Canadian Art - - Spotlight -

“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


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