Calgary-born artist Corri-Lynn Tetz explores femininity and the female form in new exhibition

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A few years ago, artist Corri-Lynn Tetz’s brother gave her an unusual gift.

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It was a bag full of men’s magazines – including Penthouses and Playboys – that had been dumped in a Salvation Army trash can.

Presumably, Tetz’s brother knew what he was doing. Her sister’s work had long been influenced by the female form and she had often sought out old images of hippie or nudist colonies as a starting point for her art. So that bag of old men magazines was a gold mine. When Tetz went to the Banff Center for a residency in 2019, she took the magazines with her.

“Obviously someone’s uncle or grandfather had passed away and they found all these magazines and had to get rid of them,” she says. “When I went to the Banff Center, I wasn’t sure I would use the photos. It’s like hearing all of my older feminist painting teachers say, “What are you doing?” “

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Nonetheless, it became a central part of a three-year project for the Calgary-born artist. Or, more specifically, a series of related projects which are all based on images of women originally captured by male photographers and presumably aimed at a predominantly male audience. The results are currently on display at Contemporary Calgary in Art Lover, one of three new exhibitions by female artists that opened last week. The exhibition is inspired by paintings Tetz made from 2019 to 2021. There is a series of monochrome blues and grays that the artist made for a 2020 exhibition at the Dianna Witte Gallery in Toronto titled Soft Touch. The larger canvases date from a slightly earlier period, depicting figures that have been transplanted into “otherworldly” landscapes. But many of them came from that explosion of productive activity in 2019 that began after Tetz arrived at the Banff Center, clutching the bag of men’s magazines from the 1980s and 1990s.

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“I have found in painting them, there is such a change that occurs,” she says. “I work very intuitively and I change the colors, I change the shapes and the backgrounds so that the meaning of the image seems to change. The objectification part had disappeared. It was more about the subject’s experience and my relationship to that subject. For anyone who has negotiated a female identity or aspects of it, I think they can put themselves in these pictures in a funny and tender way. It has been a great topic for me and a great way to explore my own experience and the experience of those around me.

In the accompanying text, Toronto writer and art curator Tatum Dooley suggests that “divorced from the original source material, the gaze is reclaimed from (mostly) male photographers. Tetz shifts his gaze over the existing images and shifts the focus; contemplation and feeling emerge. According to Tetz, there was also a change in who the numbers appealed to.

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Corri-Lynn Tetz exhibition, Art Lover, at Contemporary Calgary.  Azin Ghaffari / Postmedia
Corri-Lynn Tetz exhibition, Art Lover, at Contemporary Calgary. Azin Ghaffari / Postmedia Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Azin Ghaffari / Postmedia

“The (original) images themselves are so cold,” she says. “This posture or pose is the means of an end for the viewer, who is a straight man and that’s it. When it becomes a painting, there are so many other layers. Interestingly, the people who react to these paintings and body of work are largely people who are not straight men: women, queer friends, non-binary friends, and trans friends. It’s interesting because I think we have different access to the images. I think that with painting, it is not a cold representation. Rather, it evokes an interior space. In the paintings, we get the impression that these women are alone and do whatever they do for themselves. They don’t do it for anyone else.

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Born in Calgary, Tetz and her family moved to Strathmore when she was young and later to Red Deer, where she attended Red Deer College. She went on to study at both Emily Carr and Concordia in Montreal, where she now lives. At first glance, her background doesn’t seem to offer a direct route to the kind of work she is currently creating. Tetz grew up in a conservative Christian family as a tomboy interested in horses and the sport.

Corri-Lynn Tetz exhibition, Art Lover, at Contemporary Calgary.  Azin Ghaffari / Postmedia
Corri-Lynn Tetz exhibition, Art Lover, at Contemporary Calgary. Azin Ghaffari / Postmedia Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Azin Ghaffari / Postmedia

“All the accessories of femininity were really awkward for me growing up,” she says. “So I find them funny and attractive: high heels and all the things that I used to reject as a kid. As you get older you find them more enticing and you dive in and dive in. I think of my more punk-rock and feminist friends who still absorbed some of these cliché ideas of femininity and female sexuality.

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Tetz says she is also interested in exploring conflicts within the art world itself, particularly the outdated notion in some of the more conservative circles that if the subject “has something to do with women or femininity or if he seems to be romantic in any way. , so it’s not a topic that deserves critical investigation, ”Tetz says. Things are changing in this regard. She teaches intermediate painting at Concordia and there seems to be a greater acceptance in the art world of subjects considered to be feminine.

Portraits of the female form are nothing new, and Tetz says his interest in them came at least in part from his first exposure to art, which was through Renaissance nude paintings.

“These were my favorite paintings,” she says. “When we were drawing and painting life, painting flesh was what I wanted to paint; paint the body, paint the figure. You go through school and there was a definite need for a feminist rewrite of these images. I think it’s super valid. But there is a strange conflict going on inside of you. It’s like we’re not supposed to like these pictures, but we do. I feel like I broached a subject that many of my former teachers would think I shouldn’t have.

“With a lot of art purchases in Canada, some of the biggest supporters are the banks and power companies and businesses that won’t buy nudes to put in their collection. There is a real conservatism taking hold. To me, these pictures are not about sex and something dirty. They are completely different from the pictures they were inspired by and the feeling is so different. “

Art Lover runs through January 30, 2022 at Contemporary Calgary.

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