SHARI HATT/ANDREW HARWOOD at Paul Petro Gallery (980 Queen West), to July 7. 416-979-7874. Rating: NNN
Photographer Shari Hatt and artist Andrew Harwood share the Pride slot at Paul Petro Gallery, each presenting glittery works that riff on celebrity personas.
Hatt, known for her intense head-on dog portraits, collaborated with the Las Vegas Liberace Museum to photograph the performer's costumes. Significantly, she's shot mannequins wearing the flamboyant bead-and-jewel-encrusted masterworks of the embroiderer's art from the waist up.
The show is called Liberace's Closet. The musician, whose career began in the 50s, consistently denied he was gay even after he contracted AIDS, a pretense his staff steadfastly maintained even after his death in 1987.
The high-kitsch getups are fitting emblems of the necessity of denial in the pre-Stonewall era, even in the face of practically incontrovertible proof of gayness, and of the grip it continued to have on survivors of the times. As well, the outfits are a testament to the closet's inability to totally suppress gay expression.
In the upstairs gallery, Andrew Harwood adds some sparkle to our garden-variety CanCon musicians: Leonard Cohen, Rush, Nickelback, Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Nellie Furtado, Avril Lavigne. Images that might come from some mainstream magazine cover (or last week's NOW) get a charming mosaic-style coating of sequins.
He calls this The Canadian Musical Terrorist Series, envisioning an alternate reality in which the "too boring" stars are sending out secret gay messages, a practice that real gay stars no longer have to engage in.
In the age of Photoshop makeovers, Harwood puts a sweetly naive faith in the magic fairy power of artistically arranged sequins.
Note on camp: why, aside from out performers like k.d. lang and Carole Pope or borderline case Anne Murray, has no Canadian musician, despite international success, achieved the gay icon status of Streisand or Madonna?