Texan-based artist Susi Brister knows Montreal well. She attended Concordia University’s internationally renowned fine arts program for her Masters. Susi was back in Montreal recently for her first solo show in Canada. While you are in town, check it out at Parisian Laundry Menagerie has lightness, wit and charm.
I chatted with Susi on a day of softly-falling snow – a perfect ‘snow globe’ moment.
‘’This is so pretty! In Texas it is always warm,’’ Susi laughed. ‘’I miss this winter wonderland!’’
‘’I am inspired by the way Montrealers bundle up, wrapping themselves for warmth. My photos suggest this kind of warmth. There is nothing like that in Texas. But one day it did snow, and I photographed the image I now prefer in this show.’’
The day it snowed in Austin, Texas, Susi Brister rushed out and photographed what has become her ‘’favourite piece’’. J and Horses in Snow 2010. A human-shaped form – with a hint of hair peeking out – is enveloped in a horse-patterned blanket, whose design echoes the patches of snow on the grassy ground.
All of the photographs – archival pigment prints, in an edition of 5 – have the same theme: a covered shape sits alone in a landscape. Somehow the volume of a person can be perceived in these forms. Shot against the recognizably organic – leaves, rocks, sand – the artificiality of the ‘wrappings’ – fake fur – makes a statement. There is an interesting play between the isolation of the shape – shot totally alone and with no reference points – and a sense of reassurance – suggested subliminally by the ‘comfort’ of the blankets. All the fabrics have designs that either stand out or blend into the landscape backgrounds against which they were photographed. There is a perfect point counterpoint between these designs and the patterning on the old walls of the Parisian Laundry basement (known as The Bunker) where the images are hung. The gritty concrete, pitted and worn, with bits of another century peeking through the eroded cement, acts as a perfect backdrop for the art.
Susi Brister’s photographs are sculpture, photography and performance. They have a curious sense of the soothing – a memory meanders to mind of once being bundled just so: A hint of a mother’s protection. And there is a curious calm communicated in the pictures. Others have a strangeness in their serenity. E and Vintage Leopard in the Weeds, 2010, shows a beautiful old ‘’vintage leopard coat I found’’, complete with ripped seams, photographed against lively green grass. The shape, as amorphous though it may be, resembles an alien being. Another, R & T and Frosted Mongolian in Fallen Leaves 2009, is a large grey lump of obviously fake fur. It sits almost threateningly against a fall moment of yellow and orange leaves, the fakeness of the nylon/Dacron ‘fur’ looming largely.
After leaving the Parisian Laundry, take a quick walk to think about what you have seen. Wander west. In about 2 minutes you will reach two popular restaurants. Bitoque – a Portuguese resto where you can bring your own wine, and Sans Menu (No Menu) which has delicious offerings that change often.
3550 Saint-Antoine West
Tuesday – Saturday Noon – 5 p.m.
Susi Brister until February 19, 2011
3706 Notre Dame West
Tuesday – Thursday 5 – 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 5 – 11 p.m.
3714 Note Dame West
Tuesdays – Fridays open day and evenings
Saturday – Evenings only