Grant Cole: The Parade of Life
January 20, 2018 - April 22, 2018
Opening and artist talk: Sunday, February 11th, 1-3pm
Oshawa based artist, Grant Cole is drawn to the formality of everyday life depicted in the Thomas Bouckley Collection of historical photographs. The Bouckley Collection is a visual history of Oshawa that focuses on significant events, people and place. While Cole’s work typically explores his own personal successes and failures, his subjects in his latest work, inspired by the collection, are depicted with what identifies their success, whether an object, uniform, skill, or profession. While the purpose of photography at the turn of the 20th century was for documentation purposes, to Cole’s modern lens, the subjects chose how they wanted to be portrayed and remembered, whether through fashion, poses, or objects. These things are then presented in reduced detail and finished in a high gloss, which highlights their perceived importance.
The work, XXX simply depicts a gold carriage. The carriage is meaningful in Cole’s work for various reasons: it symbolizes order and wealth, and it was, as he notes, “a path to enlightenment for Oshawa.” For the city, carriages have a long and important history. In its heyday, Oshawa’s McLaughlin Carriage Company was the largest carriage manufacturer in the British Empire. The industry helped put Oshawa on the map, and Cole believes it was a “means for Oshawa to understand itself.” The carriage, therefore, is an emblem for the city’s success.
Cole does not want to be perceived as criticizing the idea of purposely presenting one’s self in a particular way. Despite the falseness and at times exhausting effort involved with how we want to be perceived, there are many things we highlight about ourselves worth “parading”: accomplishments, successes, skills, interests, etc. The things we put on parade about ourselves is a way of proclaiming our identity and place. As Cole says, “as long as your successes are real, flaunt them!” As an artist presenting artworks in an exhibition, Cole is himself claiming his own identity and place in Oshawa.