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‘She Wrote’ | Avery Steel + Melanie Winter + Cassandrea Xavier

She wrote. She wrote because she had suffered. She wrote because she knew others, like her, had also suffered. She wrote because they told her not to. She wrote because she could.
She Wrote presents works by artists Avery Steel, Melanie Winter, and Cassandrea Xavier. The show explores female identity and personal narratives related to trauma. The act and process of making is emphasized as a therapeutic and cathartic response to violence by engaging with the artist’s subjective narrative as a way of healing, communicating, and reclaiming their stories. Women are silenced and encouraged to be strong throughout lapses of pain and adversity. These artists have chosen to speak out and bare themselves as an act of empowerment. She Wrote becomes a form of resistance in which the subjective narratives of each individual collide to communicate their ability to grow, heal, and overcome conflict.
The exhibition includes the photographic projects I Speak Because I Can by Avery Steel, Untitled Performances by Melanie Winter and text-based works Plush and Thick by Cassandrea Xavier. These works invite the viewer to hear about and participate in stories that are often reduced to a simple account of victimhood. All three projects delineate from the problematic label of “victim” that is often used to pathologize individuals. Instead, the work functions as a form of opposition where each project approaches and contests an aspect of their social lives that work to marginalize individuals and collectives that do not fit hegemonic ideologies. The works invite the viewer to be an active participant in the re-reading and understanding of the artist’s subjectivity, and resists the meta-narratives that are silencing and alienating. She Wrote becomes a space that occupies multiple simultaneous perspectives and uses the gallery as a tool to disseminate new knowledge and ideas pertaining to feminine identity. It becomes a space where women can feel heard, welcomed, and safe.
Avery Steel is a 22 year old Toronto-based image artist working in a hybrid region exploring the relationship between performance and photography. Avery began her artistic practice as a performer first, dancing, singing and acting on stage for years before the camera wasintroduced as a medium. In her process, the camera is used as a tool to document self-choreographed performance pieces in which the body and the surrounding physical environment is used to convey representations of a past-self. Considering themes of sexuality, gender, mental health, trauma, and control, Avery uses performance and surrealism to create imagined spaces in her photography with the intention of subverting notions of familiarity and thus introducing the presence of the uncanny. Through subverting expectations and the honest use of an autobiographical narrative as a conceptual framework, Avery’s work enables audiences to understand that while emanating from experience, the personal and the political are aligned.
Cassandrea Xavier is a 22 year old imagistic artist, whose practice often revolves around the dynamic relationship of text paired with visual images. After some brief studying under Ryerson University’s Image Arts program, Xavier has begun to navigate away from the literal image and is currently exploring the written language and how to persuade a mental image through this. Prior to this artistry, Xavier’s photographic work dealt with discussions
of ephemera and memory within nature’s existence; since creating her most recent body of work present in this gallery, Xavier has decided to make a pause and/or cleanse, inspired by icons like Duchamps, from a life which the visual is consumed and critiqued.
Melanie Winter is an image artist working in a hybrid region of performance and photography. The photographic medium is used to document the ephemerality of performance art, and the body is an integral aspect of the process of making. The images that result from this practice are process-based and focus on notions of performedfemininity, problematizing ideas suggested by a heteronormative imaginary. The process of making with other women suggests the role of art as a collaborative process. The camera is used as a medium to represent the past self, and is considered a therapeutic aid that promotes self-actualizing behaviour.