"TAKING PLACE": Toronto artist Sandra Brewster tackles media images

25 Sep 2005

What is the Black Community? Is it a monolithic set of people of African descent? Or is it a grouping of individuals who happen to be racially and culturally-related?  

Should it even be called a “community” or should we instead speak of “communities” given our diverse backgrounds, languages and affiliations?

. From Sandra Brewster''s "Taking Place"

Sandra Brewster is a Toronto-based artist who has been creating magnificent works of art for more than 10 years. She is a graduate of York University’s Fine Arts program. Her work has been showcased in many shows including the Hero Project (with Camille Turner and Grace Channer), and the Black History month exhibit at City Hall in 2002 that also included other major players of the Toronto arts scene such as Robert Small, Ato Seitu and Natalie Wood. 

Her current exhibition “Taking Place” is now at the XEXE Gallery. It challenges the media’s concept of a monolithic “Black Community”. It is a combination of drawings, paintings on wood, abstract and vivid facial representations.

At the opening reception on Saturday, a nervous but content Brewster talked about the genesis of the work.

“I started a series called Smiths, paintings on baseboards and on regular pieces of wood of afro-headed features with faces replaced with the Smith section of the phonebook. I chose Smith because it’s the most common name in the book. So it’s like we’re as common as the common name in the book, almost invisible. Not really considered. With this series, I started incorporating these charcoal renderings of people’s faces that are representational. And I attempted to create a dialogue between these real people and these imaginary types of people in there.”

Sandra Brewster - Image courtesy of artnet.com

The work showcases many types of facial representations, age groups as well as males and females. “I wanted to show all aspects of the community,” Brewster says.

The rising individual that seems to leap out of the crowd of Smiths in most of the “Taking Place” pieces can also be viewed as an image of communities within the community, Brewster recognizes; a proper representation of the diversity of African-Canadians. What does she hope can be taken away from the work?

“I hope they can take away what they see in it. A friend of mine started talking about the history of the Smiths, how they came to North America. Another friend of mine was talking about the book The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and how it relates to the work.”

What’s next for Sandra Brewster?

“I am looking forward to going back to painting. I did a series called Cool Pose, large images of faces some of them taken from masks. I liked working on wood and I’d like to experiment with it more, but I would also like to go back to painting and doing all sorts of things.”

Sandra Brewster’s exhibition “Taking Place” is at the XEXE Gallery (624 Richmond Street West) until October 22nd, 2005. The Gallery opens Tue-Sat 12-6 pm and 1-4 pm on Sundays. For more information call 416.646.2706

For more on Sandra Brewster visit www.sandrabrewster.com

Eloi Minka is one of the founders of AfroToronto.com.