Review of an Exhibition

Recently I went to see Sara Cwyner: Tracy, an art exhibit featuring work by photographer and cinematographer, Sara Cwyner. The show explores many themes including consumerism and sexism using collage, photographs and film. The majority of photos depict Tracy, a model and friend to the artist (who I initially mistook for the artist herself), in a reclining pose on a coloured fabric. A collection of props was arranged to obscure the model in nearly every photo, including beauty products, photos of a variety of women, iPhone accessories and definitions clipped from dictionaries. I noticed that Tracy’s hands were deliberately left visible, and that the photos seem to have been done in pairs. This can be seen most clearly in the two suits of armor displayed across from each other. Both have black and white photos of objects being touched by a pair of hands. But while one of them has a closed helmet, the other is left open. This duality is also reflected in the short videos located in each of the three rooms in the centre, with the contrast between masculinity and femininity, or the colours Pink and Gold.

Entering the dark rooms, I saw a row of chairs positioned in the middle of the room. On the screen was a seemingly unrelated series of clips, alternating between shots of various objects and the artist in the process of taking the photographs on display. The first video focused on the fashion and makeup industry, contrasting the bright attractive colours worn by Tracy with the dull artificial colours and sounds of a factory producing makeup. A woman’s voice, presumably that of the artist, mused that colour, is something that is experienced uniquely by each individual, yet they are altered to look more pleasing than reality. In this world created by men, a women’s face doesn’t belong to her alone. The video was entrancing, with the voiceover constantly overlapping and being interrupted by both her own and an unknown male voice. This combined with the rhythmic drones of the factory in the background and the frequent change of visuals, left me unaware of how much time has passed, but intrigued to keep watching. This feeling continued with the other two videos, but with the man was the primary speaker. In the second video, the man seemed to talk to the viewer directly, about his thoughts on the rose-gold iPhone, a “new” colour designed to sell more products. We seem to communicate through touch, but “When did we learn to swipe?” he asks. It is this video that we first see the artist herself, where she can be seen mimicking Tracy’s pose but in a way that is unflattering. Typically Sara uses old cameras for her work, but this video made it most apparent, with desaturated colours and credits moved by hand. The final video used trinkets and mementos that the artist purchased online to demonstrate that they are only imitations of real life, something we are fooled into paying for.

After watching the videos, I began to get a clearer picture of the show as a whole. The suits of armor represent idealized strong, protective masculine figure, compared to the beautiful reclining image women have typically been portrayed as. The choice to have Tracy, an Asian woman, as the model was a deliberate decision to make a point about the classic standard of beauty. The three pink roses and three gold presidential busts reinforce the difference in gender roles while also referring to the rose gold iphone featured in the second video. Overall I would recommend checking this show out, whether you’re interested in photography or not, It’s worth seeing.

The show is on display at the Oakville Galleries at Centennial Square until June 3rd.

Interview with Krista Reimer

Recently I’ve had the chance to chat online with Krista Reimer, a painter from southern Ontario who uses her family and home as inspiration.

Here is what she had to say about her practice:


Sam: Hi Krista, thank you for making time for this interview.

Krista: You are most welcome!

S: First I’d like to ask, what inspired you to pursue art?

K: It’s something that has just gradually transpired actually- it was never a deliberate intention for me. I actually went to college for counselling, and worked in that field for 5 years as the manager of a Christian home for unwed mothers in a crisis situation- always enjoying painting as a hobby. Then after having my second daughter I decided to stay home full time with them. Within a few years I started teaching art lessons privately, and began to paint a few commissions for locals.

So I’m a self-taught artist- which has its pros and cons. Taking it one step at a time. I don’t know if that answered your question! Let me add to that—I’ve learned that it is a strong ‘need’ of mine to create and to helps others create which is why I love teaching art also.

S: Yeah of course! So it wasn’t something you had planned for, it sort of grew from teaching?

K: Correct. And from realizing I’m skilled at painting- while my kids are young I haven’t want to work out of the house so practicing my art/teaching from home has allowed me to stay at home.

S: So you get to spend time doing what you love, with who you love.

