Looking for light

Photography exhibition reflects on happier and darker times

"Dance With Me, a photo by Elliana, is part of her virtual show Yesterday.

A shift in accessibility has been one boon of the COVID-19 pandemic. Where some people with disabilities or mental illness have previously been unable to leave their homes, digital art exhibits and live-streamed performances have brought art to them.

Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba (AANM) has been busy running mentorships, granting programs and art salons. Their latest accessible online exhibit, Yesterday, features multi-medium artist Elliana in her first solo exhibition of photographs. 

Elliana is a self-taught photographer with a degree in fine-arts textiles, which creates a kind of rawness to her work. “You’re a little less fearful (when you’re self-taught),” executive director of AANM Jenel Shaw says. This exhibition is a part of a series of accessible exhibits and performances online, including concerts with ASL interpretation.

Yesterday, as an online exhibition, is able to offer image descriptions of each piece for people who are blind or have low vision. 

“It’s very important for those with low vision (or) who are blind. This is their way that they get to interact with the world. And so, for AANM, that is especially important. We want to be able to let people interact as fully and as much as possible,” Shaw says. 

With image descriptions made available online, more people will be able to experience Elliana’s work. 

“A lot of her work is pretty raw,” Shaw says. “She has this eye that sings of spring. (We are) coming out of winter just really tired. These images are really happy and kind of awaken the senses again with colours. It’s a very hopeful and happy exhibition.” 

With this combination of happy and sad photos, Elliana hopes to remind the viewer that COVID-19 and other stressful events will eventually be in the rearview mirror. 

“Photography is normally quicker than painting, and it is lightning-fast compared to mediums such as weaving,” Elliana says. “Photography changes moment to moment. The sun is shining through the petals of a flower, so up close, you can see it has freckles. The sky darkens, everything is reflected back as water pools and images get distorted ... How fascinating and inspiring is it to sit and watch thunder strike, and it turns the sky pure white for a blink of an eye?”

With an emphasis on nature, Elliana attributes her greatest influence and inspiration to God’s artistry creation all around. 

“No one has more powerful master strokes. He’s a potter and knitter, weaver and painter. You can find pink with orange. He knows how to layer pattern upon pattern,” Elliana says. “Where else can you see advanced colour theory? Inactions are the effects of increasing or decreasing light, and the best I can do is to capture a moment, a little sliver in time before it becomes yesterday.”

Yesterday runs until April 2 at aanm.ca, where people can view the exhibition for free. 

Published in Volume 75, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 11, 2021)

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