The collective images of the west, from the cigarette smoking Marlboro Man to the tumbleweeds rolling down the dusty main street of a clapboard town, are ingrained in the public consciousness.
With its latest exhibition Western, the Kamloops Art Gallery attempts to take stock of the history of settlement in the west and reflect on how this history and its manifestations have shaped popular imagination.
To do that, curator Charo Neville put together an exhibit featuring work from five artists that address the idea of the west and the western genre in diverse and complex ways.
“The idea of Western is to look at perspective of how this place (the Kamloops region) is represented,” said Neville.
Western begins next Friday and continuing in the main gallery until March 23. It includes a large-scale, metaphorical installation by artist collective DRIL.
When complete, Neville said DRIL’s work will include two rooms. One will be made to look like a 1970s living room complete with vintage TV set.
“It’s like you’re going to sit down and watch an old western,” she said.
On the TV are scenes from various western movies, each with tumbleweed moving across the screen. Those who stop and watch will notice the tumbleweed rolls continuously from scene to scene.
“It’s cut so that the tumbleweed moves from one screen to the next,” said Neville.
In the next room is a collection of tumbleweeds the likes of which locals probably have never seen.
“They have collected tumbleweeds like you wouldn’t believe,” she said, adding the dried plant will spill from the room.
If DRIL’s work explores the iconology and stereotyping of the western genre, then Louise Noguchi’s Language of the Rope is a nice companion piece.
Noguchi’s video series studies the phenomenon of the re-staged and re-enacted cowboy culture through slow-motion imagery of people twirling pistols and lassos.
Neville said Noguchi taught herself how to use the lasso and incorporates shots of her showing off her skills into the series. All the images are filmed in close-up, revealing bits and pieces of the subject and activity.
“It’s forcing you to look at things in a different way through slowing it down,” she said. “The videos are all really slow-motion close ups.”
From the gallery’s permanent collection, Cornelia Wyngaarden’s work plays on the sexual stereotyping of the Marlboro Man by flipping gender rolls. She takes images of rodeo men and mixes them with a female subject herding cattle.
The exhibit continues with Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun’s An Indian Shooting the Indian Act, which includes video of the artist shooting the Indian Act and mountings of a rifle and bullet-riddled pages.
Dana Claxton’s Mustang Suite uses slick, advertising style photographs to show the complexities and contemporary realities of the First Nation.
“She’s really riffing off of the traditional objects or clothing, but also integrating the modern Indian into all of this with the war paint on,” said Neville.
In the nearby Cube gallery is a collection of 20 paintings by local artist and rancher Sonia Cornwall, which capture ranching life in the region during the early to mid-1900s.
Curated by Roger Boulet, Neville said the work is a nice companion piece to the more contemporary art on display in the main gallery.
A curator’s tour takes place Friday, Jan. 18 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and a member’s preview and opening reception will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
B.C. Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon will attend the opening reception.