Testosterone: Mythologies of Identities at Galerie Donald Browne

The Belgo Building, usually humming with exhibitions and vernissages, falls quiet during the  summer months. The majority of the galleries run on a reduced schedule or close their doors until the fall season kicks in. Those who decide to stay open tend to present group exhibitions which last most of the summer. One of the most engaging of these group shows is Testostérone:  Mythologies Indentitaires at Galerie Donald Browne, curated by Charlotte Rousseau. Rousseau, who previously worked with Browne as a gallery assistant, selected works which explore the issue of male gender using the concept of testosterone as a common thread. The resulting show is an intelligent investigation of sexual identity that is both multi-faceted and coherent.

Ironically, the first work that I connected with in this exhibition about masculinity features a female artist. Raymonde April‘s photographic self-portrait shows the artist in profile against a back background. At the level of her eyes her wavy hair changes from cool grey to a warm auburn red. My first reaction was to suspect photo editing, but in fact April documented a very personal transition from one life stage to the next: menopause. April, now middle aged, decided to stop coloring her hair and allows her natural salt and pepper look to show. The descending watermark of changing hue also marks “the change;” effectively the artist turns her hair into a living work of art.
The onset of menopause also sees an increase of testosterone, making this a multi-layered transition from colour to black and white, from young to old, from woman to man.

Another favorite in this show are Olivier Gariépy‘s photos of nudes set in lush landscapes, particularly the work L’Echo de Narcisse. An androgynous figure stands in waist-deep water, awkwardly leaning forward, the long, curly blonde hair plunging beneath the surface. The body (female, upon closer inspection) and its reflection form a self-referential circle. Absorbed in a monologue with the self, Echo becomes Narcissus.

The show is completed by Jenna Meyers‘ vivid painting of the transgender Frankie, Jérome Ruby‘s enigmatic sketches of violent mythology, Louis Fortier‘s wax sculptures of damaged Greek gods, and Shari Hatt‘s large-format colour photograph of deer hunters, their faces censured by back bars, turning their trophy selfie into a crime scene.

It is worth braving the heat for this Belgo exhibit alone, though there are currently seven other galleries who are welcoming visitors. For a list of what’s open and closed, check here.

Galerie Donald Browne, space 528
Raymonde April, Louis Fortier, Olivier Gariépy, Shari Hatt, Jenna Meyers, Jérôme Ruby
curator: Charlotte Rousseau
Testosterone: Mythologies of Identities
July 12 – September 6, 2014

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