Rough Edges: Sojourner Truth Parsons and Nadia Belerique at Daniel Faria Gallery

by Anna Kovler

Electric lights dot the walls of Nadia Belerique and Sojourner Truth Parsons’ exhibition at Daniel Faria Gallery. Illuminating the spaces between paintings, Belerique’s orbs double as a second sun, echoing the flat yellow circles in Parsons’ paintings. Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, hoped that eventually humans could overcome their natural rhythms and stay awake all night under artificial glow. Like a light bulb flattening and reducing the intensity of the sun, the works in the show act as a series of translations, referencing the rhythms of seasons and perception.

Manuel Rocha’s garden across the street inspired the exhibition. “Last summer we were walking by and I was taken aback with how beautiful the garden was,” Parsons recalls. “His garden felt very sincere, and I just thought: wow, this man is an artist, and I wanted to talk to him about how his garden is an artwork, the ultimate public artwork, and a gift to someone who walks by.”

The garden reaches its zenith of reproductive prowess in the late August heat. Through air heavy with moisture, the pink zinnias, orange marigolds, and purple dahlias open to their fullest. The hydrangeas bend under their own weight, and the amaranth standing over a meter tall drapes its wispy strands like a horse’s tail. Bees and butterflies come constantly. When viewed through the window of the gallery, the fullness of Rocha’s garden flattens, its thicket compressing into a flat postcard image similar to Belerique and Parsons’ works. Two sculptures on the floor are the collective work of all three artists, concrete planters identical to the ones Rocha made for his own garden.

Animal eyes peek through foliage in Parsons’ large paintings. Butterflies in pastel pinks and purples, yellow sunflowers and her trademark dogs populate the paintings, pink tongues hanging out eager to lick their owner’s face. Similar to her previous figurative cutouts, Belerique’s one-way mirror occupies the backroom like an actor that must be negotiated. On the backside, scratch marks, magazine clippings and vitamin D gel caps can be inspected and compared to their flattened image as seen from the front. Referencing photographic processes and exposure to light, these emergent objects echo the movement between subconscious and conscious knowledge, and the difference between how things are and how they look from a certain angle.

For Belerique, slight shifts are everything. “A sliver of depth is already doing something,” she notes. “It’s about the viewer and the relationship of the body to the work, and how something so simple, like putting objects on glass, can shift perspective so profoundly. I’ve always been interested in tactility and scale shifts, like a Russian nesting doll, creating a space within a space within a space.”

Parsons and Belerique show painting and sculpture as cannibalistic mechanisms, swallowing, digesting, and producing things akin to, but not identical with what they consumed. Scale shifts, interpretations, and representations draw crisscrossing allusions between the works themselves, the garden, and the artists’ own oeuvres. An embodied experience of patterns noticed and associations made, this poetic exhibition urges us to look more carefully at flowers in gardens, at our neighbors, and at image making. By the show’s closing date, Rocha’s garden will die back and shift gears into fall, waiting to be resurrected next summer under his attentive hand, beginning the cycle again, anew.

Don’t Tell Me That The Flowers Must Die, I Know is on view at Daniel Faria Galley in Toronto until September 8, 2018.

Install shot with Nadia Belerique’s Sun Lamp (2) 2018 and Sun Lamp (3) 2018, Sojourner Truth Parsons’ Black and white bitches lose their minds (2018), and Cradles from Rocha (1), 2018 by Manuel Rocha, Nadia Belerique and Sojourner Truth Parsons. Image courtesy of Daniel Faria Gallery.

Install shot with Nadia Belerique’s Sun Lamp (1) 2018 and Sojourner Truth Parsons’ She’s got little bit of babies in her hand, 2018. Image courtesy of Daniel Faria Gallery.

Install shot with Nadia Belerique’s Sun Lamp (4) 2018, Sojourner Truth Parsons’ For Susan Burton’s Son (2018), and Cradles from Rocha (1) 2018 by Manuel Rocha, Nadia Belerique and Sojourner Truth Parsons. Image courtesy of Daniel Faria Gallery.

A bumble bee on a marigold in Manuel Rocha’s garden, 2018.

Nadia Belerique, A Mirror For Your Feet On The Floor (reprise), 2017. One-way mirror, steel, collaged paper, pouring medium, pressed flowers, vitamin D, lights. Image courtesy of Daniel Faria Gallery.

Close up of the backside of Nadia Belerique’s A Mirror For Your Feet On The Floor (reprise), 2017.

 

Manuel Rocha’s garden as seen from Daniel Faria Gallery.