A moment of confusion and suspense hits as you enter the fourth floor of the Art Gallery of Ontario. Unlike the main floors of the gallery where walls are clustered with paintings and drawings, you’re invited into a wide space with blank white walls. Sporadically arranged across the room are an array of sculptures that include Dorito bags, colourful outfits, and plastered body molds.
Valerie Blass’ art pieces are nothing short of eccentric and surreal. Growing up in Montreal, Quebec, she creates all her artwork in her beloved city. Her wide array of sculptures that include Le mime, le modèle et le dupe, and Échapper à la psychologic, is a combination of modern and abstract styles. She utilizes everyday objects, fashionable clothing, and minimalist tools (ladders, etc.) in every sculpture she creates.
The first piece you encounter as you enter the series of sculptures is Le mime, le modèle et le dupe. Initially, it leaves you questioning and even uneasy. Combining colourful body mold in a blue and fuchsia body suit with a Doritos bag, you get a sense of modern times and style in her sculptures. Beside this silhouette is a body mold of stylish cargo pants bending with a pair of chunky heels. These sculptures closely resemble current Instagram posts and style of today. She brings the 2D images in abstract art found on walls and pictures on Instagram into 3D sculptures. There’s something unsettlingly realistic about the body molds Blass puts on display. The textures, the crevices, and the imperfect stitching add realism to the otherwise inanimate objects. Walking around the sculpture, it was as if it would come to life at any moment.
In another part of the room is a long thick metal chain coming down from the ceiling with the same colour scheme as the silhouette in Le mime, le modèle et le dupe. Like a missing part to the body, the sculptures all together add the abstract to the realism and the realism to the lifeless. You’ll find everything from shorts floating near a chair, to a ladder holding together an Ikea shopping bag and a pair of heeled boots. The sculptures in an otherwise empty room with grey floors and white walls strangely adds a sense of life to the fourth floor of the gallery. She uses found objects to add some flare to the minimalist objects we find in the world.
Blass’ process with each body sculpture includes taking pictures of models and once she’s found the perfect pose, she uses plaster to mold the body shape. From there, she uses old clothing to design all the outfits for her sculptures.
Even in her more abstract pieces, Échapper à la psychologi, images of people, from their arms to the back of their body, is imprinted onto the solid blob sculpture. She adds a hint of life to any piece of work she’s created, forming a concoction of two worlds—the one we can grasp and the other we can only imagine.