost emotions.

“Who are you to going to send those postcards to?” the islands ask. “Who do you wish was with you on Glitter Island?” the walls whisper. It’s a playful installation that teases emotions and flirts with memory.

Leaving the room, I don’t take any postcards with me. Something about their bright, shiny quality and touristy slogans scared me. They look so different from the islands I visited. Mogelonsky’s installation leaves me contemplating the disconnect between experience and its representation. Glitter Island World can’t be replaced by a postcard; it can only be remembered as if it were a dream.

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