Rose, Dear - (2016) 

Northeast of Banff are the rugged plateaus of the Canadian Badlands of Alberta. Deemed unsuitable for agriculture due to its moon-like topography, this rich geological area was a coalmining site during the early twentieth century. In the interior of these Badlands is the almost-deserted hamlet of Wayne, and at its centre, the Rosedeer Hotel. Still functioning today as a hotel, the Rosedeer is a signifier of a community abandoned by industry. With numerous ghost sightings reported, the hotel is rumoured to be haunted; the third floor of the Rosedeer is now sealed off and its windows painted black– a frail effort to enclose unruly female spirits.

As a gesture to these spirits of the third floor, Nicole Kelly Westman alters the name of the Rosedeer hotel, to Rose, Dear. This splitting of language is mirrored in the exhibition space, with the gallery lobby divided in two. The first half of the gallery is lighter and displays a chromogenic photograph in its original rose-gold frame, on loan from the hotel lobby. The other half is darkened, its windows aglow in streetlamp sodium-vapour orange. In the immersive, darkened half of the gallery, is a cucoloris—a device used to shape shadow and light over subjects, commonly used to create intrigue on the faces and bodies of actresses during the film noir period—encased in a lightbox. However, Westman’s cucoloris is inverted; instead of casting shadow on its subjects, it becomes the subject of the work itself. Inscribed in the corner of the re-photographed apparatus is a text that reads, “it smells of sage out here, like an old friend,” perhaps a nod to the wild prairie sage that grows around Wayne.

Westman’s film Rose, Dear (2016) is a series of short vignettes that are rendered through analogue techniques such as Super8 film, illustrated animation and slide-film, alongside digital footage. Westman’s particular type of image-making is non-linear; each scene is disrupted by folding, flattening, interruptions of the image plane. The clips are stretched and pulled as they traverse an unknown interior. The Super8 captures an orangey dawn glow; a hidden figure delicately uproots cacti, creating a sinister tableau vivant; words melt, but just long enough to read the double entendre, “I’ll hang in the guest room”; and female apparitions cross the landscape, leaving the image frame as swiftly as they entered. The restlessness of this film speaks to a story not yet revealed, where the landscape becomes character, not just setting. The character’s identities and purpose are largely concealed, yet the urgency in their stride and the great effort to cloak parts of the image allude to a truth just beyond the frame.

EXHIBITION COMISSIONED BY:  Walter Phillips Gallery
CO-CURATED BY: Peta Rake & Katarina Veljovic
Februrary, 2016

ROSE DEAR (16:16) - VIMEO LINK

REVIEWS:
Women Extracting Ghosts: Mining Place and Time in Nicole Kelly Westman’s ROSE, DEAR for Luma Quarterly by Ginger Carlson

Nicole Kelly Westman, "Rose, Dear," - Review - for Galleries West by Maeve Hanna

Westman’s art spotlights ghost town for the Red Deer Advocate by Lana Michelin