Exploring multiple selves: Montreal artist explores her psyche

Marigold Santos likes the idea of a multiple self.

The Montreal-based artist has a new exhibition at the ODD Gallery in Dawson City, which runs from October 3 to November 1. The four large-scale mixed media drawings on canvas feature imagery of body fragmentation arising from foundations of movement, migration, and change within a physical and social landscape.

In particular, Santos, who moved to Canada from the Philippines at a young age, is fascinated with the asuang, a Filipino folklore character that is included in all of her work.

“An asuang is a being that is creative with multiple selves, a type of hybrid of a vampire and a witch,” she explains.

The asuang normally takes the shape of a woman with long, black hair who severs herself during the night. While her lower half stays put, the upper half flies around, eats people and creates havoc. She must reattach herself by morning or she will remain fragmented forever.

“This embodies what I’m talking about,” says Santos. “I take it and make it my own. I like to explore what we are severing ourselves from or attaching ourselves too.”

She is quick to add that even though she incorporates severed limbs into her art, she does not consider her work violent.

“It’s a conscious decision, a conceptual act,” she says. “I’m not trying to scare anyone.”

Other common threads throughout her work include the landscapes of her youth in Alberta, the idea of home and surroundings, the psychic landscape and the sense of identity that comes with migration.

Santos says her art is an outlet to express her experience. Much of her work comes from looking back on her memories and introducing them in her current environment.

“Remembering is really forgetting and making up fiction,” she says. “It’s organic – the memory changes with every telling.”

She says she is inventing a personal myth by borrowing from memories and re-configuring them.

All four drawings at the ODD Gallery were made especially for this exhibition. The average size of each canvas is 8-feet by 14-feet. Santos needed a ladder to create the works, which she completed in less than eight months.

“I was constantly up and down that ladder getting lots of exercise,” says Santos. “When you’re working with big drawings you really need to be up close – it’s a special relationship,” she says.

Santos encourages ambiguity in her art. She wants people to move in and out of each creation and bring their own narrative to her work.

“They don’t have to get my message or my work,” she says. “They just have to be open to experience it in their own way.”

Marigold Santos’s exhibition, called Unearthly, Uprising, will be at the ODD Gallery in Dawson City from Oct. 3 to Nov. 1. The ODD Gallery is located on the corner of Princess Street and Second Avenue. For more information go to www.kiac.ca/ODDGallery.

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