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Identity Beyond Culture

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larger_Jessica Mensch - Linda.jpgAs with any culture I’ve experienced, perspectives in Montreal vary. There are artists who identify their work according to their medium or style, and there are those who, relating strongly to their ethnic culture, identify their work as French Canadian, Anglophone, Greek, etc. Marketing, personal ideals, ethnic pride, including the struggle for ethnic equality are all factors in this choice. As for myself, identifying my artwork as representing the Anglo-Montreal perspective is something I’ve never considered. Outside of being unfamiliar with what this actually means, the experience of having local cultural roots is foreign to me. Whether this is the result of a childhood spent criss-crossing the United States (finally settling down in Antigonish, Nova Scotia), having immigrant parents, or English being the dominant language in North America, I can only speculate. Not being entirely outside of Anglo culture, it’s difficult for me to consider the cultural cache of ‘Englishness’.

larger_Jessica Mensch - Jean.jpgThe concept of identity as an intrinsically unstable notion resonates with me the most. This instability can be witnessed in our susceptibility to change. For example, changes in our employment, our physical bodies, or our living environment all effect changes in our self-identity, placing it in constant flux and jeopardy. To maintain a sense of self-identity as an artist, you must continually practice art. Without that activity, your identity as an artist becomes impossible to maintain. For artists David Bowie and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge, their notion of identity assumes a notable creative capacity. Aware of their ability to change (which is essential to all of us), these individuals make an art of exploring their innumerable possible identities.

larger_Jessica Mensch - Nick_Stef_Sleep.jpgThis perspective plays a significant role in my current work, particularly because I paint portraits and figurative works. Avoiding any impulse to distil my subjects according to standard imperatives of gender and sexuality, I capture them at unstructured moments –conscious of the performance of posing for a painting, but not completely in control of it. Such unstructured moments, I believe, do not encapsulate or define their selfhood in any prescriptive fashion. They express, rather, the fluctuating character of their identity.

My work will be on exhibition at Red Bird Studios gallery, 135 Van Horne, from April 23 to May 3rd, 2010. My show is titled The Wrong Feeling. VERNISSAGE: 7pm - 12, April 23, with Abortion Spa: Performance by Jessica Mensch, Emily Pelstring & Sebastian Lange, 9 pm. Please come!