FACE TO FACE
May 11 - July 1, 2013
The depiction of the human face in art is almost as old as art-making itself. From the earliest-known portrait, a 27,000-year-old rock and paint configuration in a cave in Angoulême, France, to the diverse practices and aesthetics within the contemporary genre, artists continue to imaginatively engage with the face. A portrait draws the viewer into what the writer Siri Hustvedt calls a "dialogic, mirroring relationship," in which artist, model and viewer engage in a complicated exploration of self and otherness.
Susan Low-Beer and Meryl McMaster are two practitioners of the portrait who expand our understanding not just of the genre, but of how we react to and interact with each other.
Low-Beer's series, About Face (2012), presents uncanny, psychologically compelling sculptural configurations of childlike heads. The artist calls her surreal renderings "emotional portraits." Using the same mold for all of the miniature heads, she individualizes them by using a variety of materials which produce different textures, voids and markings. While the underlying structure of each head remains the same, they all possess distinct features. Bewildering, puzzling or even disturbing at first glance, Low-Beer's portraits evoke feelings of fragility, trauma, loss, vulnerability and alienation. Looking beyond the visual cues of Low-Beer's compositions, the viewer will find themselves confronted with three questions: What do I look like? What am I like? and Who am I?
Meryl McMaster draws upon her combined Scottish and Plains Cree backgrounds to produce complex photographic portraits that incorporate sculpture, performance, drawing, mask-work and body painting. Playing on the personas we project socially, McMaster's multi-layered portrait series Second Self explores ideas of identity, role-playing, myth, perception and self-discovery through her surreal imagery.
For McMaster, the personal is the socio-political, a complex dynamic comprising race, history, fashion and taboo. Evoking both the performance interaction theories of social psychologist Erving Goffman and the controversial whiteface portraits of Margaret Bowland, McMaster's collaborative portraits possess drama, whimsy and cultural resonance.
Meryl McMaster is an Ottawa-based artist with a BFA from OCAD University. She is the recipient of various awards and scholarships including the Charles Pachter Prize for Emerging Artists, the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship, and the Doris McCarthy Scholarship.
Susan Low-Beer is a Toronto-based artist with a BFA from the Mount Allison University and an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. In 1999 she received the Saidye Bronfman Award for Excellence in the Crafts, and in 2000 she was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.