The range of emotions and responses that language
and experience have are lovingly approached through Nadia Myre’s
Want Ads and Other Scars. The works that are shown as part of
this exhibition show another side to Myre’s artistic practice.
Want Ads and Other Scars span over a 10 year period in Myre’s
career, taking her from her days at Emily Carr Institute of Art and
Design to more recent years. It is not as overtly political as her
previous works such as Indian Act, which saw Myre send the
Indian Act across the country to be beaded by various beaders, but
it still is quite personal work.
Walking into the gallery, the viewer is pummeled with elegiac text
stenciled onto ordinary sheets of paper. These “want ads” originally
appeared as spray-painted graffiti slogans on the streets of
Vancouver in the late 1990s. Myre created these humourous ads after
meeting various individuals, leaving a postal code by each one in
hopes of having the specific person contact her (which never
In newspapers, online message boards and personal
note books, the impressions that events and people have on one
another are recorded. Whether they are made public through avenues
like the papers and boards, or simply acknowledged through a written
history in a pocketbook, the emotions and impact that one fleeting
moment with an individual can have is immeasurable. These daydream
moments are captured and blown up through Myre’s want ads.
The works were originally made while Myre was in art
school. She and a fellow classmate took their experiences as
“singles” and put them into phrases of calling (phone conversation).
She has taken the graffiti off the streets and recreated them for
gallery walls. The rawness of graffiti comes across through the
harsh stenciling that Myre has chosen. Her choice to stencil the
words, rather than handwrite them gives the phrases a universal feel
belying the connection between the works and passersby who may have
been moved by the words.
Longing and want are at the core of human emotions.
Desire can drive a person to do almost anything to acquire what they
want. There is innocence in works such as I SAW U ON THE BUS as
these want ads speak to those silent lonely conversations that
everyone has – the internal dialogue of a desire for human
connection. She shouts out to the public sphere for comfort and
companionship. The works are in a place that all of us have been at
one time or another – wanting to make a connection to someone, to
have that feeling of need from another. The sensitivity that is
given to even the most simple of requests speaks to Myre’s emotional
connection to the phrases and events that shape everyday
SPREAD EAGLE LOOKING FOR LONE WOLF ON FULL MOON, is
perhaps the most striking of all of the want ads. The sexuality of
the phrase lends itself to the location of Vancouver’s lower east
side, where Myre was living at the time of the works creation.
SLEEPING BEAUTY LOOKING FOR VOYEUR was also made at this time,
exhibiting a more perverse side to these intimate public statements.
The deep crimson work that separates the want ads
from the scars marks the start of Myre’s move away from text. Hover
baby, hover is a transition from the text works to the scar
paintings, sitting heavy with its lead encasing and long horizontal
form. One has to get close to the work to see its bloody details.
The thick mess of deep red, coated in a layer of light gauze gives
the visualization of a fresh wound. Soiled and fresh, it speaks of
the creation of scars and the onset of wounds, after which the
healing work of scars takes over. The breaking of the skin and the
wrapping of the gauze for protection reads as an emotional blanket,
shielding the opening from harm. This exploration into the site of
scar formation is a single work, but its significance within the
greater context of works through its placement – words are lacking,
and scars have yet to form.
This juxtaposition, of text, to scar create within
the exhibition, a unique narrative – the words do not stand out, as
much as they blend in. Myre explains that she “wanted to push
herself to make things without using language,” as it is so obvious
and leaves little to the imagination. Text can sometimes feel too
easy for artists, as if it is presenting the work with nothing more
beneath it. The poetics of her work begin to go beyond the words,
and move into fields of placement, colour and texture. She has such
a passion for language and words that the scar works tell a story
regardless of text.
Myre’s scar paintings are a response to her ongoing
Scar Project that takes place every spring. The project has
participants choose raw canvases that Myre has hung on a wall,
hand-stitch their own scars, and physically write down their stories
of how this specific scar came to be. Myre’s artistic therapy
approach to these works is more than emotional. The recognition that
this exercise gives the participants puts them in control of
recreating their wounds, stirring up emotions that they may not have
been in control of.
Sifting through the images on the online gallery
that Myre has set up to document this project, one can see why she
felt the need to create her own response to the project. The scars
stitched on the canvases come in various levels of intensity. Some
scars are subtle rips, sewn up haphazardly, while others are complex
mixes of tears and sutures. Exhibited without didactic text, the
works tell a story all their own. The topography that the texture of
the scars has evokes an emotional mapping of ones past. As each
memory causing the wound takes specific time and care to heal, the
scars that Myre has painted require delicate treatment - Myre
explores this through the layering of paint, colour choice, and
glazing. The treatments of the works, ranging from small pink
surfaces to large raw canvases, illustrate her understanding of the
tender nature of the subject.
Scars sit on our skin like stories waiting to be
told or be kept forever secret. Their origins tell tales of pain and
suffering, whether it is intentional or not. The cuts that are made
take on a form of their own through the healing process. It’s this
simple physical reaction that Myre poetically reflects on through
the scar works – she relays the wounds that create the scars as an
emotional vulnerability. The rebuilding of tissues that occur when
scars are formed can be seen as a period of regaining strength and
starting over. The tissues that accumulate to shape the scar are
never identical to what was once there. Myre explores this loss,
commemorates and attempts to heal these scars through her paintings.
The language of poetics and the stories of scars
come together in Coda Construction. This horizontally broken-up
piece sees Myre play with various types of poetic devices. The
etched out dots on the slick aluminum surfaces signify the cadence
of Morse code, while the coarsely stenciled stars reference ground
to air signals. She approaches these stiff methods of communication
with a delicate touch – their sounds break up the work, transforming
the piece into a piece of music. The raised text sits like a scar on
the paper, bringing the effect of the text into a physical context.
The combination of all of these languages is moving, and suiting as
the last wall work in the exhibition.
Your True Love, the film projection at the end of
the exhibition, revisits notions of love and yearning. This looped
short sees two lovers in the midst of the dizzying spell of the
first excitement that new relationships bring. It is all brought to
a sudden halt when the words – that Myre is poetically eating –
reveal that the love that she thought was true, was not to be.
Each of the works shown in Want Ads and Other Scars shows Myre’s
close relationship with language and the impact that words sometimes
cannot express. Her passion for poetics and deep understanding of
the subtleties of experience and pain allow the work to connect with
the viewers on personal levels. The care that each of the works
receive are not merely about putting effort into a work, but more so
concerning the effects that the contents have on herself and those
who view them.
- Stacey Abramson
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