Visual words get political at Arts Underground

In the subtle lines of a woman's face, Leslie Leong condemns Carmacks' Chief Eddie Skookum. The local artist is using her work to examine the dark side of what's happening to women worldwide, and Skookum made the cut.

In the subtle lines of a woman’s face, Leslie Leong condemns Carmacks’ Chief Eddie Skookum.

The local artist is using her work to examine the dark side of what’s happening to women worldwide, and Skookum made the cut.

“We’re considered quite progressive in our civilized western societies,” said Leong.

“But we still have inequalities here.”

Last fall, Skookum beat his girlfriend bloody and unconscious, but remains Carmacks’ chief, and that is “outrageous,” she said.

Leong has created a woman’s face using text as shading to draw and accent everything from her hair to her eyelids.

Called Affirmations Between Light and Darkness, Leong’s work moves from the shaded side of the woman’s face, made up of words like, “A man beats a woman and still retains his political office,” to the light side.

Here, former governor general Michelle Jean’s words help shape Leong’s art:

“The roles men and women play in society are not biologically determined, they’re socially determined.”

That’s a positive thing, said Leong.

“It means our roles are changing and changeable.”

Leong’s piece is part of Scrawled on the Wall, a show featuring Arts Underground artists that was dreamed up by programmer Lonnie Ariss.

“We were looking at doing something at the same time as Rendezvous,” said Ariss.

“So we threw it out to our artists to do something text related.”

Some of the works are subtle, she said.

“And some are super obvious.”

One canvas is all black, except for a tiny white ampersand -&.

“I had a lot of ideas for a text project,” said artist Jesse DeVost.

“But it all boiled down to the ampersand.”

It can’t exist on its own, said DeVost.

“So I put it on its own.”

And it’s simple.

So, DeVost gave it a complicated name: Prelude to a New Dimension Through a Crisis of Individuality.

Mary Beattie has a piece in the show paying tribute to black American writer and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston.

And fimo artist Lara Melnik has a colourful L and an equally bright D, linked with a plus sign.

Called 4-ever, the piece is a love letter to Melnik’s partner.

And it’s not for sale.

Another piece, by Amber Walker, features a bra with writing on it.

“We were open to whatever people came up with,” said Ariss.

“We wanted to do something different, something that would challenge our artists a little bit.”

Sharing the wall will be a mixed media piece by Glenda Mosher.

The text is illegible.

Which is the point, said Mosher.

Overlaid on a composite of acrylic paint, modeling paste and homemade stencils, the writing is abstract.

“I just like the movement of it,” said Mosher.

When she dreamed up the show, Ariss wasn’t trying to push the debate about whether text is a legitimate part of visual art.

“We were just throwing out a contemporary idea for artists to play with,” she said.

Incorporating words into visual art can expose things, said Leong.

“That’s what I like about the written word, you can communicate more – you can really pinpoint issues.”

Then, Leong paused.

“But I guess that’s debatable,” she said.

Art is a visual medium, said DeVost.

“But a word is telling the viewer directly what to see.”

On Thursday, Ariss was painting the wall, in preparation for Saturday’s opening.

Despite the show’s name, no one will actually be allowed to “scrawl on the wall,” she said.

Maybe on post-it notes, she added.

“But painting the wall is hard work.”

Scrawl on the Wall’s opening runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday at Arts Underground.

Coffee and snacks will be served.

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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