Last January, local graphic designer Mark Taylor, asked me to screenprint text written by his wife, writer Lesley Buxton, on a silky purple negligee and a crisp white apron. When I asked them what they were for, he casually mentioned they would be pieces in a show that was opening that month at City Hall and invited me to attend.
That show was Little Voices, a collaboration of Lesley’s writings and the dioramas of sculptor Patti Normand. The show definitely ranks as one of my faves I’ve seen in the last few years. It celebrates three things I love: dioramas, print, and stories about possible worlds. By combining their work, Lesley and Patti are able to tell powerful narratives that are unsettling and fresh and familiar all at the same time.
The show revolves around the fictional place Silent Falls. I was reminded of the many sleepy towns we’ve encountered on our road trips through Canada and the U.S. At first glance, the town seems picturesque. But it seems almost too perfect, and you wonder what will happen if you take a wrong turn, or whether you should keeping driving to the next largest city, or stay the night at the only motel across the way.
Lesley’s words draw you in and she uses a range of mediums to communicate her stories (diaries, newspapers, letters, a telephone, a postcard, clothing). Patti’s dioramas (featuring empty houses, waterfalls and main street) could fit in the palms of your hands, but they are complex and intricate, and you could spend hours exploring them.
There’s still time to check out the show until Sunday March 9. It’s at Karsh Masson Gallery in Ottawa City Hall. Plus you’ll get to see what happened to that negligee and apron.