BEING+ Opening Reception at Propeller

In 2020 the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair (TOAF) started to organize online exhibitions providing the artists with a forum to express themselves and show their work despite the challenges created by the pandemic.

The Flavio Belli Curator Award gives students, like Abisola Oni, a chance to demonstrate their ideas and learn the role of a curator, while being helped by a senior curator, and supported by the Government of Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Under the umbrella of TOAF, located in Propeller Art Gallery, BEING+ is an exhibition addressing “relation to social and cultural phenomena by expressing diverse subjectivities through formal elements and subject matter.” Curator, Abisola Oni approaches “visual and cultural criticism from a philosophical perspective.” She chose six artists: Michelle Cieloszczyk, Biba Esaad, Miles Ingrassia, Noah Lima, Roxana Parsa and Michelle Rodrigues; representing different themes through various medias.

On January 15, 2022, TOAF and Propeller Art Gallery launched an opening reception on Zoom for the exhibition.

Screenshot of the Opening Reception on January 15, 2022

Michelle Cieloszczyk is the only artist in the exhibition who used 3D media to voice her visual criticism. She explained, “My recent artworks pore over the politics of policing, considering the roles and structures of authority through castings of uniforms.”

Michelle Cieloszczyk, Chain of Command, 2020, plaster, iron filings, iron powder, resin, wire, rod, 20.625 x 19 x 0.5 inches (left) & Corroding cap 1, 2019, plaster, iron filings, iron powder, 10.75 x 5 x 12 inches (right)

Biba Esaad uses semi-abstract shapes and vibrant colours to depict a utopian life in the future. She claims, “I root my practice in an exploration of an imagined queer future whereby embodied oppressions can be transcended. The cyborg aims to surpass the limitations of an alienating present, coding itself as a kind of disassembled; reassembled postmodern being.” 

Biba Esaad, Having a Coke with You, 2020, oil paint and mixed media on textured fine art paper, 13.25 x 20.375 x 0.25 inches

Miles Ingrassia works from reference photographs in depicting everyday life situations. He expresses the idea of a male, focusing on the elements of masculinity. However, his personal view is much more complex and honest, expressing feelings about being different, isolation, loneliness and embarrassment. His paintings invite the viewers to think about and revise the idea of ‘male’ in our very special contemporary circumstances.

Miles Ingrassia, Tree Line, oil on panel, 2020, 48 x 48 x 1.125 inches

Noah Lima is a trans male artist who states, “No matter how you appear, if you feel like being more feminine or masculine at times, you are still who you are and are equal to everyone else. In the series, the flowers represent femininity, but the flowers I have chosen are considered masculine.” Lima uses art to analyze the idea of gender by depicting various symbols like bugs (male symbols) as well as male/female organs in order to turn our attention to gender limitation and equality.

Noah Lima, Flower Sock Packer Vase, 2021, watercolour, gouache, watercolour pencil, charcoal, 11 x 14 inches

Born in an Iranian immigrant family, Roxana Parsa’s central theme is family and her role as a daughter. She uses family photographs and other memorabilia as references for her everyday life scenes. With her simple brushstrokes and strong palette, she creates a dream-like atmosphere where past and present melt into each other, outlining a narrative.

Roxana Parsa, Sisters, 2021, acrylic on canvas board, 11 x 13.75 x 0.25 inches

Michelle Rodrigues shows the social and cultural motions of ‘what it means to be a woman.’ She uses elements of printmaking and bright colours to express different topics, such as nostalgia, belonging, love, and the mass recognition of the idea of ‘women’. Even though it seems confusing at first sight, each layer has its own meaning. As the artist explained, “These collage works are created by covering and overlapping multiple layers of collected magazine images. Each layer is carefully and meaningfully constructed, then completely covered. Previous collages are let go of, only to be rediscovered with a new perspective through excavating by scratching, and tearing through the layers.” The outcome is mesmerizing.

Michelle Rodrigues, I Want You Most, 2020, collage, 8 x 10 x 1.5 inches

It was very interesting to listen to all the artists and learn about their lives and artistic methods. Abisola Oni made an interesting and excellent selection, as all the artists are very different and unique in their thematic approach and techniques, creating together a rich tableau of contemporary art in the GTA. It will be interesting to follow their careers in the future.

Lina Weng

Images are courtesy of TOAF *Exhibition information: BEING+ Emerging Artists by Emerging Curator, curated by Abisola Oni. Exhibiting artists: Michelle Cieloszczyk, Biba Esaad, Miles Ingrassia, Noah Lima, Roxana Parsa and Michelle Rodrigues. Online now

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