NESTING: A SENSE OF HOME at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery (7 Hart House Circle, University of Toronto), to January 29. 416-978-8398. Rating: NNN
Despite this show's stated focus on the home, curator Lise Hosein 's selection of works from the Hart House collection seems disparate and unconnected. The depiction of domiciles is less a theme than a convenient way to display a cross-section of the gallery's holdings.
Hosein has picked out a few fine paintings and photographs in her ode to abodes. Lawren Harris 's 1925 painting Red House, Winter is both cartoon-like and hyper-real. The house sits bathed in bright morning sunlight, surrounded by blue-shadowed mounds of snow.
An oil and encaustic treat, Jacques Payette 's Le Coeur Secret depicts a headless dressmaker's judy in a yellow floral print gown facing a menacing flight of stairs. Rich black paint, slathered on roughly, shapes the steps and spindles leading up into darkness. Behind, on a worn, stained wall, a two-dimensional drawn-on mantle adds to the ghostly effect.
Janieta Eyre 's bold photograph Making Babies steals the show, making everything else look out of place. Standing in her vivid yellow and purple kitchen wearing a bright red wig, Eyre stirs a pot of red goo.
A black line bisects her face between her dead eyes, and a checkered square on her cheek matches the counter tiles.
Shelves display bottles of fluids and solids labelled semen, milk and blood, and in Eyre's shadow lurks a wineglass holding a model of a fetus.
Two tomatoes, perhaps a male presence, gleam from the counter as the image coalesces into an intense indictment of domesticated femininity.
Of course, pulling together a cohesive show that takes in the spectrum of art at Hart House, from Group of Seven paintings to contemporary photography, can't be easy.
Kudos to Hosein for taking on the challenge.