Strolling past the Engine Gallery on West Queen West my eye was immediately drawn to a massive tartan clad native woman beckoning me to enter into her sacred space. Frightening, yes, at 2am. In the light of day I had to inquire within.
Engine's latest exhibition titled Girlie by artist Liana Russwurm is much more than this. Russwurm explores feminine notions of beauty, vulnerability and sexuality, using the materiality of veiled imagery. Information, gathered through reality television, fashion magazines, billboards, personal relationships and experience, she cultivates narratives of a fragmented reflection of confusing feminine roles.
In Hello Dolly (first image above), I am reminded of femme fatale Jessica Rabbit in mammoth proportions. She taunts me. Russwurm rationalizes my muddled impression:
"I feel masculinity comes through in the defiance that seems to underlie my work. In Hello Dolly although the balloons are an obvious reference to plastic surgery and how media reflects the notion that women with large breasts are more desirable, this painting is more about how we try to mask who we really are as women to fit a 'mold'. In meeting and getting to know my models what always strikes me is what comes through these masks. The beauty, knowledge and strength that still creeps through. Things that each model never seems to be able to recognize in themselves."
I highly recommend this exhibition as the female presence is overpowering, sometimes shocking and visually stimulating.
The Exhibition runs from July 4, 2008 - August 5, 2008 with opening reception on Thursday July 17th 7:00-10:00 PM
Engine Gallery is located at 1112 Queen Street West
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