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Head + Light (James, Cuthand)

Works:

James, Oreka. “It Mustn't Wait for Dawn or Soon Thereafter, for It Has Arrived!” 2021. 

Cuthand, Ruth. “Anxiety” “Depression” “Mania” “OCD” (four separate artworks from her Brain Scan Series) 2020. 


I haven’t included the artwork dimensions in the citations above. In the case of the Cuthand, I have no idea how big the works are, and in the case of the James I’d just be cutting and pasting the dimensions I see on a sales site, and I’m not sure if those kinds of sites are authoritative. I also don’t know where these two artworks are physically located, long-term; I saw them at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art in 2022 and at the National Gallery of Canada in 2024 respectively, but they might have been on loan. So, incomplete citations; you can clearly tell which artists and artworks I mean; spirit of the law. 


There are photographs of both artists' work online, but I didn’t want to just put the links up front because the photos don’t do the art justice. I'll include them now for reference.


“It Mustn't Wait for Dawn or Soon Thereafter for It Has Arrived!” is gorgeous. When you see it in real life, the detail visible through the window in the background of the painting and the colour of the plane of light the figure is pressing against (or apprehending upon) her face add to an image that’d make your stomach drop. I think I remember reading on the gallery placard that the artist herself mentioned mental health as a subject in the work, but I may be mixing up her words and my own interpretation, so please don’t assume I’ve got that right. A quick Google makes me think that you could drop this artist a line and ask her.


The Cuthand works are (wonderful) beaded reproductions of brain scans. The gallery curators had them placed in a dark room with fairly focused and intense lighting (although I may have only perceived the lighting as intense because the room was dark). The online photos of the series don’t capture the effect of light on the beads, which made me think of moving brain scan images on a screen or the lighting in a clinical environment, though the beadworks somehow exceeded or pushed past that kind of illumination. The light in the gallery was whitish but not quite halogen-y, or at least I don’t think so; I don’t know my bulbs. 


I loved both pieces, and I’m frustrated that I don’t have the vocabulary to communicate much about what I saw, so I’m basically doing jumping jacks here to try to induce someone who does know their bulbs as well as their visual art and representations of mental health and/or inspiration and/or mental illness to have a look. If you are that person and you happen to be in the Windsor Corridor in Canada, the Cuthand works are on display in a special exhibit called Radical Stitch which is on until September 30. 

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