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FFOTO's Five Quarantine Questions for Meryl McMaster, Gaëlle Morel, and Lauren Wickware

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Meryl McMaster in her studio

Meryl McMaster in her studio

FFOTO's Five Quarantine Questions continues with responses by the abundantly talented artist Meryl McMaster; Gaëlle Morel, Exhibitions Curator at Toronto's forward-looking Ryerson Image Centre; and design dynamo Lauren Wickware, whose studio in Hamilton specializes in award-winning museum catalogues and collaborations with renowned artists including Brendan Fernandes, Robert Fones, Divya Mehra, Mickalene Thomas, and many others.

- Craig D'Arville

 

 

MERYL McMASTER, artist (@meryl_mcmaster)

Ancestral 9, by Meryl McMaster

Ancestral 9, 2008

Craig D'Arville: Tell us a bit about your series, "Ancestral". 

Meryl McMaster: This image is from my series “Ancestral” and reflects upon how popular culture represents or misrepresents Indigenous people. For the project, I collected a variety of historical photographic portraits and paintings from the late 19th century of Indigenous men and women from different nations taken by Edward Curtis, Will Soule and George Catlin. In this particular image “Ancestral 9”, I selected a photograph taken by Edward Curtis of a young Wishram woman. These men believed that Indigenous peoples were disappearing and that their way of life must be documented, or it would be lost. They manipulated images, directed their subjects to show an idealized lifestyle of what they thought traditional life and Indigenous culture was. Their ideas and misrepresentation were spread through the general public when they brought their images back to cities leaving people to assume that Indigenous people were disappearing and that these images were all that remained. In fact, my ancestors were still very much alive, just not in the way that they were depicted in these images, living lives heavily impacted by colonization, cultural assimilation and suppression.
 
I scanned various images from these three men and then used a digital projector to shine the portraits on to the bodies of myself and my father in the darkened space of the studio. I painted both of our faces and torsos with white paint, like a screen, allowing the projections to appear more clearly on our bodies. This process of playing with light and projection on the body creates a surreal and ghost-like quality to the images, with aspects of the past and present subject visible.
 
In appropriating these images, I want to move them away from the stereotypes of romanticizing and classification. Historically, photography was used to capture otherness – to freeze cultures and people only to be gazed at. I want to reclaim my ancestors’ identity from these stereotypes and blur the ideas associated with the indigenous body in the western photographic tradition. I also feel that, by extracting my ancestors from the historical images, time collapses and they step through me into the present.

 

CD: How is physical distancing affecting your art practice?

MM: My day-to-day routine hasn’t been changed all that much, in fact, I usually work alone in my home studio. I don’t typically interact face-to-face in a work capacity with other people on a regular basis. What it has affected is my ability to go out and gather materials for projects and correspond with suppliers of materials.  

CD: What are you doing to stay engaged with your community during this strange time?

MM: It has been more difficult but trying to check in with friends and family as much as possible, and trying to support local business where I can, has been my focus.

CD: We're all spending a lot of time on social media right now. Whose work is getting your attention right now?

MM: I love to follow and see what Ottawa based photographer Whitney Lewis-Smith (@whitneylewissmith) is up to!

CD: Any advice you’d like to share to help others coping with working from home, or in isolation?

MM: I always turn to the outdoors, so for me now that the weather is warming up I enjoy going on well-isolated walks - whether that is in a quiet nearby park or even around my neighbourhood. I find fresh air quite therapeutic and the experience allows my mind to wander. Also, opening your windows and letting that spring breeze fill the room and hearing the early sounds of birds in the morning is wonderful. I think just staying positive, doing what you can to support your community, even the most impactful thing that you can do involves doing not much at all, and appreciating and taking pleasure in the small things, of which we still have access to many. 

Shop FFOTO: Meryl McMaster

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GAËLLE MOREL, Exhibitions Curator, Ryerson Image Centre (@gaelleleilamorel

Gaëlle Morel selfie

Craig D'Arville: What are you working on right now?

Gaëlle Morel: We're working on future programming and planning for the reopening of the Ryerson Image Centre. We had to find a strategy to try to avoid having to cancel some exhibitions while at the same time proposing a coherent program.

CD: How is physical distancing affecting your work flow?

GM: Things take longer. We check in priority that all staff members are safe and healthy. We continue working on future projects and we are connected with our colleagues in the art community, but everything seems somehow suspended.

CD: What are you doing to stay engaged with your community during this strange time?

GM: We activate all the different tools at our disposal: meetings online, phone conversations, emails, texts, etc. We communicate and stay engaged with our partners, locally, nationally, and internationally.

CD: We're all spending a lot of time on social media right now. Whose work is getting your attention right now?

GM: I try to limit my time on social media... but I would recommend following MoMA photo curator and historian Clément Chéroux (@clement_cheroux) on Instagram; he always shares some great gems from his personal collection, or found while doing research.

CD: Any advice you’d like to share to help others coping with working from home, or in isolation?

GM: Please reach out to your colleagues, friends, family or professionals if you're feeling isolated. We're all in this together.

Visit Ryerson Image Centre

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LAUREN WICKWARE, Graphic Designer (@lauren_wickware)

Lauren Wickware Design Studio

Craig D'Arville: What are you working on right now?

Lauren Wickware: I am working on designing Uninvited, a groundbreaking book that corresponds to an upcoming exhibition at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. The book and exhibition highlight the “pioneers who opened new frontiers for women artists in Canada—as well as works made by their Indigenous female contemporaries working in traditional media”. Many of the artists included are recognizable, such as Emily Carr, but many are new to me as they have all but been forgotten. In particular, the photographer Margaret Watkins, whose images highlight the messiness of everyday life—which is something we are all struggling with these days.

 CD: How is physical distancing affecting your work flow?

LW: Zoom all day everyday! Video conferencing has been both a lifeline and a curse—I went from one or two meetings every month to one or two meetings everyday! But it has also been a necessary tool to keep the momentum of projects going. 

CD: What are you doing to stay engaged with your community during this strange time?

LW: I help organize a collective of Hamilton commercial artists and since we’ve had to cancel our monthly events I’ll be sending out newsletters to members on a more regular basis in order to promote a sense of community and stay in the loop on what people are up to—when times get tough, people get creative!

CD: We're all spending a lot of time on social media right now. Whose work is getting your attention right now?

LW: I love that many people are digging thought their archives while stuck at home and sharing past treasures. Chris Thomaidis (@christhomaidis) has been mining his work from the past several decades featuring some beautiful and haunting images that are rather timely, even if shot decades ago. I have been revisiting Simon Willms' work (@simonwillms); his engaging portraits can be oddly comforting at a time when we are all social distancing.

Bookoftheday (@bookoftheday) has a great Instagram account to get lost in and features lots of photography books.

Not exactly photo-based but I do love the re-staging of famous paintings that is happening on social media, so far my favourite was the Rothko—impressive! I can’t wait for someone to attempt a Pollock . . .

CD: Any advice you’d like to share to help others coping with working from home, or in isolation?

LW: I am sure you’ve heard this before but ultimately I am finding that it is key to stick to a routine—I am definitely more productive when my current schedule looks similar to my pre-stay-at-home schedule. Most importantly, be kind to yourself, regardless if you worked from home before or not, it is a big transition for everyone.

Lauren Wickware Design Studio

Visit Lauren Wickware Design

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