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Out of Focus peels back layers of perception

By Jenn Watt

Perceptions of time memory and reality were under a magnifying glass on Friday afternoon at the opening reception of the Haliburton Highlands Secondary School student art show at the Rails End Gallery.

Working with the theme Out of Focus and under the guidance of instructors Karen Gervais and Rose Pearson the young artists took inspiration from pop culture social media and their own past for their end-of-semester show.

Students Nicole Cox and Ashley Ackerblade introduced the show to visitors explaining that the theme could be interpreted in many ways such as perceptions of time favourite memories and symbolic meanings.

The emerging artists offered sometimes vastly different takes on the theme.

Jaylin Frost’s work “In Focus” offered viewers an opportunity to look through someone else’s eyes by hanging a plexiglass surface depicting a face with green-tinted glasses. Visitors are welcome to move behind the piece and look through the glasses. In her artist’s statement Jaylin says she is encouraging people “to see things through others’ eyes before you judge them. I have made the lenses green to show a different perspective because we all need to realize there is a different way to see the beauty of the world we live in.”

At the other end of the room two portraits of Marilyn Monroe are mounted on the wall. Artist Nicole Cox said she chose Monroe as her subject matter for her fame and the way memory even of public figures fades. The first painting is crisp and careful in its execution while the second is blurred and unsure. “It is the beauty of the past and how time manipulates our memory” her artist’s statement reads.

Dawson Hutchings chose to paint three small canvases for his piece “Picking Blackberries with Grandma.” His work examines the child’s perception of reality while conjuring up treasured family memories. On the left he painted a blackberry; in the middle a child-like rendering of rounded green hills and segmented fruit; on the right a realistic painting of lavender the smell of which reminded him of his grandmother.

He said he painted the triptych without telling her about it revealing the work to her during the reception.

“I think it’s fantastic” Joan Hutchings Dawson’s grandmother told the Echo. She said collecting blackberries with Dawson and then eating them with vanilla ice cream was one of the strongest memories she had of spending time with her grandson when he was a child. “Part of the good old days” she said.

Ashley Ackerblade’s work examined filters – those we impose on our own lives – through the window of social media. Her work was a self portrait presented through Instagram. Using coloured paper cut to the shape of her silhouette she illustrated how we choose to alter the face we present to the world.

“My artwork depicts the extremely harsh reality that [the] majority of individuals don’t show their purest form on the internet. We would rather edit filters on to our photos in order to hide imperfections” she wrote in her statement.

Another interactive piece was assembled by Emma Boutin who made a corner of the gallery look like a desk she could have at home with her childhood photos as well as small paintings of memories. Plexiglass squares cut to the shape of the images were painted in different colours to symbolize ways of looking at the past.

Kadie Raimey chose to examine death in her work “Life After Death” which she said in her artist’s statement was giving voice to issues she thought were important to confront. “We grow from pain and eventually make it to the light again” she wrote. “I wanted the scenery to be beautiful as a reminder that death isn’t always sad and tragic. That it happens to all of us and the sooner we accept death for all that it is – as beautiful and ugly as it can be – the easier it is to live and love our lives.”

Out of Focus is on until June 2 at the Rails End Gallery. Artists included: Emma Boutin Storm Brannigan Melissa Brinkos Heather Colby Monique Dulong Jaylin Frost Alicia Gottschalk Elizabeth Griffith Lena Haase Isaiah Hall Dawson Hutchings Emily Mathers Jack Morrison Becca Pacey Kadie Raimey Ania Smolen Drew Todd Ashley Ackerblade Nicole Cox and Natalya Gimon.