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Saskatoon
Sandee Moore
Material Girls at College Art Galleries
February 22, 2017

What is a material girl? More than a mere gold-digger, she’s a materials digger. She likes to roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty. She is crafty, meaning she transforms her materials in subtle and cunning ways. This sleight of hand is exemplified in this group exhibition at the University of Saskatchewan’s College Art Galleries by Allyson Mitchell’s assemblage of lowbrow cast-offs. Two crocheted doilies and a scrag of macramé are arranged to signal the female form: two big, round nipples above a triangle of pink acrylic fluff. Voilà! Handcrafting demonstrates a relationship with the material, the process, and the product. In another example, Google Map images of traditional family lands are transposed, pixel-by-pixel, into a weighty cluster of beads. The immaterial and impersonal becomes real through Katherine Boyer’s investment of time and care.



Deirdre Logue, Velvet Crease, 2012, three-channel video

A material girl is also a girl. No surprise, then, that the female body is heavily featured as well. The unexpectedly romantic image of a wiry mat of pubes and glistening labia doused with the ultimate craft material – gold glitter – compels one to insistently peer at the titular Velvet Crease in Deirdre Logue’s three-channel video.

“A teen girl’s bedroom” is the analogy that co-curator Wendy Peart offers for this exhibition. Bedroom and exhibition are both a mash up of symbols and signifiers, all simultaneously crying out to define identity. With twenty-five artists included in the show, identity is addressed in a million ways on the gallery’s walls and floors. Not contradictory, but many faceted. Groupings of works suggest general categories, calling to mind a multiple-choice quiz from Teen Magazine: ethereal, frankly sexual, maniacally pulsing, painstakingly detailed, and coolly restrained. Which one are you?

Referencing pop music hits of our youth, Material Girls isn’t a regression to squeaky-clean teendom. Curated three years ago by Blair Fornwald, Jennifer Matotek, and Peart, and touring ever since, the exhibition harkens back to a somewhat more innocent time – a time when we never could have imagined the phrase “grab her by the pussy” coming from a head of state. Since it opened in Saskatoon the week following Trump’s inauguration, feminism and women’s voices have felt more relevant, important, and urgent than they have been in a long time.


College Art Galleries: http://www.art.usask.ca/col1_current.php
Material Girls continues until April 21.


Sandee Moore is a nationally exhibited artist, arts administrator, and occasional art writer. She can be followed on Twitter @SandeeMoore.

 

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