Ah, St Patrick’s Day. When else can a homo get away with an emerald shirt worn with blue jeans, drink verdant beer without getting food poisoning, and be shut out of New York’s second largest parade of the year (fuck you, Ancient Order of Hibernians).
Okay, so maybe not the queer-friendliest holiday available to us. But instead of feeling green over the day whose best contribution remains the McDonald’s shamrock shake, why not kick up your heals at an art show with a decidedly pink hue.
Saurin Galloway and Sybil Lamb are two of Toronto’s most exciting up-and-coming artists. They’re brash, erratic, cocky and painfully honest – qualities that have inspired artwork that is both cutting-edge and compellingly nostalgic.
Lamb’s is the more naturalistic of the two, which is ironic, given that interviewing the self-proclaimed “white, northerner trannie carpetbagger” is sort of like piecing together a transcript after it’s been hacked into a kajillion pieces.
“Welcome to Gawd Mess Amerika,” Lamb says. “We want to fully present the idea that we’re so rich here in socialist Canada. But we’re losing our edge! Look at America: it has such a thriving gutter-fabulous community.”
The artist recently returned to her home country after years spent living rough Stateside, squatting in abandoned buildings until a vicious attack brought her back to Canada.
“I got beaten up by some crazy guy with a pipe in a train yard,” Lamb says. “I had a brain hemorrhage and had to learn how to talk again and not piss my pants. Then I had really severe ADD for about a year, and then regular-strength attention deficit disorders for the past four years.
“I defected to America because you can buy a decent car for $100, and people just give you houses if they have too many. But socialism in Canada is so much better. It promises me a better quality of existence than New Orleans did. I’m finally getting the dental work I need after 10 lousy years of dirty American punk rock.”
There has been some culture shock in coming back to Canada – when she tried to squat in an empty building here in Toronto, she was promptly arrested. “It was completely abandoned, but they still arrested me,” she says with a winsome incredulity. “Then they tried to send me on a job-creation program to be a cook.”
And can she cook? “No.”
But she can sure as hell draw. Lamb’s illustrations feature lanky, moon-faced girls with sombre expressions, mottled urban landscapes, and comedic masterpieces (my favourite: the vomiting goth chick in How to Show a Boy You’re Interested).
There’s an almost Victorian, melancholic quality here, with a controlled attention to line and detail that is frankly exquisite. It’s kind of like The Triplets of Belleville, if the girls were punk rockers with a predilection for cigarettes and sex.
Galloway’s art is nearly the polar opposite of Lamb’s. Streaks of colour are slashed angrily across canvas, with fragmented faces and bodies peering through the darkness. It’s beautiful, violent, humorous and sexy.
“I think my work is maybe more politically charged than Sybil’s,” Galloway says. “Hers deals with more sexuality than mine, but we both go for a very graphic approach.”
This ex-pat American’s creations reveal a deep dissatisfaction with the state of the world and express skepticism at our society’s fascination with the latest “cause” or movement.
“I have such a positive outlook that anything that threatens it gets pushed away,” he says. “I’m highly apathetic. I made the most honest piece I’ve ever made, called I Don’t Give a Shit About Social Issues.”
Like Lamb, Galloway spent some time living on the streets, where his pomostreetabex (post-modern street abstract expressionism) art aesthetic was born: an arresting mélange of phallic-shaped syringes, skulls and figures crying pink tears. But he’s also found inspiration in his art-show partner’s exploration of sex and sexuality in her work.
“Right now I’m going for as low art as I can get,” Galloway says. “And what’s more low art than replicating gay porn? I’m seeing how many dicks I can fit onto a page.”
Gawd Mess Amerika
Opens Sun, March 17, 5-9pm
187 Augusta Ave
Opens Sun, March 17, 5-9pm
187 Augusta Ave