SD Holman steps through grief in SUM Gallery photo-based exhibition Pas-à-pas; not intent on arriving

Imagery captures impressions from the cross-country journey the Vancouver artist undertook after spouse Catherine White Holman’s tragic floatplane death


Pas-à-pas; not intent on arriving is at the SUM Gallery until June 2,, 12 to 6 pm Tuesdays to Saturdays

A PINK SILK flower sits on wet asphalt, pressed against the rough, black surface.

Titled Day 16, the image was taken as Vancouver artist SD Holman was just over two weeks into a cross-country walk, focused on putting one foot in front of the other, overcome with grief. The pilgrimage followed the 2010 death of their spouse, pioneering social worker and Three Bridges Clinic founder Catherine White-Holman, in a floatplane crash off Saturna Island.

Armed only with a small Canon G11, Holman documented that journey not with pictures of epic Canadian landscapes, but instead with the kind of imagery you see when you put your head down and go: ragged grass, cracked pavement, dead birds, discarded pop cans, flattened bottle caps, and empty masses of gravelly road. 

Over three months and 2,700 kilometres, SD Holman took 8,000 images—and now, for the first time, almost 13 years later, they are on exhibitin Pas-à-pas; not intent on arriving at the SUM Gallery.  

“My wife died,” the founding artistic director emeritus of the Queer Arts Festival and its SUM Gallery tells Stir over the phone. “It doesn’t look like it from the outside, but I feel like I’ve been living a half life. And you know, I’ve learned to build a garden around that black hole. But that black hole is always there. ‘Crazy with grief’ is not a metaphor. It is the actual, literal truth. Who would walk across Canada starting April 1? 

“All of my friends and family just really didn’t want me to go,” they continue. “I don’t know whether I was going to die; I didn’t care. I was going to find, you know, life out there. I just needed to walk out my door and keep walking. And I do hate walking. I like walking better now, surprisingly, but I really wrecked my knees doing this. I just wanted to walk, so my state of mind was not good. It was yeah, it was really jumbled. I just needed to take a little walk. And I think it was also that I needed to get away.”

Friends helped Holman bring the work to exhibition—including artist Paul Wong, who encouraged Holman to create the exhibit; SUM gallery curator Mark Takeshi McGregor; writer Persimmon Blackbridge, who has worked with words from Holman’s travel journal; and pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa, who brought Bach’s Goldberg Variations to Holman—its looping structures now echoing through the space and acting as an organizing principle for Pas-a-pas.

Walking through the installation-exhibit is a meditative experience. Fittingly, the photographs, each titled after a numbered day during the trip, sit low to the ground. They’re arranged along a curtained pathway, like a kind of contemplative labyrinth. Elsewhere, a grand piano sits empty, and slightly obscured, behind gauzy curtains—suggesting an aching absence, as the Goldberg Variations plays through speakers.

“I really wanted to make it a journey that people could take on their own,” Holman stresses, “because we will all grieve, right? And it’s such a universal thing, but we do it alone. And we don’t like to talk about it…..People ask me, ‘Well, what is that?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, what do you think? What do you see?’”

The entry and exit of the pathway consist of diaphanous white curtains, printed with words from Holman’s travel diary—many of them blacked out—and the unmistakable image of floatplane wreckage, the only direct allusion to the tragedy in the show.

SD Holman’s Day 16 Walking.

The photographic images themselves juxtapose beauty and harshness; in one, a perfectly preserved dead mouse sits amid roadside rubble; another finds a beautiful speckled bird wing on the pavement. Holman mixes up the printing, with some in colour and some fully desaturated; they call the black-and-white shots the “minor variations”, referring back to Bach’s piece. Though the photos here are impressionistic and sometimes abstracted, Holman is actually best known as a portrait artist, whose photographic series “BUTCH: Not like the other girls” captured the diversity of “female masculinity”. Starting as a transit-shelter public-art project in 2013, it went on to tour North America and became a book.

“I don’t really believe in, like, this perfect moment, but in the many imperfections that make up our messy lives and our messy selves,” reflects the artist. The Emily Carr University of Art and Design grad connects the dots across their photographic practice: “We’re not one thing; there is this dissonance. I think, in everyone, there’s a lot of grey….There’s a terrible beauty in that walk, and taking those pictures and making art out of it.”

