TALE – GEOFFREY HUNTER + SUZETTE MAYR

MAIN SPACE EXHIBITION
JULY 13 – AUGUST 11, 2001
RECEPTION: FRIDAY, JULY 13, 2001 AT 8 PM

LOCATION – STRIDE GALLERY
722, 11 AVE S.W, CALGARY, ALBERTA

 

EXHIBITION INFORMATION

This two-person exhibition examines the links between visual and textual narrative. The basic structure of “time, place and setting” used to construct fiction, is implemented into the painting and writing of their works to convey a seemingly linear storyline. Both Hunter and Mayr use personal experiences as a place to publically examine notions of love, relationships and sexuality. Hunter works with the painted image to suggest a story, whereas Mayr develops prose to the extent of visual and image representation. Absurdity and humour become rendered/read as the viewer/reader tries to delineate a possible outcome.

Geoff Hunter will exhibit part of an ongoing series of self-portraits, dating back to the mid-eighties until today. These often humorous and intimate images have become Hunter’s “alternate” practice to the multi-layered abstract, commercial paintings he is recognized for. Rich in color, each portrait is connected to a moment of time within his life: working as a dishwasher; living in Saskatoon; having a garage as a studio. Suzette Mayr, a Calgary-based poet and fictional writer, will produce a short story for the exhibition. Mayr’s writing is compiled of disjointed narratives that interlink throughout the text. Her characters are often transforming, both physically and psychologically, as they endure the everyday complications of life. Excerpts from the story will be on the wall with the full version in catalogue format.

 

ARTIST BIO

GEOFF HUNTER is a Calgary based artist that currently teaches at the Alberta College of Art and Design. Hunter has exhibited nationally, and was recently part of a group exhibition, Trace for ArtWeek 2000 and had a recent solo exhibition at Paul Kuhn Gallery.

SUZETTE MAYR is a Calgary author that has published two books of fiction, Moon Honey and The Widows, as well as a book of poetry, Zebra Talk. Mayr has studied at both the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta, receiving a M.A. in English from the U of A. Mayr is an instructor at the Alberta College of Art and Design in the Humanities Department.

 

EXHIBITION TEXT

TALE

Geoff Hunter and Suzette Mayr both quietly mentioned the word “love” in a recent discussion. It may have been loudly, but my mind slips in times of truth – for love is usually something that someone whispers about, lightly under the breath. With such an encounter, previous education in deciphering script or code would be an asset. Accordingly, we know L is inconsistent and often a pseudo-saga in its form of address.

Geoff and Suzette talked about things of a non-linear nature too – a disjointedness, if you will. So naturally, when set out to do a task of summing down, I went through the list of definitions, of defining, of trying to place: love, narrative, non-linear (no definition available), disjointed, autobiographical. And, naturally, I was disappointed with my surface results. In the face of non-discovery (when set out to do the task of summing down), I turned to a set of 10 question devised by an unknown theoretician to help gather information about their works.

A good questionnaire should avoid two things: difficult concepts that many people can not understand, and leading questions that may demand a specific response. (1) The What-the-Heck-Does-That-Mean Survey For Artists by Unknown, is most suitable to achieve an accurate reading. These 10 questions (see below) may be applied to all artists who cunningly conceal their personal lives within their creative practice (they may also be known for their frequent tales and inventive ideas around relationships). While paying particular attention to the “recall” questions, you will note the survey will produce a clear set of prevailing ideas in the artist’s work.

In this tale there is also farce.

THE LINEAR BIOGRAPHY OF TWO: What-the-Heck-Does-That-Mean Survey For Artists
(A Q&A with Geoff Hunter and Suzette Mayr)

All applicable questions must be answered with the following rate scale:
1 = being regretful/terrible (“bottom of the barrel”)
2 = being mostly negative, would rather not talk about it
3 = being mediocre/mostly boring (“middle of the middle”)
4 = being quite good as memory recalls
5 = being radiant/glorious (“top notch”)
1. What is your astrological sign? D you feel that you are judged by this?

GH: I am a Virgo and I judge other people by that, Virgo is an earth sign, meaning kinda stubborn, stay the course, hold tight kind of stuff.

SM: I’m Scorpio. I am constantly judged by my astrological sign. Yes – people here the word “Scorpio” and they go, “oooh, Scorpio… that explains it.” Scorpios are supposed to be very sexy, very fiery, they have a sting, they sting themselves, they sting other people, they are very contemptuous. Also, Scorpios don’t believe in astrology. They think it’s crap.

2. Where did you grow up (province/city/neighbourhood)? Was this an enjoyable experience? Please answer and rate on a scale from 1 to 5.

