The Union Gallery Bookshelf Selection Project: The Distance Between Us
June 1st-August 11th,, 2016
Curated by Posy Legge
One of the oldest arguments for the importance of art in communities is its ability to foster empathy in viewers. The ability of art to help us feel and understand the experiences of others continues to motivate artists to create objects, spaces, and happenings that allow us to connect with one another's positions and perspectives. In increasingly diverse and growing urban communities, promoting empathy becomes even more significant, as we at times become distracted by apparent differences, further distancing ourselves from people we do not know or with whom we do not identify.
This selection of artworks from catalogues in the Union Gallery's collection comprises a variety of approaches towards evoking or reflecting empathetic interactions. Some of these artists use specificity to conjure familiarly between artist and viewer, like Graeme Patterson, whose detailed reconstruction of Woodrow, Saskatchewan, prompts us to reflect on our own emotional attachments to place. Other artists, such as Nadia Myre, call into question political inequalities by drawing attention to our shared desire for basic human dignity. Others still, like the designers of the "Empathy Suit," included in the 2008 NSCAD graduation catalogue reference the physical experience of the body common to us all.
As this wide range of artworks from the pages of these catalogues demonstrates, many Canadian Contemporary artists are using their art practices to show that even while claiming specific identities, we can find ways to connect with each other through open communication, respectful encounters, and recognition of shared experiences.
Posy Legge is an artist and student, pursuing her Master’s in Art History at Queen’s University. Her research interests include 18th century material culture, Contemporary Indigenous art, and Museum studies.