embodied, an exhibition at Winnipeg’s La Maison des artistes visuels francophones through September 24, features four artists who use self-portraits to reflect on their relationship with their own bodies, blurring the line between private and public moments, and the autonomy of the female body to investigate. While the portraits are often nude, they are not sexual at all. These images simply look at the body – how it works, how it is perceived and how it heals.
Winnipeg artist Yvette Cenerini’s photo collages show self-portraits that have been cut up and put back together body part by body part. While her body remains whole, it appears segmented and is only capable of certain controlled movements. As a person with a disability, Cenerini relies on the help of others and cannot always control her movements. By flaunting herself, she seeks to destigmatize paralysis and remind us of our responsibility to care for one another.
Two of her works are interactive, allowing visitors to move their bodies in specific ways. This can be done on a small scale with a framed picture, but also on a large scale with a modified trapeze stand resembling a medical device. This allows viewers to explore the power dynamics of care and reflect on the vulnerability of those in need of help.
Winnipeg artist Susan Aydan Abbott’s work focuses on her unresolved trauma from sexual abuse. rebirth is a blurred photograph of her nude body, curled up in a fetal position between severed casts of her feet and torso. Across the room are the casts themselves, surprisingly lifelike with their flesh bruised and torn. By showing the casts, Abbott feels like she’s drawing her pain out of her body and freeing herself from shame. The series is called RED (Rape Over Time) and also includes The crown, a photo of Abbott hugging in her current stage of life. Together, the pieces illuminate their journey.
embodied also includes work by Vancouver photographer Michèle Bygodt and Edmonton-based Riisa Gundesen. Bygodt’s work questions reality and subjectivity. She is interested in perceptions of the black body and what this term now stands for. The exhibition includes three of her self-portraits Federal State Series. In one, she tears her face open as if trapped in someone else’s misconception. Gundesen, on the other hand, displays life-size, fleshy, and fragmented body parts as she gets ready to go out. Her paintings, the antithesis of glamour, consider the representation of femininity and the connection between fear and gender.
Curator Lou-Anne Bourdeau says the exhibition explores “how we see our bodies and how personal stories can become universal.” While the works reveal moments that are usually kept private, creating an apparent sense of exposure and otherness, they are ultimately relatable to many people. embodied thus providing a space for people to feel less isolated in their own experiences. ■
embodied at The Artist’s Housees visuels francophones in Winnipeg from August 4 to September 24, 2022.
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