Arts

How the flaws and subtleties of the flesh bring out Sabrina Chamberland’s artistic eye

Photo: Jessica Eritou

Taking some time to figure out what passion to pursue in school has paid off well for Sabrina Chamberland.

In 2007, Chamberland came to study geography and environmental studies at the University of Ottawa, prompted in part by her grandmother’s advice to go into government work. By the time she was in her last semester in April 2011, she knew it wasn’t a fit.

So, she went with her intuition and came back to the U of O in 2012 to obtain a second  bachelor of arts specializing in fine arts. “So far, it’s working out much better,” she says, now in her third year of the program.

Chamberland’s first solo exhibition, Corporeal, on display at Studio Sixty Six in the Glebe until mid-April, is a good indicator that she found her calling. The 12-piece collection revolves around how in mainstream media, the female body tends to be fragmented and airbrushed, made to look like something that isn’t real.

For example, one photograph features a female model who has not been airbrushed, showing all the imperfections of the skin. Another work features an untouched, brawny male torso holding a red rose, parodying the movie poster for American Beauty. One of her more bizarre pieces is a photograph of well-manicured chicken feet sporting red nail polish.

Photography is a new medium for Chamberland, who has only been taking photos for a year and a half. But is perhaps her most adept skill, what with her current exhibition at Studio Sixty Six and her permanent photogram installation in the university’s Faculty of Social Sciences building.

It was U of O visual art professor Chantal Gervais who pushed Chamberland to take more photos during her first year, something she says she wasn’t comfortable with at first—but that soon changed.

“What I like about photography, (now) is that it has a direct link to the real,” she says. “There’s a way to just register what you see and you can manipulate it so much quicker.”

She was hooked on studying the body, and why we can feel so repulsed by and attracted to it at the same time. It all started when she witnessed a friend who had a stitch in his neck after a biopsy.

“I thought it was so beautiful,” she says. “But it was kind of disconcerting at the same time. I took a close picture of it and I loved it.”

One of Chamberland’s favourite pieces in Corporeal is a 400-photograph montage of a man’s nude body with psoriasis. “It created a whole other dynamic and it wouldn’t have been the same without it,” she says.

She says any medium other than photography would have made it difficult to capture the intricacies of the human body and the visualization of skin. She said she prefers people to see the tension and the textures in the images.

But even though the tone of her works is quite serious, Chamberland says it’s all in good fun, too.

“In a lot of my work, there’s a lot of humour involved,” she says. “I don’t take myself too seriously.”

Sabrina Chamberland’s Corporeal exhibit runs March 12 to April 19 at Studio Sixty Six at 66 Muriel St.

Corporeal Vernissage weird_WEBSabrina Camberland’s piece “Test 1 v2”.