ARTISTIC - Artist Marnie Blair is pictured with her work Chart II Manikin. She and artists Heather Huston and Jill Ho-You will have their work in the MAG’s current exhibit ‘The Other Passport’. Carlie Connolly/Red Deer Express

Artist Marnie Blair talks artwork for newest MAG exhibit

Alberta artists come together in Red Deer to examine the medicalized body through art

Alberta artists Marnie Blair, Jill Ho-You and Heather Huston will be displaying their work for MAG’s exhibit The Other Passport.

They will be utilizing printmaking as a primary medium to examine the medicalized body, which will be on display until Oct. 29th.

The artists’ work relates to various aspects of the human experience of illness. They use narrative and image as a way to initiate dialogue about these issues and the relationship of identity to these types of experiences.

Blair, who is originally from Ontario, gave a look inside her work and how she got started.

In Red Deer now for for four years, Blair teaches at Red Deer College in Visual Art.

She is showing off her wood cut prints and a wood cut carving, that instead of being printed, is being shown as a painting.

“It’s interactive, it’s an anatomical flip chart of a body and you can add on all of the anatomy and pull it off, so it’s a piece that the public could come in and put together or take off,” said Blair.

Her piece is called Chart II Manikin, made with plywood pieces carved on a CNC router at the Centre for Innovation in Manufacturing at Red Deer College.

She uses her Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) as a starting point to examine questions that surround the intersection of technology and humanity.

She said the image is based on a 1916 anatomical flip chart illustration that’s found in the Library of Health, a vintage medical book by Frank Scholl.

“I’m interested in not just the flip book but the colour palette. It’s also an old print. It’s an old lithograph, so it’s also a past form of printmaking,” said Blair.

The work is a hybrid of old woodcut (the Han Dynasty before 220 AD) and newer technology, using the computer controlled cutting machine, a CNC router to carve the drawings.

She said she’s interested in how relying on a computer and machine in her artistic practice is similar to her own experience of relying on a machine, an implanted defibrillator, to ensure her body functions as it should.

Her work explores the natural and artificial, examining what it means to be dependent on a machine in order to live.

Artist Huston reflects on her experiences with chronic illness to question assumptions about identity as a patient who presumes and fears certain limitations and qualities that are associated with multiple sclerosis and inflammatory arthritis.

Ho-You’s work questions the possibilities of our organs, harbouring past psychological experiences.

Blair, Ho-You and Huston have known each other for 10 years, but have never done a show together as a trio until now. Since they all make work about the body and medicine, they decided to do the show together.

“All three of us make work with the subject matter in mind,” said Blair.

She said what’s interesting is that with all three of them living in different parts of Alberta, and all having made new work, this will be the first time they’ve all seen one another’s work.

Blair attended school in her past for child studies and linguistics, and was going to enter into speech pathology, but decided that she still wanted to become an artist, so attended art school.

“I think I finally realized that I wanted a creative career where I could be making,” she said.

Both Blair and Huston will be onsite this Friday, Sept. 1st at the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery for the First Fridays Red Deer at the MAG from 5 to 8 p.m. for the opening reception of the exhibit.

The artists will be there to talk about their work.

The Other Passport opens in tandem with the travelling exhibit Keepsakes of Conflict: Trench Art & Other Canadian War-Related craft organized by the Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery.