Located in Brandon, The Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba boasts an impressive programming rec-ord that can often motivate Winnipeggers to catch an exhibition two hours away. Amalie Atkins’ we live on the edge of disaster and imagine we are in a musical might be one such show and the AGSM is a terrific venue for it as her aesthetic is very much at home in the Wheat City. The film, video, and installation pieces on display showcase a variety of rural tropes from tall grasses to charming domestic interiors; yet the fascination of Atkins’ work is her ability to spin a tale that is at once comfortingly familiar and intriguingly bizarre. In The Braid of Harvesters a mother and daughter collect stray braids of hair from the landscape and hang them on a clothesline. Embrace invites the audience into a cozy red tent to watch a projection of identically dressed elderly twin sisters walking towards each other and hugging over and over again. And perhaps the most mesmerizing and perplexing of the lot is The Summoning, where roller skating conjoined twins are given a set of axes by another gang of roller skating multiples. The exhibition as a whole envelopes us in an enchanting world of vividly coloured costumes and fanciful mythology set right here on the Canadian prairie.
Amalie Atkins, The Summoning
Sharing the gallery space is a solo show by local photographer Tim Smith featuring his portraits of a Hutterite colony. Smith’s crisp images capture candid moments of colony life alongside more formally posed arrangements with both offering a glimpse into these notoriously closed communities. Identical twin sisters Kayla and Kelly Waldner shows us two women standing side by side in matching headscarves, modest dresses, and dark hoodies, looking not unlike the characters presented on the other side of the gallery. This juxtaposition presents an interesting foil to Atkins’ work, but I am left wondering whether the pairing unwittingly nudges viewers into seeing the Hutterite subjects as inhabiting a world of make-believe rather than the realities of the private world shared with Smith’s lens.
The Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba: http://www.agsm.ca/index.php
Amalie Atkins: we live on the edge of disaster and imagine we are in a musical continues until November 20.
Tim Smith: Hutterites of Manitoba continues until November 20.
Jenny Western is a curator, writer, and educator who lives in Winnipeg. She can be followed on Twitter @WesternJenny.
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