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The Familiar Faces Behind "Identity"

By Miranda Lalla

September 19, 2018 | Arts and Culture

On Friday, September 7th, Shaughnessy village’s Café Pacefika hosted a pop-up gallery featuring works of local young artists, among which were current and former Dawson students.  All proceeds of the night went towards the Meraki Alliance, a not-for-profit organisation supporting children with disabilities and their families, gender variant youth, and marginalised health groups in the Montreal community.

Snug within the back gallery of the Café, the works displayed reflected each individual artist’s personal take on identity. This allowed for a viewing experience that seemed almost intrusive in its intimacy, yet remained simultaneously relatable and welcoming.

Among the featured artists was third-year photography student Matteo Gueli. A focal point of his display was a self-portrait—a vulnerable and rare move for one whose vision usually lies behind the camera. Gueli, whose film portraits are widely known for the complexity of their composure and the fierce naturalism within their subjects, takes a new turn with 2 Days. Here, under an idyllic rose-sky, is what Gueli deems to be his “most raw and honest depiction of self-love”, in which he, at the bottom of the frame, locks in an embrace with what appears to be his double.

Photo by Matteo Gueli

Former visual arts student Tamar Black Rotchin chose rather to tackle the theme by characterizing the players in her own struggle to self-acceptance. Through the psychedelic tendencies of her easily-recognizable marker tip, Rotchin caricatures what she considers to be her own inner demons. The piece displays itself as a meticulous, elaborate—and, above all, horrifyingly beautiful—carnival of torment. Scattered with words of self-deprecation and ghoulish figures, Rotchin’s red-hued creation points to one focal message, dominating the viewer’s field of vision:

“How would it be if you could see the world through my eyes?”.

Artwork by Tamar Black Rotchin

To Savannah Thorpe, identity has been a journey carved out through a girlhood of precariously founded confidence. This second-year photography student shares, through recreation of true moments in her life, a rebellion and breaking-free of the stifling expectations so often forced on young girls. It is only fitting that she chose, then, to display her identity through a polaroid series of fuchsia-toned nostalgia, a dreamy tribute to a coming-of-age story that begins and ends with a reminiscent reflection on her own self. Most eye-catching is the central photograph of the collection—this being a pink-wigged heroine, the protagonist in Thorpe’s own autobiography, immersed in a bathtub of balloons—representing the most certain and recurring event of her journey, her birthday.

“I don’t know why but I always end up crying on my birthday,” Thorpe explains, “and in my head, every time, this is how it makes me feel.”

Photo by Savannah Thorpe

Maria José Serna, a third-year graphic design student, draws the viewer’s attention to what she believes to be an all-too-neglected part of one’s identity: age. Creating within a society that stigmatizes numbers, Serna finds the artistic community hauntingly representative of Western society as a whole, in its constant hyper-idealization of youth. Her focus with this praised series aims to display the beauty in the natural process of aging, and the impact of the power that comes with it. Her take on beauty presents itself in the delicate portrait she chose to display: a photograph of her grandmother.

“Walking down the streets, we ignore older members of our community,” Serna points out, “when there is so much knowledge to be gained from them.”

Photo by Maria José Serna


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