On October 13th, I attended Ghost Stories YYC Volume 3, a visually stunning art show and publication at the Ruberto Ostberg Gallery. This exhibit is inspired by folk tales, urban legends, and ghost stories and showcases the work of local artists. Read on for my full review.
The Ghost Stories YYC project has become an annual tradition for art lovers in Calgary. This year’s exhibit is the third major iteration of the project and featured 33 artists. In addition to the gallery exhibit, all the original artwork and a storybook that collects all the stories and artwork featured are for sale.
Every art piece is complemented with a written statement and a QR code that leads to a corresponding YouTube video with voiceover narration of the written text. This powerful combination of written and visual art made for a compelling experience. The art featured a variety of mediums, such as charcoal, acrylic, and digital, while the written pieces included short stories, poems, and narratives.
While all pieces in the exhibition are impressive, my top five picks are: “Drought” by Jess Richter, “Into the Dark” by Kenzie Housego and Concetta Zurzolo, “Glass Eyes” by Doras, “Edgar” by Chris Flodberg, and “A Cup of Tea to Silence the Breathing” by Patrick Moskwa.
Jess Richter’s Drought is a stunning piece of gouache art which tactfully explores themes such as colonization, power, tradition, mythology, resistance, and climate change. Richter describes a town experiencing severe drought, highlighting how people unite to safeguard their way of life and reject foreign traditions amid increasing desperation. Richter’s piece questions the motives of American tourists by displaying their disrespectful hunting habits and disruption of traditional ways of living. With its intricate detailing and clear-cut features, Richter’s artwork highlights the extremity of climate change, underlining the significance of Indigenous knowledge and traditions.
Into the Dark by Kenzie Housego and Concetta Zurzolo is a story about Mark, a curious YouTuber who buys a mysterious metal box from the dark web. Housego intricately designed the metal box with the help of Arduino, electronics, and a chatbot to produce eerie and unsettling pounding noises. The ominous noises lingered throughout the exhibit, conveying the central themes of curiosity, obsession, and consequences, allowing attendees to contemplate the ramifications of delving too deeply into the unknown.
Glass Eyes by Doras is a hauntingly beautiful piece that captures the essence of grief, solace, and danger. Grieving the loss of her sister, Aisling finds comfort in a horse with a liquid obsidian coat standing in a shallow lake. As they ride further into the water, the horse’s movements become erratic until the water consumes them both. Glass Eyes depicts the consuming nature of grief and the lengths one may go to find solace. The art, made with acrylic on panel, plays with hues of blue and orange to create a unique and otherworldly visual.
Edgar, by Chris Flodberg, is a disturbing and thought-provoking piece that delves into the themes of mental illness, self-hatred, and the search for identity. The story follows Edgar, a lonely man trapped in a ship at sea who becomes haunted by the fear of his own reflection. Flodberg’s six mixed media disfigured faces are unsettling and evoke feelings of dread, perfectly capturing Edgar’s distorted perception of himself. The narrative portrays the horrors of the human mind as Edgar becomes trapped in a reality that he cannot escape. His quest for freedom through drastic measures is a cautionary tale, highlighting the dangers of seeking acceptance and belonging in the wrong places—Flodberg’s art and storytelling work together to create a visceral and impactful experience for the viewer.
A Cup of Tea to Silence the Breathing by Patrick Moskwa tells a cautionary tale of the dangers of not getting closure after a loss. The haunting story follows a child who hears the breathing of their deceased twin from behind a closet door, leading to themes of isolation, grief, and illness. The child longs for their twin’s reassuring presence, and the recurring motif of tea amplifies their desire for connection and love. However, the tragic consequence of not getting closure becomes evident when the child’s condition worsens and their mother cares for them through tea. The breathing returns and becomes overwhelming, leading to the child’s death and the mother’s eventual joining with them. Through Moskwa’s straightforward and powerful prose, readers are reminded of the fragility of life and the importance of closure for healing and moving forward. The story leaves a poignant impression on readers and underscores the enduring bonds of family.
Ghost Stories YYC is a triumph for the Ruberto Ostberg Gallery. With 33 artists using varying methods and techniques, this exhibition is an indulgence for art lovers everywhere. Rather than relying on horror tropes, this exhibit invites us to explore our deepest fears and anxieties.
The founders, Mathieu Martel and John Ross have established themselves as creative leaders in the Calgary art scene and a driving force behind the development and promotion of local artists. This event is a touch of creative genius and arguably the best fall art event in Calgary. Open until November 4th, I highly recommend visiting.