Painter Tammy Salzl’s watercolour portraits attempt to depict the inner life of her subjects. They are displayed in the joint-exhibit Unfamiliar Selves at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Farmyards take on human proportions in Red Deer museum exhibit

Artists Jude Griebel and Tammy Salzl create psychological portraits

Having grown up around farm animals, Jude Griebel admits he often feels conflicted about eating them.

There’s a “careful consciousness” that comes with raising something in a compassionate way and then killing and consuming it, says the artist, who divides his time between his home in Bergen, south of Sundre, and his studio in New York City.

That nebulous sensibility has inspired several large sculptures by Griebel, which can be seen in Unfamiliar Selves, a joint exhibit of works by Griebel and painter Tammy Salzl at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery.

A farmyard takes on human proportions in Griebels’ papier mache and resin sculpture Feeder.

The life-size piece — purposely reminiscent of Goya’s painting of Saturn devouring his son — shows a person-shaped landscape lifting a cow with one turf-covered arm. The animal is being held above a gaping “mouth,” represented as an open door in a barn-shaped head.

Griebel hopes to stir viewers thoughts towards the food cycle — about how resources, such as the sun and rain shown suspended above the sculpture, are spent in raising these animals that become food sources themselves, absorbed into our bodies as well as the earth.

Central Alberta artist shows in Edmonton

All the Animals I’ve Eaten is a three-dimensional self-portrait Griebel created with hundred of animal bones that the artist sterilized after meals.

“It’s a self-deprecating piece about consumption,” says the artist, who considers his art to be more self-critical than a political statement.

While he encourages psychological interpretations of his works, Griebel also feels there’s a black humour to them: Accident Mouth portrays Old Man Winter as a snowy tunnel whose icy breath has caused a vehicle collision.

Griebel said this can be seen as depicting social anxiety and the fear of a misspoken word leading to disaster.

The sculptor, who’s represented by galleries in Paris and in Germany, obtained a master’s degree in visual art from Concordia University in Montreal in 2014.

He’s co-exhibiting in Red Deer along with his former classmate, painter Tammy Salzl. It’s their fourth time showing together, as their artworks share common psychological themes.

Salzl’s watercolour portraits of friends and family members are rendered in a limited colour range of reds and blues. They seek to explore what’s beneath the surface, as well as physical likenesses.

”They are about the landscape of their inner selves,” said the painter.

Although Salzl has exaggerated some of her subjects’ features, she wants to capture the truth — exemplified by the stretchmarks shown on her nude self-portrait, Entartete Kunst (“Degenerate Art,” which is what the Nazis called modern art.)

“It’s a figure of a middle-aged woman,” bearing marks of child-birth.

Through her positioning, she shows metaphoric traces of the societal limitations many women still feel constrained by, said Salzl, who travels between Edmonton and Montreal, where her daughter still lives.

Her painted figures are usually floating on white backdrops, emphasizing their isolation in a society that connects digitally, but not so much personally, said Salzl.

She hopes her images enter the eye of viewers and then “sink to their gut, soaring up to their mind to fester over time, like a beautiful parasite.”

Unfamiliar Selves is showing until Sept. 29.

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Jude Griebel with his papier-mache sculpture Accident Mouth, part of the Unfamiliar Selves exhibit at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

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