Post-apocalyptic photography at the Nickle

By Wendy Maloff

What happens when a person gives themselves permission to bare everything and anything in the physical and mental sense? Then what happens when that person has the means to share it-all as a visual art?

The answer to this question is at the University of Calgary’s Nickle Arts Museum, where Canadian photographer Diana Thorneycroft’s latest show is on display. The show, The Body, its Lesson and Camouflage, is a collection of photos that display Thorneycroft’s talent for creating technically difficult visuals often displaying theatrical elements.

“She collects objects, makes objects and creates these whole sets that she positions herself in. They’re all predominantly self-portraits,” explains curator Christine Sawiak. “She spends a lot of time developing almost a theatrical stage for every photograph. She does this in her studio, she creates environments.”

The exhibition includes a variety of unique sculpture-like masks, with a number of other props used extensively within the pictures.

“All the masks and props that are on exhibition here are related to her more recent works,”says Sawiak.

There are many other unusual elements in the photos that make Thorneycroft’s photography work stand out. There is generous use of dolls, as well as both military and medical paraphernalia.

To fully understand these images, Sawiak has some suggestions for viewers.

“Ask yourself, what would a post-apocalyptic landscape look like?” invites Sawiak. “These items are being used in unconventional ways.”

Other themes that Thorneycroft explores in her photos include the deconstruction of gender and her own self-exploration.

She may have included these elements as reference to her immediate family, where careers in both military and medical fields are predominant.

Thorneycroft’s dark side is also frequently displayed within the works and some viewers may find the photographs disturbing.

However, she’s familiar with controversy, for good or ill. The general public may be most familiar with her 1999 show titled Monstrance that included 12 dead rabbits at different stages of decay.

“This is a tough show with adult content,” Sawiak says frankly. “She is really unafraid to touch on social taboos.”

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