Christa Pauwels: Guises at Gallery 1313

GUISES, the Exhibit & Book by Photographer Christa Pauwels

A commercial photographer by trade, Christa Pauwels takes the viewer into a world of nostalgia and fantasy, occasionally delving into the provocative, with her solo exhibition, Guises, at Gallery 1313. With people overwhelmed by weighty issues like climate change, inflation and war, Pauwels’ exhibition looks at how we present ourselves to the world.

Installation view of Christa Pauwels, Guises at Gallery 1313. Photo: Phil Anderson

Pauwels herself has taken on many roles including mother, songwriter, commercial photographer and artist. Her work as a commercial photographer is contemporary portraiture where the subjects are encouraged to reflect their story in creative portraits mixing style and fashion.

Christa Pauwels, Around Red, 2013. photography, 18 x 24 inches

Talking about her own art, Pauwels says that her work is all about the women trapped inside of her and the personalities she has collected along the way, through what she has seen, felt, learned, and sometimes, completely imagined. She feels taking on different guises helps us navigate through the various spaces and places we inhabit. By using herself in the portraits, she explores alternate personae to create different characters in this conceptual exhibition.

Christa Pauwels, Behind, 2013, photography, 20 x 20 inches

Pauwels, is an admitted fan of American conceptual photographer Cindy Sherman, and we can see the comparison. Pauwels’ work examines the way media depicts the roles of women. In contemporary society people are obsessed with the way they present themselves to the world through selfies. Pauwels in her photographs follows the same method and has fun with her poses and costumes.

Christa Pauwels, Titanium, 2017, photography, 18 x 24 inches

A Toronto Metropolitan University photography graduate herself; she uses storytelling in both her commercial and art photography, turning the camera lenses on herself. Fashion, hairstyling and make-up all become part of the mix to transport the viewer into different scenarios. Whether playing the stenographer at her typewriter or acting as a steamy seductress, Pauwels seems to enjoy this journey of exploring her identity. We all wear different costumes at times and can identify with Pauwels’ guises.

Christa Pauwels, Identity, 2013, photography, 24 x 36 inches

This Markham-based photographer has presented us with an escape into her world of personas — and perhaps an opportunity to re-examine our own identities.

Installation view of Christa Pauwels, Guises at Gallery 1313. Photo: Phil Anderson

By Ashley Rowe Flick

Images are courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1313

*Exhibition information: Christa Pauwels, Guises, Curated by Stacey MacNevin, July 19 – 30, 2023, Gallery 1313, 1313 Queen St. West, Toronto. Gallery hours: Wed – Sat 1 – 5 pm, Sun 1 – 4 pm.

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