GH: I grew up in Alberta, Edmonton, NE – north side of Edmonton. The middle of the middle, number 3. There was some good times with acid. The neighbourhood has no trees, old farm yards, it was a new neighbourhood. It’s the suburbs definitely – it takes you thirty minutes to get to downtown Edmonton. I don’t remember there being trees there. I just remember it being very flat. The neighbourhood is called Dickensfield. Dickens was a WWI flying ace.

SM: I grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The first neighbourhood I remember was Oakridge Gardens, and I would say that was about quite good – between 3 and 4, between mediocre and quite good as memory recalls. And then the second neighbourhood was Altadore when I was between ten and eighteen and I remember that is being quite mediocre – between 2 and 3. Some of it was quite good/terrible, bottom of the barrel.

3. Were you in one or more physical fights (incl. wrestling, punching, pushing, kicking) during elementary school? In your mind, who was the victor, yourself or your opponent? How was your experience? Please answer and rate on a scale from 1 to 5.

GF: I was in one physical fight in elementary school. It was with Allen Brothersten. His mother was the Cub Scout leader and he was the bully of the school, and I remember him coming to beat me up. He was going to beat me up and I beat him up. I was the victor and it was glorious. 5. I remember doing my famous knees to the head. And then I felt bad for him after.

SM: In elementary school I kicked a guy in the shin, and I would say I was right at the top. I won. It was fantastic. That would be 5 – being radiant and glorious. Top notch.

4. Do you have siblings? If so, do you see them regularly?

GF: I have three other brothers. I am the oldest of four brothers. I have my brother Murray who lives in Salt Spring Islands, so I don’t see him very much; my brother Cam lives in Calgary and I don’t see him very much; and my youngest brother Robin I kinda see and connect with him because we are both artists 0 he’s a musician and I’m an artist.

SM: I have two twin brothers, a set of twins. One lives underneath me so I see him regularly and the one lives in Montreal. I see him not very often, about once or twice a year. They’re thirty so they’re younger.

5. At any point in your life have you had “unwanted” hair, such as an ill-fated haircut or embarrassing mustache (especially note examples that are systematically affiliated to a specific era)?

GF: Ya, ya I had that. I used to have pretty wedgey hair because I had very curly hair and tried to grow it long, sort of like an afro, but I would wear nylons and stuff to keep it flat and I never heard about Jeri Curl at all. Until Punk Rock I had terrible hair. And I had a terrible mustache. I had a pencil-thin mustache like Bob Dylan. And back hair is starting to grow now. I’m gonna get that all taken care of. I’m gonna get electrolysis for sure, because I wanna swim. It’s not sweater-like in any way, it’s just getting lots.

SM:I had bad hair from the age of about seven until about twenty-four. Very bad hair. I would say that reoccurring hairstyle was about 50s and 70s in terms of its appropriateness. And the other unwanted hair as soon as I turned thirty I started growing hair all over my face and I’m starting for form a little goatee now, which I would say would be a part of the late 1890s for men. It’s true.

6. Are you in a relationship, either metaphysical or actual? Length of term is inconsequential.

GF: Ya, I’m in a relationship. I’m married. I have relationships that are secret crushes on everybody else that no one knows about. I have muse-like things. It is more like metaphysical sometimes, but my real relationship is with Cyndy.

SM: I’m in an excellent relationship with my dog, Birdie, and I am having a clandestine relationship with the two cats who live downstairs. And I have a brand new girlfriend. I think that’s it. With Birdie it’s been a glorious seven years; with the cats it has been about a year and with the girl it’s been about three and a half months. Animal. And my television, a relationship with my television from the day I was born.

7. Did you fill out you May 15, 200 Canadian Census form? Did you receive the short of long version?

GF: I filled out the short version.

SM: Yes, I filled it out. I received the short version.

8. Where and when did you study post-secondary education? How was your experience? Please answer and rate on a scale from 1 to 5.

GF: Alberta College of Art and Design. I would say it would be a 4 – quite good as memory recalls. And 1. It was both. It could be both. Sometimes it was horrible sometimes it was good. 1986 I graduated. I went from 1981-1986. I did the five year program. I was a painter with Allan Dunning, Wayne Giles and Mary Scott.

SM: I did my BA at the University of Calgary, I did my MA at the University of Alberta. Calgary I would say on a scale of 1 to 5 was a bout a 2.5 and the U of A was a glorious 5. I loved it. It was great. When I did my MA I was away from my hometown and I was meeting loads of people. I was just much different. I drank lots and there was a lot of sex.

9. Do you physically resemble your father or mother or neither or both?

GF: I physically resemble my mother. I look like my mom. And particularly when I wear make-up. SM: I resemble both. I have my father’s nose and my mother’s eyes and a combination of their lips I think.

10. Have you had a life threatening experience/mishap that changed your life and outlook for years to come? If so, what was it? If not, do you prefer to stay home more than most anything else? How was your experience? Please answer and rate on a scale from 1 to 5.

