(From left to right) McLaughlin, Baeza, and Shelby at the opening of their exhibition. Photo by Kelly Chia / The Peak

By: Kelly Chia, Staff Writer

On Friday, July 5, Langara College students Emilia Baeza, Shelby, and Miho McLaughlin opened their exhibition, Sweet Dreams: A girl’s Reality, at the Interurban Gallery. The work they put in to curate a safer space to express and explore their identities as women was immediately clear upon entering the gallery, and made for a unique and memorable show.

The atmosphere of the gallery felt warm, friendly, and engaging, as Shelby and invited musician Kyross’s music echoed throughout the room. The composition was really interesting, often accompanying the notes with unconventional scratching sounds. Often, I’d hear long, low bass notes that would make me feel as though I were underwater. The low, soothing tones definitely contributed to the comforting space that Baeza, Kersey and McLaughlin nurtured.

The works at first glance seemed playful and expressive. That Fuzzy Thing, a piece by Baeza, looked like a furry cushion strapped onto a canvas. Baeza’s mixing of mediums in her works drew me in closer to better see the subtle transitions in media, like canvas to yarn. Visceral Nude was another mixed media piece that stunned me. Baeza later explained to me that it was created to express the invisible wounds that sexual assault and trauma leave behind. The canvas was truly intimate and haunting and the pieces looked like they were stretching beyond their canvases. Without being able to physically touch the works, we could feel their texture, their weight.

This is a sentiment that Shelby echoed, describing her pieces as materials forced out of their comfort zones. She is particularly proud of her watercolours as well as her two screen print pieces, Dogs and untitled (North America).

“I kind of just dismissed all the rules of screen printing and just assaulted the screen and paper,” Shelby says. “My professor at the time said to me, ‘You did everything I told you to do and everything I told you not to do.’”

McLaughlin’s prints and sculptures, on the other hand, tended to be more illustrative. Her sculpture piece, Booty booty booty, walking everywhere, especially caught my attention. It took me a while to realize that the shoes were ceramic; the piece even incorporated real shoelaces to add to the illusion. McLaughlin was very proud of the piece, stating that she had a lot of fun making them. “My favourite part is seeing people respond to it. The shoes are my first attempt at sculptural ceramics and also the first time to incorporate other materials to my work.”

McLaughlin said she draws her inspiration from feminine themes and fashion. “With ceramics I am interested in sculptural pieces where I can incorporate fabrics and laces. . . I find fashion design takes amazing creativity and to make art based on fashion has sparked countless ideas for me.”

For Baeza, this exhibition is incredibly important, as it is the first one she has organized with her peers. She “loved working with [McLaughlin] and Shelby . . . [they] all have spent countless hours in the studios studying art together and that is reflected on how seamlessly the show came together.”

Despite feeling so safe in this space, I was reminded of exactly why we needed it when my friend and I exited the gallery. Leaving the gallery and walking to dinner, my friend and I were catcalled multiple times as we walked. Having not experienced it in awhile, my grip on my friend tightened as we went to dinner together.

I thought of how women are taught to minimize these fears because it is our reality. I cannot yell back or defend myself for fear of escalation, so I have to pretend like I don’t care and am un-bothered by things that scare me. To have a space where women can feel safe is such a beautiful and important thing, and I was reminded of that by this exhibit.

Sweet Dreams: A girl’s Reality will be open for all of July at the Interurban Gallery. The Gallery’s hours are Wednesday to Saturday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. 

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