Artists Amy Modahl & Julia Prudhomme – It was the Apple Juice that Brought them Here

by Kristin Burns

During these few short weeks between semesters, many Master of Fine Arts students at The University of British Columbia – Okanagan are still hard at work in their studios – it seems like a never-ending semester. I was able to catch up with two amazing classmates of mine – Julia Prudhomme and Amy Modahl – to discuss their May shows in the FINA gallery on campus.

After a tour of Prudhomme’s aptly named show “tippy-toe tippy-toe i know where she go” (a mixture of photography, installation and video) we headed down to the MFA studio space, Platypus House, where we picnicked on Ho Hos and wine in what Modahl calls “Julia’s Harem.” There they teasingly told me their real reasons for coming to the Okanagan. Prudhomme was drawn from Brock University by the allure of the SunRype fruit factory. “It was the apple juice,” she says, to which Amy added, and “to sew dresses” from their fruit leather like Lady Gaga’s famous meat suit. Why not meat? Because Prudhomme is a vegetarian. Modahl informs me that it’s dry in the Okanagan, like Phoenix, but that she seems to need more moisturizer here.

Amy Modahl

Modahl’s focus has been elsewhere during her MFA program. Her “Folioscope” exhibit expresses her interest in publications; “I always thought, ‘oh, this could be a book. Or, how would this be as a book?’” Modahl found inspiration in flipbooks (or, ‘folioscopes’), and wanted to explore animating a simple image, “but bigger!” Her work is about cycles, repeating shapes and shifting narratives. She expressed to me she feels like repeating the same thing in different forms allows the extraction of something else besides the narrative: “the seed within the narrative.” Her work in “Folioscope” shows her interest in the aesthetics of colouring books (the line quality, the reproduced line breaks), particularly with Disney’s iconic “Mickey Mouse” character.

Prudhomme’s photography in her show “tippy-toe tippy-toe i know where she go” also came from a desire to do something different: “I was doing the etiquette videos and then I kind of got sick of doing things in the same sort of format… I went to the opposite end.” Her mug shots, entitled “public records” came out of found archives of women in L.A. and Australia in the early 1900s. These public records were usually only two or three sentences long, listing the charges against women who were a mixture of housewives and prostitutes, “hysteria” being a main concern. Prudhomme’s sinister looking character portrayals leave the viewers to imagine their own horrific crimes after the implied crime has already taken place.

It was this formulaic portrayal of these women, and that fact that the crimes were insinuated that left Prudhomme feeling like – in many ways – she had returned to her exploration of etiquette, as “a lot of them were smiling in the photos… and still looking pretty proper.”

Perhaps it was the horrific nature of some of the women’s crimes that led to a conversation about conjoined gummy bears, parasitic twins, old-fashioned “freak-shows” and how to spell Penicillin (which, it turns out, we were wrong about). Modahl pulled out some works by Eadweard Muybridge and Prudhomme showed us A Morning’s Work: Medical Photographs from the Burns Archive & Collection 1843-1939 (1998) by Stanley B. Burns and our discussion soon deteriorated into gasps of horror and noises of disgust and fascination.

The Ho Hos were excellent.

Prudhomme’s show “tippy-toe tippy toe i know where she go” is on now at UBCO’s FINA Gallery until May 20th. Modahl’s show “Folioscope” opens May 21st to June 2nd at the FINA Gallery.












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