Monday, 19 May 2014

Lakehead University Retrograduate Exhibition at the Definitely Superior Art Gallery

     Nudity and nacho chips combined at the opening of the Lakehead University Retrograd Show to three packed gallery spaces. Stephanie Celine and Kristin Jorgenson aimed to poke fun at our society’s obsessive love of snack food with a work performed by Stephanie and Reed Thomas. The brave souls disrobed to hop into a tub and pop open bags to cover themselves with thousands of Dorito’s Nachos chips. Brave, not only because the performers were naked, but also because those damn addictive cheesy chips have sharp little edges. Death by Doritos! If you like nachos, there are still lots of them available in the bathtub and all over the gallery floor. The show packs a crunch. :)
      The Definitely Superior Gallery hasn’t had such a dramatic performance piece for a while. Performance pieces can wedge themselves into one’s mind as much as a great art show.
     And there’s lots to like about the current show, set in all three-gallery spaces, comprised of a long list of young and talented creative people, many who may become major artistic contributors to our city. A few works are certainly worth obtaining for collector’s walls. If you want to invest in art, or begin the great and respected hobby of buying art and being involved in the community, here’s a good place to start.

     However, you won’t find the standard landscape, still life, or portrait. There are lots of portraits, but most have a tilt, a playful twist, as do the landscapes and still life. Kristin Jorgenson’s playful Bountiful Harvest is a slightly typical portrait of a house, but with a big wedge of pink frosted cake sitting in the front yard. Painted in a naïve manner one suspects its creator, not a professional, got distracted. Since we know the painter has a university degree, and is a better painter as evidenced by more painterly and detailed examples throughout the show, we know she’s poking fun at our indulgences and making a statement about easily accessible art at the same time. Art too, can be like cake. Or Doritos.
     Eli Castellan’s piece, Mental Traffic, continues the theme. This time it’s a gaunt soul starved semi-human who can’t escape the magnetic pull of the television. The figure’s body becomes an alien-twisted anorexic, with arms reaching for an alternative from the soul-sucking world from which he can’t pull his mind away. This deceptively simple piece is fraught with meaning and has as much a cognitive pull as Robert Crumb’s comic piece, Keep on Trucking. The image sticks in the mind because it’s emblematic of a human condition for many people, like our addiction to Doritos Nachos. A miniature version of Eli’s sculpture would be a good present for every child at Christmas. Just a Grinchy thought.
     There are also great abstract pieces like Scott Poluyko’s Rauschenberg-like piece, Aggression, and Rebecca Taddeo’s very red yet composed untitled mixed media canvas work.
     There are wonderfully crazy surreal pieces, like Melissa Miller’s, Awakening, with its bizarre gooey drips floating between teeth and an eye, and Michelle Kivi’s assemblages of recognizable imagery for her Northern pieces: Routes and Commute.
     There are thoughtful emotionally fraught personal pieces like Viki Ludmark’s, Hereditary Relapse, a bold statement as if seen through the very liquid that creates the addiction.

     The show is comprised of twenty different graduates, all worth checking out. Please go to for a list of the artists. The Lakehead University Retrograduate Exhibition is on till May 31st.

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