NICOLE KELLY WESTMAN
“I work through a lot of my regular human things as an artist,” says Calgary-based artist Nicole Kelly Westman. “I’m interested in exploring the permeability of the political through the personal.” In her ongoing project Rose, Dear (2016–), originally commissioned by the Banff Centre’s Walter Phillips Gallery, Westman explores the largely abandoned ex-mining town Wayne, Alberta, through embodying a ghost that is said to haunt its lone hotel. The narratives of the town, hotel and ghost collapse into Westman’s own life through the inclusion of personal memory, quotation and, in the most recent iteration of the project at Gallery 44 in Toronto, the addition of a sculptural work engraved with the text of an unsolicited email she received critiquing the original installation of the work in Banff. For Westman, history is never fixed, and the structures of narratives and artworks continually evolve over time. In From what I’ve found there were no truths, there were no lies (2013–14), for instance, Westman films a microfiche machine as she searches for information on a car accident that killed her grandfather and seriously injured her grandmother in 1965. In the archives, she found only two brief mentions of the accident, one of which misinterpreted her grandfather’s Metis last name of Mercredi as the Irish Mccreody. This theme of identity slippage is doubled in the film’s voiceover, addressed to Westman’s grandmother, who when hospitalized in old age mentally returned to her hospitalization 50 years earlier, mistaking Westman for her sister and re-narrating her young life, including the accident and her recovery.
Nicole Kelly Westman Rose, Dear (detail) 2016– Mixed-media installation Dimensions variable COURTESY WALTER PHILLIPS GALLERY
PHOTO JESSICA WITTMAN