Farther’s Fascinating Freaks at Freedom
For most of first year at the University of Guelph, Jess Bartram kept to herself, but we were all intrigued at how she had turned her dorm room into a whimsical, soft-lit caravan with sparkly scarves hanging from the ceiling and watercolours posted on the walls. Luckily, once she began joining us in my room, cuddling up on the bed to eat Tostitos and partake in wandering conversations which could start with Marxism and end with the guy we thought was cute at Burger King, she never left my life. We lived together for the next three years, in one way or another; indulged in moaning and Sex and the City viewings when we found ourselves single; yoga classes when we thought we were out of shape; and a backpacking trek through Europe, from London to Istanbul.
Since graduating and entering the quote unquote Real World not many of us are actually utilizing our education and doing what we want to be doing. For instance, I’ve spent the ensuing three years over-steaming milk at Starbucks, cursing UofT and wandering European cities by myself, only now feeling like I’m back on track towards a dream.
Jess, I’m very proud to say, is an exception.
Her show ‘Farther’s Fascinating Freaks’ opened last weekend at the Freedom Clothing Collective. Drawing from freak shows and children’s books, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and Victorian portraiture, the watercolours feature charming animals in opulent, old world dress, some of whom would be creepy if they weren’t so cute. Jess has combined her interest in fashion with her love of fauna (she was the type of kid who was happy to spend the afternoon pouring over illustrated encyclopaedias and learning all the names), and I never dreamt that the amazing characters she doodled when bored in ‘History of Greece and Rome’, who even then came with triple-decker British titles, would leap off the page and onto the gallery wall.
On the crowded opening night, little red stickers signifying ‘sold’ were popping up like pimples. The show runs until December 7th.