The forgotten and the frightening

Innocence, violence and unrest explored in Natural disasters, pets and other stories

An image from Natural disasters, pets and other stories. Courtesy ACEARTINC.

Legs, kittens, cutouts and string all seem to be emblematic of deeper themes in Natural disasters, pets and other stories, a joint exhibit by Jessica MacCormack and Elisabeth Belliveau.

Now showing at Aceartinc., the exhibition isn’t so much a sharing of artwork as it is a sharing of expression. Both artists use a lot of collaged elements in their work; both seek a deeper feeling from their viewer.

MacCormack’s work is a combination of paintings, video, sculpture and taped performance. It carries a surreal element that forces the viewer to be active. The work doesn’t surrender its secrets easily.

There is a booklet entitled “The Others” available with a short story written by MacCormack. One could use it to accompany the paintings. Even so, there isn’t a firm narrative on the wall as in the story. Both reciprocate the other.

Her video, Nothing Ever Happened, is collage-like in its construction, with people, animals and objects borrowing parts from one another and reconstituting themselves to create new creatures and spaces.

The bizarre nature is reminiscent of Marcel Dzama’s unique creatures, blending the innocent with an undertone of unease.

Belliveau makes use of collage, installation and stop motion video. Her meticulously constructed video explores the “memories of love, longing and loss.” The work is stunning in its technicality, as there are shadow boxes accompanying the video that testify to Belliveau’s craftsmanship.

Narrated by a woman with a French accent that entices the viewer to listen to the words, there is also a booklet with the transcribed poems and narration to help guide the viewer. The visual element is quite poetic, as shapes and people form and disappear.

The large collage to the right (entering Aceart from the main stairs) is Belliveau’s work.

Spreading and intricate, the piece comprises many small drawings, paintings and string. Phrases pop out on the drawings; childhood drawings appear; animals and faces abound in the work. It is like looking at the accumulation of memory all at once, tender and mystic.

The pairing of the two artists works well. They delve into the subconscious, sifting through elements, forgotten and frightening.

MacCormack’s approach uncovers subtleties of violence and unrest. The dismembered leg that is placed in the corner is reiterated in the paintings. Emblematic, perhaps, of destroyed innocence, the presence is something that the viewer leaves with.

While both artists are exploring similar themes, their work is both distinct and unified.

Belliveau’s collages placed beside MacCormack’s video do not take away from the other. They flow together seamlessly, a feat that doesn’t always work in group shows. But here the artists maintain their own voice and expression.

Natural disasters, pets and other stories is on display at aceartinc. until Friday, Oct. 1. Visit

Published in Volume 65, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 9, 2010)

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