‘Close to My Heart (Near & Dear)’ debuts at Hoopla Gallery

Maggie Whitmore curates Francisco Corbett and Alan Harman’s show

Maggie Whitmore worked with Francisco Corbett and Alan Harman for Oct. 26 show. 
“Close to My Heart (Near & Dear)” debuted at Hoopla Gallery this week, paying homage to Kellogg’s cereal, clowns, and community in an immersive experience. 
Located under The Screening Room, audience members were met by a vibrant curtained barrier with a message inviting them to reflect on the boundaries on performance.
“How do we know where the performance ends and our lives begin? Take in the infamous life of the performer and the ever-present audience, the rise and fall,” it read.
Music drew people into the gallery filled with paintings, both on canvases and limbs, with various drapes of fabrics creating a path across the room.
Emerging artist Alan Harman’s and Kingston-beloved Francisco Corbett’s respective styles are vastly different from one another. The former uses straightforward colour blocking, while the latter is abstract and artfully chaotic. 
Maggie Whitmore, MA in Art History ’24, curated the show with the intention of setting an aura of communication between the paintings and the viewers. 
“When I create a space, I think about how people are going to engage in the space and move around it,” Whitmore told The Journal. 
In days prior, she sat in the middle of the empty room wracking her brain wondering how best to pair Corbett and Harman’s drastically different styles.
“Being able to control a room draws me [to curation],” Whitmore said. 
This intrigue brings her the best of both worlds, curatorial work involves understanding what the artists wanted and creatively communications it to the visitors. One way she accomplished this was by using colour to draw the eyes of audiences around the room. 
Two nine by ten inch paintings hung over an American flag, pulling the nautical blue from “Entrance I” and “Entrance II” into the patriotric red from the national flags to the crimson of the Kellogg’s cereal logo painted on “Help Yourself.”
The background of the recognizable cereal brand was a bright lilac over beige, with a polka dot sheet hung behind the painting linking Harman’s work to Corbett’s “Pray.” 
Harman’s painting debut allowed audiences to  focus on the printed words in tandem with the rather simplistic colour-blocking fashion he used. Robocop, a pack of Marlboros, and the Coca-Cola logo were among the visuals painted on his canvases. 
“Portrait of Luis Barragan” stuck out due to its use of crackling texture alongside the color-blocking rendition of the architect’s yard. 
Though impressive, Harman’s youthful painting—he only picked up a paintbrush three weeks prior—was evident.
“Pray” and “Christ”—two of Corbett’s paintings joined under the theme of religious imagery—stood out among three other massive clown paintings. There also two of birds,  a peacock and phoenix.
The works spoke to one another in the journey viewers took taking the pieces in. While themes could be seen as lacking cohesion at first look, it tied in beautifully with the sentiments on performance displayed at the entrance of the space. 
“During the process of putting all these up, you never know what it’s actually going to look like until people are in it and moving around,” Whitmore said. 
Whitmore told The Journal that she approached this curatorial project by thinking of the paintings in the exhibition as tin cans on a string. She imagined each audience member holding its corresponding one, where the string holding them together was the use of the space.
Approaching the curation itself as art took the gallery show to the next level, allowing audiences’ eyes to flow seamlessly from curtain to painting as Sid, Corbett and Harman’s DJ, spun tracks that invited movement inside the space. 
From start to finish, the show was unlike what one may think an art show would be. It was both a uniquely memorable and joyfully artistic experience for those walking into "Close to My Heart (Near & Dear)."
“At the end of the day, all that matters is that you are all here and that’s what makes this engine run,” Corbett said to attendees.

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