SD Holman’s Day 4 Self Portrait.

One of the most poignant aspects of Pas-à-pas is that it offers little arc or resolution; as the show’s subtitle suggests, it’s “not intent on arriving”. In fact, Holman’s process with the work from their cross-country journey is unfinished as well. They are gathering pieces for future iterations, including one that will draw from Holman’s extensive videos taken during the cross-country pilgrimage. (Called Walk for Love, it raised money for the Catherine White-Holman Memorial Legacy Fund to help LGBTQ2SIA+ people living in poverty, as well as queer women in art .)

“People really want you to move on,” Holman reflects. “And I think that comes from a loving place; people want you to be okay. And there’s a lot of pressure about that. But I think that leaves people feeling really lonely and isolated and you don’t move on. Again, you find you can eventually build a garden around that. But it’s always there.

“We don’t get healed—you just get better at dealing with it,” they add. “And, you know, you realize there’s other great people in the world and other things to do, but it’s always there. And that’s an honouring: grief is love. Right? It is the relationship that you have with that person. That grief is love. So letting go of that, I think, lets go of that love. That love is always there.” 

Centipede crawls with queerly macabre experimental animation

With multimedia installations, 3D projections, and more, the pop-up exhibition delves into the complexity of queerness


SUM gallery and the Flavourcel Animation Collective present Centipede at the Sun Wah Centre April 7 to 9 from 12 to 6 pm. A closing reception takes place April 9 from 3 to 5 pm. 

QUICK: THINK OF A centipede. What’s your gut reaction? Are you freaked out by the thought of a super-long creepy crawlie? Or are you fascinated by how so many sections of a single organism can move independently yet together? For local artists Benjamin Siegl and Harlo Martens, the “hundred-legger”, as it’s sometimes called, is more than a mere arthropod, whether it gives you the heebie-jeebies or not. It is, for one, a metaphor for the collective journey queer people go on when finding their place this world, one step at a time; the centipede is also a metaphor for the animated image, as it unfolds frame by frame. It’s also the name of a new multisensory, experimental pop-up exhibition where people are invited to crawl down into the dark depths of the Sun Wah Centre basement to experience “queerly macabre experimental animation”. 

Centipede is a collaboration between SUM gallery, one of the only permanent spaces on the planet dedicated to the presentation of queer art, and the Flavourcel Animation Collective,  a group of 10 artists who work collaboratively on everything from GIFs to music videos to print-media projects. Curated by Siegl, Queer Arts Festival’s assistant curator, the exhibition incorporates multimedia installation, 3D projection, soundscapes, and more, all to explore what it means to be queer today.

“We know that animation lends itself well to many things; however it does so particularly well to themes of the grotesque since we are in the business of creating illusions, which are inherently optically uncanny,” explains Martens, a Flavourcel member. “In this way, we might think of animation as a queer medium: It has the ability to take up several elemental aspects at once including light, time, space, sound, and interactiveness, especially within an environment like Sun Wah Building, where there is quite a lot of projection capacity and a rich queer history embedded into the space.

“There is a kind of natural delightfulness that is very complimentary to the macabre in animation,” Martens adds. “I find this contradiction between tones and feelings really interesting in our work, because it puts into perspective that our lives as queer and trans animators is complicated—our joy and our pain will always go hand-in-hand.” “There is quite a broad spectrum of haunting that comes with being queer.”

There will be a range of experimental animation techniques and installations found throughout the space. As participants walk around, they will shift between different pieces of sound, light, and movement. 

“What can the audience expect? A fun, immersive experience in a dark damp space with weird sounds and lights—I mean, generally,” Siegl says with a laugh. “Creepy visuals, a distinctly retro-vibe, and spaces for reflection…. The exhibit really challenges conventional ideas of what animation can be or look like. 

“From my perspective, and I would think the collective would agree, ‘experimental animation’ is way cool, a totally underappreciated medium,” Siegl adds, “and deserves much more representation and recognition than it currently receives, as do artists and animators who are struggling to find their place within the animation industry.”

