So we’re talking beauty, eh? I’ll tell ya what’s beautiful: a vernissage. It’s a word I’d never heard before moving to Montreal, which isn’t all that surprising since french kissing is about as French as we get in Halifax. Sure, I’ve been to opening nights at art galleries before this year, but “opening night” lacks all the glamor and excitement that vernissage conveys. While opening night conjures up images of velvet curtains and stage fright, vernissage is equated with such beautiful things as free wine, tiny h’orderves, crowds of art enthusiastic and bite sized cupcakes with fluffy strawberry icing!

Tuesday night found me amidst a variety of interesting art forms, an electric crowd humming with energy and some really adorable pink cupcakes (so trendy). The vernissage for Beauty in Obsession at Galerie Rye was in fact, aesthetically pleasing. The title of the exhibit caught my eye when I was checking out the Art Matters website—we’re constantly slapped in the face by societal concepts of beauty, our own definitions of beauty, and our own unachievable beauty ideals and obsessions.  The concept behind this exhibit was to “engage our pursuit of beauty while displaying the aesthetics behind the artists’ obsessions in their artwork, questioning our obsessive nature and the potential beauty in it.” I got a chance to talk to some of the artists about their works, as I took in the variety of subjectively beautiful art that the exhibit presented.

When I saw a bunch of zines hanging from the wall I got really excited (I have this weird love affair with zines). Kelly Pleau was the mastermind behind these mini zines, entitled Montreal Beauty Marks. I started to flip through one, and it took me a minute to realize I was looking at a magnified image of someone’s forehead zit. A zine of zits—genius! I mean face it, everyone gets them so why not celebrate the little bastards! Kelly told me she was inspired by Iain Baxter’s zine, Vancouver Beauty Spots. She said the cover looked to be a landscape and, given the title, she thought it might be a compilation of Vancouver’s most beautiful areas. Then she realized she was actually looking at an up-close photograph of porous skin, and instead of flora the zine was celebrating beauty marks! I found Kelly’s display to be a refreshing take on beauty—and a really fucking cool idea.

Although she had left before I had the chance to chat with her, Julia Waks’ work, The Good News and The Bad News, was another eye catching display. Four rectangular wooden boxes hung from the wall with pink tulle and tubes of red and pink lipstick around the edges. Fabric, ribbon, lace and disassembled lingerie slathered in pink and cream paint covered the canvas surface of each box. I thought the torn fabrics and savagely slapped on paint was an interesting contrast to the soft, girlish colours. The lipstick tubes were especially pertinent, seeming to represent societal ideals of beauty and the idea of beauty as a performance.

Jeffery Togerson played with the idea of gender as performance through his enlarged photographs. He asked four of his friends to pose as pin-ups to echo pop culture iconography, and for each friend this meant something different. He pointed to one of his prints and told me that it was a female friend who was posing James Dean style, while another male friend had an elaborately made up face of makeup—linking together the concept of gender as a performance and beauty as a performance. Ah, smart art!

A stunning charcoal portrait drew me in with alluring eyes that were so realistic I actually couldn’t look away. The portrait was done by Sara Antis on gold wrapping paper, and slightly snipped and ripped with scissors. Sara told me how she thinks the solitary gaze of a portrait doesn’t need to be explained or deconstructed—it just is, and in its simplicity lays its beauty.

Beauty in Obsession is an amazing collection of student art that runs until March 19 (last day for Art Matters)…you’ve got a little bit of time left so if you haven’t checked it out, GO! Also, starting April 1 Galerie Rye presents HIP! Portraits of Cool, a collection of counterculture portraits by Canadian photographer Art Perry. Ranging in hipness from Lou Reed (so damn cool) to Patti Smith (LOVE) to Nick Cave—even to Princess Di—this exhibit promises to be awesome.

Catch the vernissage on April 1 from 7-11pm…oh man, here’s hoping for bite sized cupcakes! Galerie Rye is located at 1331A Ste. Catherine Est, a few steps away from Beaudry Metro.

Photos by Hania Souleiman