Shary Boyle, I Want to be Afraid of Nature, 2003, ink and gouache on paper, 18 x 24 inches. Courtesy of the artist


From 13 January to 20 March 2011 – Institute of Contemporary Art. University of Pennsylvania

Looking for an alternative to the convention in which images illustrate texts and texts explicate images, Shary Boyle and Emily Duke developed a looser, more associative method of combining words and pictures. The Illuminations Project is a series of 33 drawings and text pairs generated through long distance correspondence between 2003 and 2010. This exhibition displays 15 of the diptychs. Half of Boyle’s drawings were developed in response to Duke’s poems, and vice versa. In both cases, the responding artist used the other’s work as a point of departure rather than a directive. As a result, the project contains both narrative and more ambient pieces, exploring a violent and misogynistic world through two central characters—Bloodie and Peg-Leg. Privileging neither female nor male, nature nor culture, animal nor human, Boyle and Duke consider a wide range of issues, situations, and contexts, producing a series that presents a dark feminist take on affect and politics. This is the first public presentation of the work.

Shary Boyle, Soldiers Aren't Afraid of Blood, 2005, ink and gouache on paper, 18 x 24 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Shary Boyle (b. 1972, Scarborough, Ontario; lives Toronto) creates bold, fantastical explorations of the figure. Highly crafted and deeply imaginative, her sculptures, paintings, drawings, and performances mine the history of porcelain figurines, animist mythologies, and historical portraiture to address sexuality, relationships, and human vulnerability through a grim feminist lens. She is the 2010 winner of the prestigious Hnatyshyn Award (Canada), and her work is exhibited and collected internationally. Boyle participated in the show Frenz, organized by Will Oldham at the Fleischer/Ollman Gallery, in 2009. She has been the subject of several solo exhibitions including at the Power Plant, Toronto in 2006 and the Southern Alberta Art Gallery (Lethbridge) in 2008, and her major solo exhibition Flesh and Blood is currently on view at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, and will travel to the Galerie de L’UQAM, Montreal, and the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver in 2011. Boyle will also complete a major commission for the Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis in 2013.

Emily Duke (b. 1972, Halifax, Nova Scotia; lives Syracuse, New York) is a writer and artist. For the last seven years she worked independently with Boyle on The Illuminations Project, though since 1994 her primary practice materialized in collaboration with Cooper Battersby. Duke and Battersby employ live action footage, scavenged images, and simple animations to create videos and installations that evince a simultaneously utopian and dystopian world view. They have won numerous international awards, and in 2010 were shortlisted for the Sobey, Canada’s most prestigious award for artists under 40. Duke and Battersby’s work has been exhibited in galleries and at festivals in North and South America and throughout Europe, including The Brooklyn Art Museum, The Power Plant, the Walker Arts Center, The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, The New York Video Festival, and the Images Festival in Toronto. They will be the spotlight artists at the 2011 International Film Festival Rotterdam. Duke is currently Visiting Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator, Department of Transmedia, College of Visual & Performing Arts, at Syracuse University.

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