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Heather Passmore: Rejection, Revised

New Gallery, Calgary Mar 18 to Apr 23 2011
Heather Passmore <em>Form Letters</em> 2008–11 Detail Courtesy the artist Heather Passmore Form Letters 2008–11 Detail Courtesy the artist

Heather Passmore <em>Form Letters</em> 2008–11 Detail Courtesy the artist

Vancouver artist Heather Passmore has taken to heart the old saying “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” That’s to say, she’s turned a decade’s worth of impersonal form letters from art institutions into an exciting series and exhibition at the New Gallery in Calgary. The show includes a wall-sized installation of 250 such letters and a series of 10 enlarged commissions of similar letters that she has illustrated by hand. The latter interventions would seem to serve a therapeutic purpose for the artist—just as they might, also, for the viewer. On one letter from the Canada Council which denies Passmore’s application for a travel grant to a residency in Finland, the artist has drawn a maternal figure presenting a piping hot roasted chicken—classic comfort food. On another from the Vancouver Art Gallery, which accompanied an undoubtedly disappointing cheque for the amount of $150, Passmore imagines a house coddled by a thicket of trees and a lawn littered with bunnies. The volume of letters presented and the unexpectedness of Passmore’s reinterpretations make a moving testament to the perseverance required to survive the “emerging artist” category. Moreover, these works transcend the individual’s struggle and ask us to consider the ramifications of a professionalized art world—one which imposes limitations and hierarchies onto a field that supposedly celebrates experimentation and imagination. (212-100 7 Ave SW, Calgary AB)

This article was first published online on March 24, 2011.


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