Spooky and enchanting, Centipede explores the way queer movement was, for so long, relegated to life’s dark corners, whether in urban spaces or people’s own minds. And while queerness is slowly stepping closer to the light, its painful history is ever present.

“Because animation is so flexible, the result can often come painfully close to our real feelings,” Martens says. “There is quite a broad spectrum of haunting that comes with being queer. We can really feel trauma in our bodies, whether directly personal or as a trickle down of our historical queer necropolitical experiences. Our fears can be deeply caustic, sore, and dissociative. Our fears can be tied to specific events, or they can occur without notice and without reason. Our fears can be connected very closely to our love, to our anger, to our loss and to our power. A lot of us are also especially drawn to the idea of queer mourning/death and how we are perceived.

Siegl adds that queerness is complex: “Our joy and our pain will always go hand-in-hand. I wonder how we define this pain, where it comes from, and how to carry it into the future we aspire for ourselves. Contemporary queerness is entrenched in the past, and every queer person knows what it’s like to confront that ghost—how do we honour it, make peace with it, understand it? How do we protect ourselves and our future from it? It’s hard.”

Maybe the centipede metaphor is apt here, too. As Martens puts it: “When you are looking at Centipede, you are seeing the beauty of our singular work while also seeing how we work together and move forward together through our own obstacles.”

For more information, see  

Spring Arts Preview: with restrictions lifted, music thrives in Vancouver

by Steve Newton, Georgia Straight on February 24th, 2022

Live music is back big-time in Vancouver this spring with a wide range of in-person performances presented by companies like the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Early Music Vancouver, Music on Main, the UBC School of Music, the Friends of Chamber Music, and the Vancouver Recital Society.

Queering the Air: Mignon at the SUM Gallery, February 25. Mignon, a non-binary icon of German Romanticism, is brought to life through the music of Zelter, Schubert, Schumann, and Wolf, performed by soprano Sarah Jo Kirsch and pianist Tina Chang.

VSO/Chooi Plays Mendelssohn at the Orpheum Theatre, February 25 and 26. Music director Otto Tausk leads the VSO and violinist Nikki Chooi in a program of works by Mendelssohn (Violin Concerto, Op. 64, E Minor), Linda Catlin Smith (Tableau, VSO Commission 2021), and Robert Schumann (Symphony No. 2, Op 61, C Major).

VSO/Chooi Plays Mendelssohn at the Orpheum Theatre, February 25 and 26. Music director Otto Tausk leads the VSO and violinist Nikki Chooi in a program of works by Mendelssohn (Violin Concerto, Op. 64, E Minor), Linda Catlin Smith (Tableau, VSO Commission 2021), and Robert Schumann (Symphony No. 2, Op 61, C Major).

Rhapsody and the Blues at the Kay Meek Arts Centre, February 26. Vancouver premiere of a new arrangement of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with Jazz Big Band, plus music of Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, and Nat King Cole.

Safia Nolin at Studio 16, February 26. As part of the Nouvelle Scène concert series, Le Centre culturel francophone de Vancouver presents Québecoise indie-folk singer-songwriter.

Inhale/Exhale at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, February 26 and 27. The Turning Point Ensemble presents major new works by composers Taylor Brook and Nova Pon, plus music by Arcade Fire multi-instrumentalist Richard Reed Parry.

Rufus Lin at Lulu Island Winery, February 27. International jazz concert pianist Rufus Lin performs as part of the Live Jazz at the Winery recital series.

Sisters in Jazz Day at the VSO School of Music, February 27. Jazz workshops and jam sessions with Jodi Proznick, Amanda Tosoff, Laura Anglade, and Virginia Frigault-MacDonald.

Cellobration! at the Anvil Centre, February 27. The Vancouver Chamber Music Society presents Israeli-American cellist Amit Peled performing with pianist Noreen Polera.

Kits Classics + Worlds Beyond at Mel Lehan Hall at St. James, February 27. Clarinetist Johanna Hauser, cellist Olivia Blander, and pianist Anna Levy perform works by Brahms, Sumera, and Bloch.

