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Issue # 4

Issue # 4

Article Listing

Dana Claxton's The Patient Storm
by David Garneau

Wounds and Words: Nadia Myre’s Want Ads and Other Scars
by Stacey Abramson

Five Contemporary Manitoba Artists, Who Happen to be Aboriginal
by Cathy Mattes

An Interview with Colleen Cutschall
by Cathy Mattes

Artist Project:  Dance of the Canoe Pants
by Shelley Niro

Spread Eagle Looking For Good Wolf On Full Moon

Wounds and Words :
Nadia Myre’s Want Ads and other Scars

by Stacey Abramson

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 happened)(*).

Image of Nadia Myre's Want Ads

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The works were originally made while Myre was in art school.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.

Nadia Myre

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 conversations.

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.

Nadia Myre

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.

Nadia Myre

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

  • Visit Nadia's Exhibit and Video Artist Talk at

    Visit Nadia's Exhibit and Video Artist Talk at

  • Visit Nadia Myre's Website

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