Portrait of the Viewer as Artist, 2012
Untitled, William Alexander Cuthbertson watercolour,
and Studies for Beauty and the Beast, 2005, Nichola Feldman-Kiss, 2 SX70 polaroid images
Installation at the Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto
Portrait of the Viewer as Artist
In addition to its autobiographical roots, much of Dean’s art engages the viewer in ways that allows for artist and viewers’ identities to merge or become interchangeable with one another, as witnessed in Be Me.
Portrait of the Viewer as Artist is yet another example and its title implies the complexity of this two-way relationship as well as a radical potential for the interchangeability of subject and object. “the Viewer” alludes to both the visitor as Viewer and the Artist as Viewer and likewise the Viewer as Artist. The installation consists of a multitude of objects arranged in front of a walled mirror, giving an overall kaleidoscopic effect with the rectos and versos of the objects being reflected and intersecting with the mirror images of other objects and the viewer.
Select objects have appeared in portraits in Western art from the Renaissance on as symbols of social standing and personal history. The objects in Portrait of the Viewer as Artist range from toy trucks to wrenches, buckets, letters, and, significantly, his mother’s memorabilia and photographs of her and his father and Dean’s life from childhood up. Some are installed in precarious relationships to one another, such as a wrench clamping down firmly on a glass shelf, suggesting that the associations we have with objects are not always nostalgic. As banal as these objects may appear, they evoke an aura of mystery. By virtue of their manner of display we, the viewers, intuit that behind each object lies a wealth of rich personal narrative. Followers of Dean’s art will recognise many of these objects as appearing in other of his artworks – a ladder, a bucket, a toy truck, hand silhouettes, and the wooden chair among them.