Castalian String Quartet at the Vancouver Playhouse, February 27. The Vancouver Recital Society presents London-based quartet in a program of works by Haydn (String Quartet in D minor, Op. 76, No. 2 “Fifths”), Fanny Mendelssohn (String Quartet in E-flat major), and Schubert (String Quartet No. 15 in G major, D. 887).

VAMSO: Brahms Symphony No. 3 at the Orpheum Theatre, February 27. The Vancouver Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra presents performances of Wagner’s symphonic poem Siegfried Idyll, Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D minor, and Brahms’ Symphony No. 3, conducted by Ian Parker.

Benewitz Quartet at the Vancouver Playhouse, March 1. The Friends of Chamber Music present a program of works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (String Quartet No. 4 in C major, KV157), Felix Mendelssohn (Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Opus 13), and Antonín Dvořák (String Quartet No.13 in G major, Opus 106).

VSO/Peer Gynt at the Orpheum Theatre, March 3. Conductor Anna Rakitina and host Christopher Gaze join the Vancouver Symphony in Edvard Grieg’s charming suite from the Ibsen play.

Aljoša Jurinić at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, March 2. Croatian classical pianist performs works by Ludwig van Beethoven (Sonata No. 21 in C major “Waldstein”) and Frédéric Chopin (Ballade in F major, Op. 38; Nocturne in D flat major, Op. 27, No. 2; and Ballade in G minor, Op. 23).

Read the full article here.

Stir Q&A: Mi’gmaq photographer and mask-maker Duane Isaac explores Indigenous relationship between land and body


MI’GMAQ ARTIST DUANE Isaac fuses photography with contemporary fantastical masks, his work informed by Indigenous knowledge and the queer gaze.

SUM gallery opens its 2022 season with Sovereignty, the Listuguj, Quebec-based photographer and mask-maker’s first solo exhibition in Vancouver. Featuring a series of portraits documenting the Indigenous body in nature, the show speaks to Indigenous and environmental health and survival.

Curated by SUM gallery founding artistic director emeritus SD Holman, Sovereignty is part of the 2022 Capture Photography Festival Selected Exhibition Program.

Stir connected with Isaac to hear more.

Speaking generally, what is it about masks that attracts you and motivated you to incorporate this form into your photography?

People often connect through eye contact, even through a photo the eyes are often inviting. Obscuring this connection forces the mind to look for other things to connect to. I think it’s also a matter of fantasy, that the person behind the mask is a stranger. While the photos are intimate, you really don’t know who’s behind the mask.

Can you tell us about the creative process behind them?

I’ve developed my process over the years. Lots of trial and error. First thing I do is create a basic shape. Every mask begins the same way. Then I decide on outer features that extrude from the mask itself. Ears, horns, random geometric shapes? There’s no limitation but imagination. My materials are either made by me via molds, or items I’ve amassed through various means—yard sales, art-supply stores, etc.

As far as details go, I love baroque design elements. You’ll find my work adorned with cherubs, skulls, insects, roses, and pearls. I love monsters, the occult and anime/cartoonish villain of the week creatures. I like the idea of a beautiful monster or beautiful villain.

So many horror movies use masks for the main character, making them especially terrifying. Do you draw from the genre? 

I am definitely a horror fan. I remember growing up with Ghostface, Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers, Leatherface, to name a few. All the greats had a mask. Those elements are definitely an inspiration. Again I’d refer back to my point about obscured faces. You can’t connect to the “human” of a masked villain. There is reason to fear that. I also feel like masks can also bring out the things we wouldn’t normally do without the anonymity they provide. 

In Sovereignty, the figure’s mask is said to represent dualism, Indigenous identity as inseparable from and equal to the Land. Can you tell us more? 

Historically, Indigenous people have been the stewards of this land. We take care of the land and it takes care of us. It has always been that way. We need it in more ways than it needs us. We need food, water, and medicines. All provided by the land. If the land is sick, we are sick. One prime example would be the many reservations under boil-advisory orders.

The exhibition speaks to sovereignty under threat. Can you expand on this? 

