Sean George

Monuments, Memories and Missing Passages

Curated by Emily McKibbon

With this exhibition, Barrie-based artist Sean George reconsiders what a monument might be at a moment when the idea of the monument itself is in question.

With this exhibition, Barrie-based artist Sean George reconsiders what a monument might be at a moment when the idea of the monument itself is in question.

With this exhibition, Barrie-based artist Sean George reconsiders what a monument might be at a moment when the idea of the monument itself is in question. Made during the COVID-19 pandemic and a year of activism against anti-Black violence and racism, the work reflects both ambivalence and optimism about how public space can be used to memorialize movements as diverse as disco, Black and Indigenous suffragist and feminist movements, AIDS and global folk art. Constructed in dresser drawers, briefcases and shadow boxes, these tactile works gather pop cultural artifacts, historical imagery, and highly personal mementoes such as IV bags and correspondence. Deeply collaborative in his artistic practice, George also works with Erin Lees Caribou, memorializing her resilience as an Afro-Indigenous woman who grew up in nearby Tottenham.

Two columns form this installation, the first representing men and the second women. Between the two, a curtain of glass bottles and IV bags are suspended. Glass is what’s known as an “amorphous solid,” meaning that its state of being is somewhere between a liquid and a solid. Formed from heated silica, or sand, George finds the alchemical nature of glassmaking comparable to processes of social transformation in our contemporary age. Put simply, simple binaries no longer hold. Interwoven between the bottles are IV bags, medical tools designed to fight dehydration and deliver life-saving medicines. While at first glance both bottles and IV bags might be intimidating, both are intended as healing gestures for a difficult time.

In an open letter to George Floyd, written earlier this winter, George writes: “I decided to walk home in some form of mindful protest after you were killed. At 12:15 am I took my achingly thin chicken legs and began my sojourn from downtown.” As Sean George walked the streets, he reflected on a monument expansive enough to hold the ambivalent, violent and erased histories so present, still, in George’s everyday life as a Black, gay man. Ultimately hopeful, George writes: “In spite of our flaws, our defects, misdemeanors of human nature, George Floyd, your life is part of a tipping point of change. A walk towards a more open, understanding and humane future. A walk towards the universal.”

Learn

Youth Activity

In conjunction with Monuments, Memories and Missing Passages, we invite youth to learn and create through our Sensational Still Lifes from Solitude virtual workshop. Designed by the artist with step-by-step instructions, this activity can be completed at any time with materials that are commonly found at home.

This project investigates the still life, a genre of art that has been used by many artists to represent everyday objects. Still lifes are often created as references for further works of art, like painting, drawing, photography and more, but can also be considered artwork by themselves. They have the capacity to help us engage in the act of seeing (not simply looking, but really perceiving the things that are in front of us, in detail), to help us consider elements of composition and design, and to symbolically represent many narratives or themes, like life and death.

SPONSORS

Supported by

City of Barrie logo
Ontario Arts Council logo
Canada Council for the Arts logo
Government of Ontario logo
Government of Canada logo