Note: I am a big fan of Edmonton’s local artists and art galleries. To draw attention and celebrate to our art community, I will be blogging about exhibits I see around the city. If you’ve seen these exhibits, please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you haven’t visited these galleries I hope to pique your curiosity enough to check out what Edmonton’s vibrant art community has to offer.
My parents still live in the home I grew up in. We moved in when I was two and for most of my childhood the basement was undeveloped. To me the unfinished basement was a place where my imagination ran wild for better or worse. This ambiguous lower level could be an expansive and malleable play space or a dank, foreboding nightmare generator.
Our basement looked like every other undeveloped basement I had seen: open floor plan with framing exposed, cotton candy insulation padding the walls, high jail cell windows where the late day sun revealed suspended dust, random pieces of furniture scattered thoughtlessly on the cement sea, and boxes. Lots and lots and lots of boxes..
In Snap Gallery’s exhibit Shift, artist Heather Huston’s domestic interior miniatures evoke the same simultaneous feelings of curiosity and dread I experienced in the basement. Visually there are clear similarities between her models and a home’s subterranean floor: her models are unfinished, minimal and crudely constructed with dark corners and hidden rooms that can only be seen from certain vantage points. These features create tension, but for me what really drives the sublime experience is the introduction of two dimensional elements into the three dimensional space. Huston brings into question the history and possibility of the present space using two dimensional elements. Past, present and future are one in the same. In The Stealing Space (2009), part of the domestic scene must be viewed through a glass wall that has a forest scene silkscreened onto it. Are we seeing the origins of the space or is she hinting mother nature will own this space again one day?
The Stealing Space, 2009
In The Future in Retrospect , a transparent, colored image of a dresser is placed in front of a minimal, white model of a very similar but plainer dresser. The viewer does not know if these represent a memory or a vision of what is to come, both are equally possible, collapsing the past, present and future into one.
The Future in Retrospect , 2010
By first appearance these are contained spaces yet not all of the models are autonomous from the outside world. Three of the models incorporate motion sensors that trigger mechanical elements; if the audience stands in the right spot the interior will be disrupted. It might be a light turning on and off or a window open and closing. I liken this to the surprise of a spider scurrying across the floor. Huston’s seemingly confined spaces are not impenetrable, the future is always lurking and waiting to be revealed. Or maybe it’s a past memory that suddenly comes to mind.
In addition to the models there are three 6′ x 4′ plexiglass panes with domestic settings silkscreened on top. These sculptures include a few context appropriate real life items wedged between the glass and wall. This is a foil to the miniatures, now the third dimensions turn to interrupt a seemingly static, objective picture. Once again time is layered instead of linear. It makes me think about how our memories change as we accumulate experience with age, shifting our interpretation of the past events. The same can be said of the future. Our plans and mock ups are anchored to something that exists in the here and now which is always changing. Huston’s work is a great example of how past, present and future are intertwined.
My parents renovated our basement when my brother was born. Two bedrooms, a bathroom, multiple storage closets and an entertainment section occupy my old play area. Everything is dry walled and painted beige, just like the upstairs floors. I do not know the exact location of the basement support poles my friends and I would swing around or where the old pull string lights were. The space is now decided, but I never allow myself to get too comfortable when I’m down there. Despite it’s cozy, determined interior I know with certainty there a spider waiting for me. I just don’t know where.
*My apologies. I am shameless with alliteration. I also have a guilty pleasure for groaner puns.
Shift is an exhibit by Heather Huston at Snap Gallery (10123 – 121 Street) that runs until Saturday, May 31, 2014. Check out more of Heather Huston’s work at http://www.hhuston.com http://www.snapartists.com/gallery/
Photos credit for The Steal Space and The Future in Retrospect are from of Heather Huston’s website.