K: Yes

S: Tell me, what has your journey been like as an artist?

K: That’s a loaded question!

Not easy at all ha! First the bad- Honestly it’s full of disappointments sometimes, it’s a lot of getting my hopes up to have them squashed. It’s feeling like no one cares about all the work that goes into my artwork (cause who sees the internal process? The mental energy of figuring stuff out?) in the last few months I’ve battled with realizing I cannot paint my own artwork for be purpose of other people’s approval.

The good has been the joy of creating. The joy of capturing moments that are meaningful to me. If you’ve seen my recent artwork you’ve noticed I’ve been painting a lot of old family memories- I cherish my family, and miss my grandparents that have passed. So when I’m working on a painting and feel emotionally moved to tears, I know I’m creativity something meaningful. Even if no one else gets it, I know that God knows what it means to me and I hope I’m honouring Him by painting what I do.

And by being thankful for the family I have. And I know other family members have felt blessed and touched that I value family enough to want to paint about it. So in a way I’m wanting to ‘educate’ my viewers on the value of family.

There are a lot of uncertainties as an artist. Success is measured individually on a balance of financial gain, recognition, and enjoyment —Everyone will gauge their own success on a diff balance of those three markers.

S: That’s a good way to see it. All the work and frustration is worth it in the end because you aren’t doing it just for your own gain.

K: No, because thankfully I don’t have the pressure of supporting my family with an income… that would be a different story then! Then I would be painting commercial art. In my mind I’m starting to separate my art in two categories – my art, and ‘sellable’ art-The first is what my heart wants to paint. The second is what others want me to paint- ie commissions.

The best ever would be for the first to be the same as the second- for people to want to buy what I want to paint most, if that makes sense. But I can’t expect the general public to be interested in my old family photos ha, I mean interested enough in my art to want to buy it… People seem to be interested in the idea of it.

S: Yeah, it might be a little strange to buy artwork of someone else’s family. What is your workspace like when working on a painting?

K: On your first comment- it isn’t unheard of though, if you look at the old famous masters they all painted their family and people (Degas, Mary Cassatt, the contemporary Peter Doig paints people), somehow their art has become treasures and people hang their art up all the time – of complete strangers.

S: Haha, that’s true!

K: My work space is messy! I never wear good clothes in my studio. I have loud music on usually.

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If I were in a large city I think my art would be better accepted in that way if that makes sense. Around here people seem to mostly value paintings of ducks and boats and farms ha! Or paintings that are photo-realistic.

S: That can be challenging, how would you go about meeting new contacts?

K: Joining art groups, art clubs, applying for group shows, going to art show opening receptions. Talking to people who know people and building relationships with those people.

‘Making it’ as an artist isn’t necessarily about talent and skill. Unfortunately a lot of it is having the right connections. And you have to be a good self-promoter I think (I’m no expert!!!)

S: Well no, I think that’s true. Galleries can represent you, but you need to also be meeting people and represent yourself.

K: Yes so it’s a combination of a lot of things.

S: Exactly. I have one more question: what is your typical day like?

K: Because I have an exhibition coming up in a month and I have A LOT of work to do to be ready for it I’ve been in my studio mostly every day— so –
Once the kids are on the bus I take an hour to have breakfast/coffee. I’m in my studio by 9:30, stop for lunch quick and work again till 3 or so, so I’m back in the house for a when my kids get home. Then make supper, do whatever, then I’ve been running back in my studio after supper for an hour or so.

Thursdays I teach art in my studio for a few adults . And other various commitments come up during the week.

S: Well, I don’t want to keep you too long. Thanks again for your time!

K: You’re welcome!


Hearing Krista’s experience as an artist has taught me that although it isn’t easy, when you love to create art then it’s worth the work in the end. Not every piece an artist makes will end up selling, but knowing the market and meting new people can play a big part in that. I was particularly inspired by how much Krista values her family, and how she is able to channel her memories and relationship with them into paintings that are meaningful. That’s something that I admire most about her work, and something I hope to have in my own art.

You can see some of Krista’s work at http://www.kristareimer.ca/