GF: No. I prefer to stay at home. 5. Although there was a hang gliding incident that happened. My uncle took me to this big hill when I was sixteen or something and I went of this big hill and all of a sudden I wen way straight up in the air. I don’t know if it changed my life but it scared me.

SM: I got hit by a truck when I was twelve, but I survived. It was relatively painless. And then I was on the Columbia Icefields I think and there was one of those cracks and my foot went it is so I was up to my hip. And then I got out of it and I was freaking out and my Dad was like, “Oh, you should watch out where you are walking.” This was probably mediocre, mostly boring. 3.

TOO TALE

In analysis, we can conclude that Geoff Hunter is talking about a Mysterious Love. With the informer paintings, especially not the emotions pouring out the vagina-like opening in the chest of his painted, seated body. We can assume this is a step in which Geoff, a white Albertan male is his early 40s, has taken in order to get in touch with his feminine side: a side of delicate understanding and maternal giving. In hindsight, we may also see this act of emotional seepage as a way of re-identifying with his mother while growing up in a household of 80% masculinity: predisposed are his “inclinations” to imitate mom. The Clouds and Ladders paintings demonstrate a need to recuperate lost morals in playground quarrels. Today, these childhood experiences are placed in the context of dealing with the disparaging task of career advancement in a culture of predetermined success. The concept of gaining Power, in turn control and success, lingers from school Bully episodes. Children who are victimized tend to display “vulnerable behaviours”. On average, bullying episodes are brief, and only about 37 seconds in length. (2) In a situation life Geoff’s, Allen Brothersten is the Bully and Geoff, the Reactive Victim. Research indicates Reactive Victims bully back to feel competent, and to have some relief from their own feelings of powerlessness. (3) Again, looking at his self-portrait, Clouds and Ladders, Geoff painted himself naked (a vulnerable victim) with the imposing “ladder of success” (the powerful bully) in the distance – visualized (here) are the uncertainties of attaining such victories.

Suzette Mayr’s responses (being a forceful Scorpio) are just as revealing. In her narrative writing, she repeatedly delivers words of a mythological nature. Her characters often undergo a metaphoric shift in their form or structure. In her novel Moon Honey, a woman transfigures her skin colour and physical appearance in broad daylight. Typically, transformations of this kind are in defence of societal pressures, whether gender related or parental-induced. In question #5 of the above survey, Suzette talks about her recent hair growth: the goatee. Is this a metaphor for the tribulations of a lesbian? As research indicates, the Scorpian tends to be of average height with strong, capable, thick set bodies, bow legs and a short neck. Their skulls are dome shaped and their hair is coarse, thick and curly. (4) And, according to her questionnaire, Suzette attributes her physical appearance to both parents. This is due in part to her exploration of shifting female/male roles with mom and dad; and idea built on the complex relationships of psychological identification. A specific example of gender identification is in the Catalogue of Spinsters… when Juliet falls prey to the ‘Furies” of her mother’s guilt and succumbs to the expected woman’s ‘married life’, leaving spinsterhood behind. All the while, Juliet yearns for the single males unwed version to become “…an owner of a playboy mansion.” (5) Suzette puts it so aptly when she writes, “The best way to get into shit with the Furies and conjure up the miasma is to come our to your mama.”

Throughout Geoff’s paintings and Suzette’s texts, we repeatedly note intimate innuendoes comparable with out own life: who hasn’t watched that burdening tornado overhead, cloud our minds and spin our tops?; haven’t we all had a parental dream for our success-filled future rest woefully on our shoulders with unlikely deliverance? Their (Suzette’s. Geoff’s) telltale escapism and fantasy-laden, identity searching leave the reader or onlooker wrapped in a world of fictitious reality. Insecurities, assurances and wavering concepts of gender ‘roles and responsibilities’ are left for our personal contendership/ownership. Here, as participants, is where the autobiography of two has expanded into the biography of all – plunking history bits and memory lapses into the present, forming story and truth. Their words and images converse on parallel paths of distance and love and all things private and all things common. Together, Geoff Hunter and Suzette Mayr share the [rivacy of common things.

Robin Arseneault, Curator

(1) Survey Tips: How to write a good survey questionnaire; www.accesscable.com/~infopoll/tips.htm#topp
(2) Take Action Against Bullying; http://www.bullybeware.com/: Bully B’ware Productions
(3) CBC This Morning Presents: Schoolyard Bullies, http://radi.cbc.ca/programs/thismorning/sites/health/bullies_001214/bullies_001214.html, Copyright 2001 CBC This Morning
(4) AstrologyGuide.Com – Scorpio; www.astrologyguide.com/signs/scorpio.htm
(5) Mayr, Suzette; Catalogue of Spinsters, part 3, Tale Catalogue; July 2001

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