Before interviewing Vivek Shraya, one of this year’s participants in our Pride exhibition That So Gay: Come Together and the 10×10 Photography Show, I was already familiar with her work. The artists photo essay “Trisha” had already exploded on the Internet, quickly circling through my Newsfeed after receiving media coverage from The Huffington Post, CBC, Dazed Digital, The Globe & Mail, Buzzfeed and more. Now, Trisha is exhibiting for the first time at the Gladstone Hotel from June 9-August 17 (with the opening on June 30 from 7-10pm. RSVP on the Facebook event.) We interviewed the acclaimed multi-media artist to ask a few questions about Trisha and Shraya’s participation in Toronto’s Pride.
In Trisha, Shraya recreates old photos of her mother with herself as the subject–best described in the artist’s essay to accompany the powerful photos:
I use art to challenge and resist dominant narratives, as a form of healing and as a means to connect with others. I also use art to give my life a sense of purpose.
Along with having work in TSG, tell us about your participation in Pride Toronto this year and what you’re looking forward to this month.
Alongside TSG, I am thrilled to also be part of the 10×10 exhibit at the Gladstone with fellow artist and friend Karen Campos Castillo (as Heartbeats). I also have a music show on the TD Village stage with my brother – we are a duo called Too Attached – on July 2. I am looking forward to spending a lot of time with close friends and chosen family.
What are some reactions and insights you hope people might have after seeing Trisha?
Do you have a favourite photo from the series?
My favourite photo from the series might be the one where I am wearing the pink sari and squeezing Elmo. I love the juxtaposition of trying to capture my moms serious gaze while squeezing a stuffed monster. I also love the addition of the other contemporary elements in the background, like the Mariah Carey cassette. The photo is bizarre and yet balanced.
Did you gain a new understanding of your relationship to your mother or yourself after Trisha?
The intention of the project was to honour and recapture my mother. But when I saw the photos for the first time, I seemed to only notice our differences and this was disappointing. As time passed, I think this might be the true gift of the project. I am my mother’s child in many ways but I am also not and our differences are just as important as our similarities.
Vivek Shraya is a 2016 Pride Toronto Grand Marshal, a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist, a 2015 Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award finalist, and a 2015 recipient of the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Dayne Ogilvie Prize Honour of Distinction. Vivek’s first children’s picture book, The Boy & the Bindi, will be published by Arsenal Pulp Press in 2016. Her book on recording artist M.I.A. will be published in 2017 by ECW Press, as part of their Pop Classics series.
RSVP to the opening of TSG: Come Together and the 10×10 Photography Show on June 30.
Facebook event here and follow along by using the hashtag #TSG16