I received an invitation to preview Canary Beck’s new exhibit which opens to the public on Thursday, November 20th in the attic gallery space at the Arts & Culture Community (A&CC) on Wanderstill Ode (when you arrive, go into the gallery and climb the stairs all the way to the top).
This is a highly personal display of 20 self-portraits married to lyrics from Jacques Brel’s 1959 classic Ne Me Quitte Pas (Do Not Leave Me), a song many may more readily recognise under the title If You Go Away, with (alternative) English lyrics by Rod McKuen (and which, while powerful, doesn’t measure up to the raw emotional content of the original).
The best way to describe the display is to use Becky’s own words:
I have aimed to express what I am only now able to express coherently in words. I’ve even lifted the titles for the pictures from the verses of Jacques Brel’s plaintive poetry set to music, feeling unable to write them myself.
These very personal pictures are the result of two months of taking hundreds of similar pictures on my bare white platform – most of which I obliterated soon after I took them. I never planned to share them. As I’ve reviewed these works for showing; however, I see them now like heavy pages in an old diary; a shabby book that reflects a threadbare me, depleted by gravity and, I hope, now hardly recognisable.
Even without the use of lyrics from the song, the pictures arranged around the walls of the gallery’s loft carry a powerful story. One doesn’t need to read the artist’s notes to understand the depth of loss and grieving represented in each picture. Yes, they are nude studies, but this also adds to their emotive strength; this is not the nudity of sensual posing for the camera – it is the nudity reflective of vulnerability, of being exposed to the world, defenceless, lost.
When taken with their titles, as drawn from Brel’s lyrics, each image becomes more emotionally intimate, drawing us into the artist’s thoughts and feelings: Je t’offrirai des perles de pluie – I will offer you pearls of rain; Je ne veux plus pleurer – I will cry no more; Laisse-moi devenir
L’ombre de ton ombre – Let me be for you the shadow of your shadow. All offer an emotionally charged reflection on the lyrics, and the tumult evident in the artist’s thoughts when taking the original pictures.
For me, the fact that we cannot, in any of the images, see the Canary’s eyes brings further depth of feeling to each piece. Shadow hides them from view, yet in many, shadow traces what might be the flow of tears from them; black pearls of rain traced over pale flesh.
All told, a remarkable exhibit, and one I cannot recommend highly enough. As noted, Ne Me Quitte Pas opens on Thursday, November 20th, and will run through until Saturday, January 201th, 2015.
- Ne Me Quitte Pas – OACC Gallery SLurl (Rated: Moderate)