Vanessa Compton’s solo exhibition “Grandmother” explores stages of life, the passing of time, aging, and elderhood. Devoted to both of her grandmothers, artists in their own right, Compton draws inspirations of color and technique from being close to their work throughout her life.
Her paternal grandmother Kay Brown was a professional artist all her life, working across a variety of media including pastel, watercolor, acrylic, oil and ink, moving to collage in the last 20 years of her life. Her maternal grandmother Agathe Labrosse Bissonnette has been a painter all her life – though they were separated by language and borders, her Quebecois grandmother set roots for what would become Compton’s studio practice.
Sourced images of cowboys, cacti, craggy rock formations and other iterations of the western visual vernacular feature heavily in Compton’s mixed media collages. These oft-romanticized icons of Americana can reflect a darker side of our nation’s past and its reverberations into the present. Considering the ways in which Compton’s personal story is informed by a historical narrative of settler-colonialism, institutionalized racism and normalized toxic masculinity, her collages address themes of social justice through the lenses of her own gender identity, whiteness, and implicit personal privilege.
Central to much of her work are themes of borders, storytelling, and time. Drawn to depictions of twilight throughout several pieces in this show, ruminating on the border of day and night. In the crepuscular moments, there is potential for beauty of the nocturnal world that can also reflect change, loss, transformation, death and other shadows. From tragedies in her family, moments of change have grown. In the liminal space between day and night, tragedy and growth, there can be hope.