Layoffs & Caravaggio at the National Gallery | Body Tracks at Gallery 101
by Andrew Wright. Ottawa, Akimbo, June 21st, 2011.

” In Ottawa, if the National Gallery is Goliath, then artist-run centres such as Gallery 101 are David. The difficulty of competing for attention and funds in the shadow of a national institution is obvious, but this doesn’t stop them from presenting thoughtful exhibitions deserving of attention. Two Ottawa artist-run centres (Gallery 101 and SAW Video) have teamed up to present Body Tracks, a group exhibition examining the art and life of Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta. Curated by Christine Redfern and Mireille Bourgeois, the exhibition includes video works by Canadians Jude Norris, Anna Peak, and Philomène Longpré alongside a film by Mendiata herself and original ink drawings from the newly published graphic novella on Mendiata’s life by Caro Caron: Who is Ana Mendieta? Mendiata’s life was as tumultuous and as tragic as Caravaggio’s.

The novella and the video installation by Longpré are stand-outs in the show. Her subtly interactive video has us confront a charcoaled raw canvas with the superimposed image of a draped woman writhing, sleeping, stretching. Not unlike a Caravaggio painting, the three-dimensional effect is astonishing. Where Caravaggio would have young half-clad boys cast as biblical figures, Longpré’s single female figure is a moving allegory of both victimhood and feminist emancipation. It reminds me of a painting in the Caravaggio show by Artemisia Gentileschi – Judith Beheading Holofernes. The blood-soaked sheets beneath the near-beheaded head of her quarry are richly and gently rendered, and are so palpably real I felt as though my retinas themselves were stained. A painted testament to female power if ever there was one.”