SHANELL PAPP, CHRISTOPHER MOORE, DAVE & JENN, JASON MATHIS, LISA BRAWN, LEN KOMANAC
Snap, Crackle, Pop, January 15 to February 26, 2010, University of Lethbridge Art Gallery
BY: Jill Sawyer
Judging by the contemporary art coming out of Lethbridge these days, the (other) windy city is a cornucopia of kitsch, its flea markets and hardware stores filled to the brim with model train parts, taxidermy, unironic Canadiana, vintage comix. From David Hoffos’ detailed dioramas to Chai Duncan’s plaster beaver statuary, the city’s artists are constructing whole worlds from found materials, yard sale treasures, and Value Village cast-offs. Josephine Mills, curator of ,i>Snap, Crackle, Pop at the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, ackowledges there may be a bit of that in her show.
“In Lethbridge, there’s strong support for artists working with inexpensive materials,” she says. “It’s a low-key, do-it-yourself kind of place, where people get their supplies at Canadian Tire and the knitting shop.” She adds that it’s not just about artists playing with toys, but that the work has a broad appeal to audiences, particularly the young, university-aged potential gallery-goers so prevalent in the city. “The materials these artists are using are familiar. They invite people to become part of the conversation.”
Mills has pulled together five contemporary artists and one duo (Dave & Jenn) for Snap, Crackle, Pop, an exhibition that gives viewers a brief pop-culture snapshot. “It’s not meant to be exhaustive by any means,” she says. The sampler starts with Lethbridge artist Christopher Moore, who has created a series of pajama-like leisure wear that Mills refers to as “cuddle camouflage.” His work, including pink flocked grenades and fighter jets, fuzzy helmets and army boots, puts a twist on the machismo of war and the notion of masculinity.
Textile artist Shanell Papp is known around town for her crocheted corpses and other objects of homespun macabre. For this show, she’ll create crocheted blood pools and life-sized, fully detailed embroidered skeletons. “There’s definitely an element of death and disaster in her work,” Mills understates.
Calgary painters David Foy and Jennifer Saleik (Dave & Jenn) have collaborated on a series of colour-burst magical landscapes, many of them painted double-sided on see-through resin, and framed with model-toy tracks and figurines. For this show, their work moves myth into Canadiana for an effect Mills calls “visually fascinating.”
The archetypal masculine hero can be seen somewhere in the “bat” paintings of Jason Mathis, somewhere under the droopy capes and pot bellies. With their nerd glasses and stoic expressions, his figures, have an endearing, look-at-me quality. For representations of real-life heroes and villains, Lisa Brawn’s woodcuts distill machismo into a series of bold strokes. Snap, Crackle, Pop will feature pieces from her ,i>Canadiana and Quien es mas macho? series – portraits of manly men from Don Cherry to Johnny Cash.
Lethbridge artist Len Kalmanac is probably the least known of the artists in this show, but Mills describes him as a long-time contributor to the city’s scene. “He just quietly goes around making work here.” His methods are low tech and whimsical, including his series of models and dioramas that create havoc in the world of mobile habitation – the “trailers trashed” series.
“There’s a resonance between these works and these artists,” Mills says. She cites the wealth of artist-run centres that has popped up in both Calgary and Lethbridge, where these artists all got a start, as one of the catalysts for the experimental materials and ideas that permeate the work.