So much of the unceded territory in Canada is subjected to devastation from things like chemical waste runoff or rampant expansion of resource extraction. Reserve lands are often in proximity to sites used for pipelines, natural gas exploration, and factories. Often these projects involve “man camps”, which have a troubling link to MMIW [Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls]. 

How do your Indigenous ancestry and queerness inform your work?

For years I’ve had this self imposed ostracism from my culture. I felt unaccepted by it because of the anxiety surrounding my sexual orientation. It’s definitely not the typical idea when you think of “Indigenous, or Mi’gmaq, art”. Whenever there’s a call for Indigenous artists, it’s always almost a fetishist expectation of beads, feathers and leather. That’s not to say these aspects aren’t important, they are. I envy those who have these beautiful talents. Sometimes I feel like a fraud compared to them. I appreciate and celebrate every artist who works to preserve, promote and progress traditional craft. My work is definitely through an Indigenous lens though. I am Mi’gmaq, I have spent my entire life surrounded by my culture, in proximity to ceremony, and listening to the language. This will always come through my work.

With the Indigenous lens, there is also a queer lens. It’s again brought through lived experience. I feel this comes through in the fantasy aspects and celebration of the male physique.

For more information, see SUM gallery.

Vivek Shraya – Trans artist challenges the use of trauma narratives in an era of virtue signalling

Galleries West | April 14, 2021

Trauma Clown, by Vivek Shraya, on view as part of the Capture Photography Festival at Vancouver’s SUM Gallery until July 1, is a soft but potent critique of audiences and viewing institutions in an era of virtue signalling. 

The Trauma Clown is the effect of the very contemporary thirst for stories of suffering. In a series of 10 portrait-like photographs, Shraya’s performer steps progressively deeper into the role of the clown, to greater and greater praise and public affection. This series questions the emphasis on trauma narratives in queer artistic expression. What is the danger of trading stories of trauma and redemption as cultural currency?

Shraya plays the character of the emerging artist, steadily revealing more of herself until she becomes the caricature of her suffering. She moves from the Lovesick Clown, a hoody-wearing, guitar-strumming singer-songwriter to unveil the clown with increasing intensity. This steady transformation plays across her body and weaves a deft relationship between the audience’s desire for her to expose more of herself and the increasing commodification of her performance.

In the sixth photograph, she is finally the Trauma Clown: on her knees among piles of flowers, her clown makeup streaked by sweat and tears, arms open in full availability to the unseen crowd. From this triumphalism, she begins to fade from view. Gallery Clown sets her inside the window of an iPhone, while Media Clown is an ‘image of her image’ in a magazine. Ultimately, in Your Clown, she is a framed photo on your wall, among the artful tableau of your things. 

Prepare to be implicated. Shraya takes aim at mainstream audiences, art institutions and popular narratives. In an interview with Shraya and curator SD Holman on the show’s opening weekend, Holman pointed to the effect of the trauma narrative in the reality television show RuPaul’s Drag Race – the ways in which sad backstories propel participants to victory. Shraya’s point is that the demand for stories of queer oppression have become the bread and butter of the queer artist in the mainstream media.

If, as a viewer, you come to this show as a member of the mainstream (white, straight, cis to be sure), however educated you may be, the temptation might be to connect these photographs to drag. This would be an easy misconception since the photographs are not accompanied by any text. It’s left to the audience to get things going, so one might find oneself mentally thumbing the pages of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble to make connections between what is taught about drag and the trans body we see.

I was grateful that Shraya, in her talk, cautions her audience not to conflate transness with drag. As I see it, the connection to drag in Trauma Clown, if any, is more carefully embedded in the performance imagery, where hyperbolized acts form a critique of the institutions from which they are born.

Shraya’s exhibition is an opportunity for audiences to consider their role in the capitalist viewing machine, and the ways that looking can make objects of the real bodies we see. ■  

Vivek Shraya: Trauma Clown at the SUM Gallery in Vancouver from April 1 to July 1, 2021. 

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Le clown cathartique de Vivek Shraya

 Radio-Canada | April 2, 2021

[Vivek Shraya] est une artiste canadienne très importante, son oeuvre comprend la musique, la littérature l’art visuel, le film, le théâtre, même si elle est sûrement plus connue en tant qu’écrivaine » énumère la co-fondatrice de la galerie SUM et du Queer Art Festival, Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa.

