The two newest exhibitions at SNAP Gallery put some of the oddest parts of human nature on display through printmaking. Heather Leier’s Coping Mechanisms and Tamara Deedman’s Insincere Comforts both look at the way people react and deal with trauma. There’s a lot of colour and positivity in their works, despite the heavy themes that underlie the art.
Leier has been working on her exhibit since she completed her Master’s of Fine Art at the University of Alberta three years ago. She’s returned to Alberta after teaching at the Memorial University of Newfoundland and shows her work across Canada and China. This exhibit explores Leier’s journey using coping mechanisms while healing from gender-based violent trauma.
Leier’s work takes time to soak in. At first glance your eyes shift to the colourful confetti, purple petals, and prints of party supplies. When you take a closer look, you’ll see that this is just the outside layer. It’s an impression of happiness.
“I don’t know if it’s necessarily that outwardly projecting joy is healing,” Leier explains. “But maybe I’m trying to train my brain in some ways to think about the optimism. I still am optimistic. I don’t think I would be making this work if I wasn’t optimistic that some of these problems could be changed.”
The first set of prints you encounter is titled Young Lady. It’s easy to miss the poetry on these prints because it’s composed of small white text on beige paper. Two other pieces, Guise Ⅰ and Guisee Ⅱ, look playful with balls of confetti covering the frame. You have to stand inches away to really see that behind the colourfulness there is purposeful text.
“A lot of times we don’t recognize in each other that we might be enduring something that we can’t see,” Leier says, expanding on her metaphor. “It’s almost hidden below the surface or something that you only engage with in the work on an intimate scale. Only if you get up real close to it do you realize that there is this trauma.”
Deedman’s work carries on this theme as well. Insincere Comforts looks at the survival mechanisms she uses to deal with trauma. Her hope is that by putting her insecurities on display, the works create an environment of understanding and empathy. The exhibit reflects comforts from childhood memories and mementos to medication and money.
The connection between the two exhibits is at first just these ideas of coping mechanisms but it quickly becomes clear that the stronger connection is creating empathy.
One of Leier’s most unique works, Regulated Allusions, stands out because of the way it’s displayed. The set of prints are laid out on the gallery floor. The image is of a particularly magical moment that Leier came across while employing a coping mechanism many do—staring down to avoid interaction in public. The image is a shiny golden Twix wrapper swimming in a sea of purple petals.
“I just wanted to create this experience that was kind of optimistically beautiful—to think about the potential to move forward from employing this coping mechanism, or employing coping mechanisms at all.”
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