A visiting artist is hoping to make people laugh while thinking at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery.
Calgary artist Terrence Houle was in Thunder Bay Wednesday while his exhibition GIVN’R is on display. While the show exhibits all types of mediums from Houles work over the last year, a common thread through his self-portraits use humour to point out stereotypes some people have about native people. Houle said he uses humour to make viewers think about their own mis-conceptions.
"If we can all laugh together then we’re all in unison and we’re all equal in some way," said Houle. "Everyone likes to laugh so when you can come into a work and come into it smiling then you can kind of look under the layers of all of that and find the issues that are there."
One portrait, titled "Trails End/End Trails" shows a chubby Houle, who gained weight for the shot, slumped on a toy horse dressed in stereotypical native clothing of Hollywood western movies. The shot mimics a sculpture done in the early 19th century called " The End of the Trail" which shows a ntive warrior on a bucking horse with a spear in his hand. Houle said part of his work is trying to get emotion from people and that he wants it to be accessible to everyone.
"It’s not just an aboriginal thing," said Houle. "Anybody can kind of approach the work and kind of gain something out of it."
Houle spent Wednesday afternoon at the gallery speaking with local high school students. He wants youth to come face to face with contemporary art and face aboriginal issues. Houle hopes that youth can walk away from his show ready to make art themselves about their own issues.
"They can have a voice through this and they can feel empowered," Houle said. "They can speak up about things.
While Houle has been getting a lot of reaction from the show, the most common and complimentary reaction has been one of empowerment. Houle said a lot of people have also commented on the tragic comedy of his portraiture.
"A lot of people say it’s really funny and sad at the same time," Houle said. "And that’s ultimately one of my goals."
Houle will speak about his work and give a performance at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery on Friday evening at 7:30 p.m.