Flesh and Bone
Studio 22’s latest exhibition forces viewers to confront challenging questions about beauty, mortality, and self-image.
Flesh and Bone, a dual effort by local artists Margaret Sutherland and Jane Derby and Studio 22’s latest featured exhibit, confronts aging bodies head-on. It’ll be on display until Nov. 30.
Sutherland, an oil painter, achieved nationwide fame in 2015 for her nude painting of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper titled Emperor Haute Couture. She is known for using her art to tackle social issues and push the envelope. Derby is an artist whose work is defined by reinventing the old into something new. She has dedicated herself to the transformation of discarded objects into detailed, sculptured art pieces.
Both artists share studio space in the same building, and when they realized that their latest projects focused on the theme of changing and decaying bodies, they decided to combine their work into one large exhibition. The joint exhibit traverses the challenges of self-acceptance in an aging body and considers how that can feel restricted by society’s notions of perfection. Sutherland confronts the flesh, while Derby deals with the bones.
When shown side by side, they come together in sharp contrast.
Sutherland’s work depicts real bodies, including those that express confidence despite societal pressure, and those still challenged by society’s lens.
Her diptych Acreage 1 & 2 depicts two nude forms, one male and one female, curled in matching positions at opposite sides of a bed. When placed side by side, it highlights the vast space between them, both physically and emotionally.
This is juxtaposed with Derby’s detailed, scientifically accurate wood carvings of bones. There’s one depicting the rib cage, one of a spine, and even one that shows a labelled diagram of a foot.
Her work is etched into reclaimed lath—the wood that was used to insulate houses prior to drywall.
The two perspectives meet in a piece of Sutherland’s showcased at the end of the exhibit. It’s a departure from the neutral-toned realism of the majority of the works on display. The blood-red painting depicts a seated female figure whose flesh-covered feet, legs, and mid-section gradually transition to bone at her neck and head. The stark white skull stares blankly out across the room. It’s a haunting, unsettling image.
The piece, titled, “What More Do You Want from Me?” is the final instalment of the collection. It directs its titular question at the viewer, challenging society’s damaging perspective of which bodies deserve the spotlight, and which should remain hidden.
Counterpart is the first major exhibition by Gananoque artist Teri Wing. After years of selling out of her own studio, Wing began working with Studio 22 as an emerging artist over the course of the last year. Her soft, often impressionistic paintings depict young women dressed in black and white, and handle themes of duality and identity.
The exhibit is full of actresses, body doubles, mirrors, and masks, where the face staring out at the viewer is often that of the subject’s reflection.
“We put on different faces for different aspects of what we face in life,” Studio 22’s owner and director Ally Jacob said in an interview with The Journal.
Body Double by Teri Wing.
“[Wing’s] whole subject matter is quite young, and in some ways that’s a commentary on how when we’re younger, it’s harder to bring together those different parts of ourselves […] they’re more distinct.”
This message is reflected in the exhibit’s title, Counterpart, which speaks to the multiple identities that can be encompassed within one person.
The paintings often reference fairy tales. A pair of paintings, one titled “Mirror Mirror on the Wall”and the other called “Who’s the Fairest of Them All,” both feature women staring into mirrors. Their titles are lines taken from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” a classic tale about the universal struggle to conform to societal norms of beauty.
The collection’s impact comes from the blurred and shadowy nature of the women in its paintings, which adds a dreamlike or nightmarish quality. It focuses on the uncertainty that can arise in the search for one’s identity.
Counterpart and Flesh and Bone complement one another, tackling questions of physicality, insecurity, body confidence, and humanity.
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