Town of Oakville Oakville galleries
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at Centennial Square
Oakville galleries

8 August – 4 October 1998
in Gairloch Gardens
Curated by Renee Baert
Organized and circulated by Expression centre d’exposition de Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec


Memory is a large part of our lives, informing the decisions that weave the fabric of our identity and make us who we are. Clothes can be powerful triggers of certain memories: the first school uniform, a favorite pair of jeans, even traditional wedding day clothes all evoke remembrances. Whether protective or decorative, clothing becomes the connective tissue that links the self with the outside world.  For this group exhibition of works of art by six Canadian artists, curator Renee Baert considers the power of clothing to evoke remembrances and brings together works that link “the private domain of corporeality and expressivity and the public domain of code and symbol.”

Dominique Blain uses soldiers' helmets welded together at the crown to form irregular spherical shapes that reference the absent human head. The formal presentation of these objects in a glass vitrine highlights the disturbing character of these objects, with their lingering traces of bodies and use. Cathy Daly’s large drawings of voluminous dresses have a hint of unreality about them. They are impossible garments that could never be worn but which relate to glamorous ideals of feminine beauty. From another point of view, Aganetha Dyck starts with actual clothes and accessories once worn by women, and then exposes the objects to the transformative activity of honey bees until they are covered in wax. Her Anorexic Dress preserves the skinny dress as an artifact of the destructive self. Patrick Traer’s embroidery moves the viewer from the exterior to interior of the body by mapping the elegant tracery of specific circulatory systems. Rather than a literal anatomical diagram, Traer’s designs suggest how clothing is a second skin that protects our inner identity. Conversely, the work of Evelyn von Michalofski comments on how clothing creates an external identity.  Taking her cue from a fanciful 18th century image of thematic costumes for street peddlers, her costume of trinkets, fabric and wax literalizes the cult of hygiene and beauty: the wearer is transformed into a human advertisement. Finally, Faye HeavyShield’s Clan clusters together pieces of clothing that have been formed into conical, teepee-like shapes, and painted a uniform rust colour. Different pieces of draped clothing show darts, gathers, buttons and lace that have absorbed the paint to different degrees, revealing subtle heterogeneity where there would appear to be homogeneity, and  alluding to the identity of First Nations people marginalized by racist powers.

In these works the body is absent. The recognition of its absence, however, brings powerful fragments of memory, along with an awareness of how clothing as a surrogate body mediates our experience of the world.

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