Du 2 au 30 avril 2021, l’exposition photographique Trauma Clown de l’artiste multidisciplinaire Vivek Shraya est présentée à la Galerie SUM, dans le cadre du Capture Photography Festival 2021 à Vancouver.

« Pour les gens qui suivent l’art LGBTQ+ au Canada, je dirais qu’elle est l’une des artistes les plus connues. »—  Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa, co-fondatrice de la galerie SUM et du Queer Art Festival

C’est une artiste avec beaucoup de choses à dire, ses oeuvres sont très provocantes, estime la co-fondatrice du Queer Art Festival. Elle ajoute que Vivek Shraya n’a pas peur de la controverse.

Avec Trauma Clown, l’artiste cherche à connaître la cause de la popularité, du succès des artistes LGBTQ+ quand ils exposent leurs traumatismes.

Click here to listen to the original radio interview in full.

Vivek Shraya’s Trauma Clown photo series probes the commodification of personal pain

Stir Vancouver | April 1, 2021

SUM Gallery presents Trauma Clownto July 1. Opening-night receptions April 1 and 2 are sold out; an online artist talk April 3 at 3 pm is still taking registration. Advance appointments are required to view the exhibition; you can book visits here. Find COVID-19 safety guidelines here.

SATIRE AND SUFFERING come together in a new self-portrait series by visual artist, author, and musician Vivek Shraya.

Meant to be viewed in order in the new show Trauma Clown at the SUM Gallery, the photographs shot by Zachary Ayotte track Shraya’s gradual rise, as a trans woman of colour, to acclaim—and the cost of that rise. The exhibit is part of the 2021 Capture Photography Festival Selected Exhibition Program.

From the first image, Lovesick Clown, where a forlorn Shraya plays her guitar onstage, her makeup and hair become more and more chaotic and outrageous, until we see her in full sad-clown face, miming her pain, with a sea of red-pink roses, thrown by an unseen audience, at her feet. 

“If you could see all these people literally throwing flowers at me!” the affable artist says with a laugh over the phone from her home in Calgary, where she is an assistant professor of creative writing. “Surprisingly it was a lot of fun to do—because I don’t understand what the parameters are for visual art. I don’t know what Heather’s Pick is for visual art. 

“A lot of my brand is tied to how I look, and there’s pressure to present a high femme persona,” Shraya adds. “This is the opposite: something that’s not invested in being pretty. Part of me was playing a character I don’t get to play, and playing that character in a hyperbolic way.”

As fun as it may have been to shoot, the photo series had far more serious inspiration. It came to Shraya as she was touring and performing readings during the wave of success that met her 2018 nonfiction book I’m Afraid of Men—a story of how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy, drove the bullying she received for being queer and nonwhite as a teen, and continues to haunt her as a woman. 

“It wasn’t an easy book to write,” she says of the national bestseller. “It was traumatic, in a way, to go back to those experiences. I found myself tracking how much trauma I was showing in my work and how it was being received. And I saw that the more trauma I exposed publicly, the more there seemed to be support, not just on the audience level but institutional level.”

It was around that time that she casually half-joked in conversation with a friend over the phone that she was becoming a “trauma clown”. 

And so the self-portrait project began to take shape, working with collaborator Ayotte and makeup artist Alanna Chelmick. She knew just what outfit to pull out of her closet: L’Uomo Strano designer Mic. Carter’s high-fashion, neoprene number that happens to have a slightly clownlike frilled collar and playful shorts instead of a skirt. The costume slowly reveals its true splendour over the course of the series. The flowers became the colourfully potent symbol for the Trauma Clown’s rising popularity, growing from three in the first shot to the small mountain in the sixth.

Its approach might rely on exaggeration, but the series ties directly into Shraya’s own trajectory—from her beginnings in music, to the early artistic output alluded to in Coming Out Clown and Immigrant Clown, to her full celebration as a bestselling author. At the same time, the photos address the viewer directly, making us question our own appetite for work that reveals the oppression or suffering of others—especially marginalized others—and the way that’s been commodified.

