Arts

Photos: Marta Kierkus.

U of O student art show explores “cohesive nature of humanity”

Although bundling up in big, comfy sweaters is something that’s inevitable for University of Ottawa students once the winter sets in, it’s rarely thought of as an art form.

However, in Interpersonality, the newest exhibit at Gallery 115 in the U of O visual arts building, you’ll find people in bundles of cut-up and stitched-back-together sweaters, dubbed “thneeds” by the artists, rolling around on the floor, proving almost anything can be turned into art.

The exhibit is the brainchild of second-year visual arts students Kelsea Shore and Sarah Elizabeth Beltrame and features paintings by Beltrame, an installation piece by Shore, performative pieces by the dancing thneeds, and an interactive piece where you can become a part of the art yourself.

“Personality is an individual thing, but we’re trying to break down that and create a collective personality, which is kind of a contradiction,” says Beltrame on the meaning of the exhibit’s name. “All of the projects are really about breaking bonds between people and moulding them together into an anamorphous form.”

To accomplish this goal in her art, Beltrame had to move past much of what she learned on drawing the human body, and find ways to make the human form almost unrecognizable. Her three pieces on display took a month to complete, and also most of her paint.  

For Shore, her role in the exhibit took a different turn than she originally intended. What began as a few photographs for a final project became an interactive installation, after she was told she would have access to Gallery 115 and had to fill it in some way. Shore decided to take the “thneeds” out of the still photos and make them accessible to anyone.

“I tell them to explore the orifices, I tell them I want to capture bodies without faces to take away that individuation and not focus on faces and individuals, but more about on how they come together. The focus is on the cohesive nature of humanity,” says Shore of the grander picture she was tackling when she began working on Interpersonality.

The idea boiled down to taking away a certain level of individualism. Shore summarized what she was trying to say with her work as human beings are social animals, and yet so much time is spent cultivating an individual personality, yet when the thneeds are on, and the wearer can see nothing and only feel their relationship to another person, then all personality and individualism is stripped away.

Shore and Beltrame’s work came together when Shore found that Beltrame’s paintings contained similar themes to what she was trying to capture in the exhibit. Shore also admired Beltrame’s dedication to working on projects outside of studio classes, as many other students find it difficult to create art outside of the mandatory studio classes.

“If people are curious, if they want to play, if they’re willing to be a little vulnerable, then I really encourage them to come and see it,” says Shore.

Even if you don’t want to roll around on the floor, Interpersonality is still a sight that shouldn’t be missed.

Interpersonality runs until April 1 at Gallery 115, located on first floor of the Visual Arts Building, 100 Laurier Ave. East. The gallery is open Monday–Friday 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Admission is free.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.