Girl Germs: Mixtape for a Party, a review by Brynn Higgins-Stirrup

The summer edition of Xpace Cultural Centre’s annual program is on view for just a few more days, until August 22nd. The main space exhibition, curated by Emily Gove, features four artists whose work bridges worlds of idealized femininity with re-imagined universes of great complexity, charm and disorder. The show’s name references early the 1990s feminist zine Girl Germs, a publication whose poems, stories, and mix tape listings fostered the expansion of the Riot Grrrl movement across Canada and the United States.

Artists Amy Wong, Beth Frey, Lauren Cullen, and Katie Morton foster a similar energy of collaboration, chaos and fun in this exhibition. The installations of Amy Wong and Beth Frey both create immersive microcosms within the show. Wong’s Girl Gang Travel Mix mimics the posters and post-its of a teenage girl’s bedroom, but with a definitively subversive undercurrent. Frey’s sculptures shift, meld, and shatter to suggest the undoing of celebrations or the end of a play. Soft fabrics and papers, bright colours, and an air of irreverence pervade both of these worlds, speaking to disappointments and questions left unanswered.

Lauren Cullen’s work takes on the histories of inequality and insularity within the rug hooking craft community, a hobby undertaken mainly by middle to upper class white women. Relinquishing the usual neat lines and floral arrangements of the past for searing statements on identity, class, and gender, Cullen appropriates this technique for her own uses.

Katie Morton works in both painting and sculpture to explore similarly problematic issues of female representation. Her work, Cry Me a River, comes to life as a pink masked face, moving to and fro on a revolving fan, with tiny streamers of tears flying from her eyes (see top image). The work’s throw-away materiality reads as a satirical statement on stereotypes of feminine emotion and vulnerability.

A visually dazzling an abrasive exhibition, the accumulation of images and materials in Girl Germs‘ installations, sculptures, and paintings ask us to consider anew the many meanings of femininity.

images, from top to bottom:
Installation views of Amy Wong’s Girl Gang Travel Mix with Katie Morton’s Cry Me a River in foreground; Beth Frey’s sculptures; and hooked rugs by Lauren Cullen adjacent to a painting by Katie Morton. Photos by Emily Gove.

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