It’s not Shraya’s first foray into photography and self portrait. “Trisha”, her acclaimed 2016 series of diptychs, mined equally personal ground, picturing Shraya dressed up to re-enact vintage photographs of her beloved mother.

Those artworks could be looked at singularly or out of order, she points out, but she prefers you see “Trauma Clown” in the chronology on the SUM walls. 

Meanwhile, in her own career, she continues to push for the freedom to write about subjects outside of her darker experiences as a trans woman.

“Marginalized artists should have the right to choose to write what they want,” she says, adding she met with resistance when she tried to shop a children’s book about raccoons. “To support diverse voices, it means we have to support what these diverse voices want to say.”

For Shraya, whose debut theatrical work, the semi-autobiographical How to Fail as a Popstar, was just published by Vancouver’s Arsenal Press, she won’t shy away from baring herself altogether anymore. But she questions herself more about it. “I ask myself, ‘Am I feeling pressure to do this?’” she says. “I’m trying to figure out, if I’m disclosing something traumatic, why I’m doing it.” 

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Five Projects to See at Vancouver’s Capture Photography Festival

Canadian Art | March 30, 2021


Public installation, Canada Line, April 2 to September 30

Each image from Zinnia Naqvi’s Yours to Discover series is a dense tapestry of meaning. Naqvi stages the immigrant dream—a washed-out, middle-class suburban bliss—and unravels it at once, illuminating the threads between nostalgia and colonization. A self-aware critic, Naqvi has a humour that gets punchier the more it is taken seriously: manicured nails and lawns, stacks of heavy-hitting titles on race, toy cop cars and Monopoly houses. Installed at the Broadway–City Hall Skytrain station, a literal cog in the facilitation of movement and economy, Yours to Discover is cheeky yet incisive, inviting us to think critically about our attachment to place. —Coco Zhou, editorial resident


Centre A, continues to May 29

“There are more important things than living.” So said Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick in April 2020, opining for an end to pandemic lockdown. Will Kwan détournes this phrase in Death Cult #1 (There are more important things than living) (2021), a black granite slab etched with Patrick’s visage and quote. In “Exclusion Acts” Kwan showcases this and other sharp reflections on pandemic, capitalism and white supremacy. Kwan is a thinker and maker who has been critiquing colonialism, racism and commercialism for 20 years; to witness him going to work again, subverting these phenomena in link to a grievous and heightened moment, feels vital. —Leah Sandals, content editor


Centre A, continues to May 29

“There are more important things than living.” So said Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick in April 2020, opining for an end to pandemic lockdown. Will Kwan détournes this phrase in Death Cult #1 (There are more important things than living) (2021), a black granite slab etched with Patrick’s visage and quote. In “Exclusion Acts” Kwan showcases this and other sharp reflections on pandemic, capitalism and white supremacy. Kwan is a thinker and maker who has been critiquing colonialism, racism and commercialism for 20 years; to witness him going to work again, subverting these phenomena in link to a grievous and heightened moment, feels vital. —Leah Sandals, content editor


SUM Gallery, April 1 to July 1
Artist’s talk, April 3, via Zoom

Multidisciplinary artist Vivek Shraya merges tragedy and humour seamlessly into her playful yet compelling photo exhibition “Trauma Clown.” The artist poses as said “trauma clown,” accentuating the contentious desire by audiences to consume her pain as her success grows. Shraya performs her trauma in order to keep up with the insatiable demand for her anguish, which presents a dynamic and powerful message in her solo exhibition. —Adrienne Huard, editor-at-large


Art Gallery at Evergreen, February 13 to April 25

The clarity of Erika DeFreitas’s gestures and objects in the photo frame, ever in acts of searching, is a slow-burn kind of magic. These sharp edges of fragments—whether of performance, writing, still-lifes or research processes—can appear like collages or mise-en-scènes of unanswered questions. Sometimes the search is for who and what is lost from canonical art histories, or about relations marked by hands and bodies. In “close magic” many of the works drawn from the past five years also feature DeFreitas’s mother and show the two together, giving spatial form to quietly monumental intimacies. —Joy Xiang, assistant editor

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