I had the good fortune of running into Fausta Facciponte at her exhibition, “Sleepy Eyes,” which is on now at Stephen Bulger Gallery for one more week. Not entirely coincidental, her appearance was arranged by Alia Toor, who’s been working as the Education Coordinator at the Canadian Art Foundation for the last four years. I was taking a group of my grade 12 students from Central Commerce Collegiate on one of the bi-yearly Canadian Art School Hops. The tours, similar to the public art hops also run by the foundation, are led by curators, artists and other art professionals, taking students to a series of art galleries to engage them in conversation and expose them to contemporary art within our city.
Facciponte’s exhibition was definitely a highlight for both myself and my students on this tour of the galleries along Ossington and Queen West. Her large scale photos are at once eery and inviting, and the subject matter is such that it is easily relatable for anyone. The show is composed of 11 large colour photos of doll faces, all mounted in clear plexiglass to keep them inviting and (mostly) unframed.
The concept arose for Facciponte from examining her daughter’s relationship with her first toys. Thinking about how to compose a “memento mori,” Facciponte began to centre in on the intimate relationship between her daughter and one of her favourite dolls. After developing a successful strategy to create this first image, the artist scoured Ebay, thrift-stores and garage sales to find other dolls for the series.
Shot multiple times in detail then stitched together digitally, the portraits retain an extraordinary clarity which invites the viewer to explore the scratched eyes and flaking paint of the dolls’ faces. The blurred outer edges of each image imitate our natural visual pattern, bringing these massive shots into a personal frame of reference that magnifies the duplicitous ambiance of the characters. Admitting that other reviewers had termed the show “Creepy Eyes,” Facciponte is aware of the mildly disturbing flavour of the photos, though it was not her intent. Rather, all of the images are shot using candy coloured back-grounds and clean lighting.
I believe a large part of this show’s success is based upon this uneasy undertone of these intentionally inviting images. As per the original concept, the idea of the “memento mori,” comes across vividly as the viewer unintentionally ponders the past lives of these dolls and the owners which inflicted the signs of loving abuse on their immortal faces. In this childlike environment, we are unwittingly (and quite painlessly) thrust into a perusal of our own mortality.
Fausta Facciponte is based inToronto. Her show, “Sleepy Eyes,” runs until October 29, 2011 at Stephen Bulger gallery.