A little thing like a pandemic can’t stop the creative impulse. Two artists from Sturgeon Falls, Ashley Guenette and Michel Gervais, found themselves presenting together in an online exhibit hosted by Between Pheasants Contemporary (BPC) Gallery, under conditions that certainly reflected times of COVID. Both artists are graduates of Franco-Cité, and they have been garnering attention from various media outlets. Michel Gervais presented a tongue-in-cheek post-COVID apocalyptic video of Jenna Seppa, Gervais’ drag queen persona – a humorous parody of survivalist angst in the northern wilderness. Ashley Guenette’s installation art consisted of textile sculpture, various pieces, cushions and other objects in the setting of a pheasant coop.
The main theme was exploring adaptation during the pandemic and how does the creative personality adjust, evolve, and survive. For Ashley Guenette it was an installation which, realistically, no one could visit personally: a gallery located in a pheasant coop. For Jenna Seppa (Michel Gervais) survival was not an option. Sadly – according to her video – she didn’t make it. But her final efforts were heroic, and hilarious.
The two artists know each other from attending Franco-Cité; they were brought together for this exhibit and both spoke to the issue of adapting, as artists, to creative life under COVID. Michel Gervais says of his video, “It was originally a film for a university project. Right at the beginning of the pandemic when we had to adapt to going remote, I went back home and was able to do university remotely. I wanted to make a product of its time and ran away with the fact that we are in uncertainty because of the pandemic. That’s where the idea came from and I really like incorporating my drag with any product I get into. It adds an element of me and a bit of absurdity into everything.”
Ashley Guenette is working on her Masters of Fine Arts. “My whole thesis is challenging what painting is, what it can be, and traditional ways of exhibiting artwork. So, to have the artwork in a pheasant coop was a hole-in-one… At one point I was asked if the pheasants were going to be there. That would have been even cooler!”
Both artists seem to take a playful approach. You can display art in a pheasant coop or make your own branches – there are no set rules. Michel Gervais notes, “As much as I take my art seriously, I am not serious when I do it. I like doing things that are really fun. Even though there are a lot of darker themes in the film, I try to keep it as fun and light as possible. For me it’s much more fulfilling and it brings joy to other people. That’s my overall ideology when it comes to art.”