The Returning the Gaze exhibit on display at Humber L Space Gallery explores gender identity and gender inequality through an examination of how people of South Asian descent are portrayed in Western media.
Thursday’s opening reception at Lakeshore campus gave Toronto artists Nimisha Bhanot and Angela Aujla an opportunity to discuss and explore the motivations behind their work.
In its climb to global popularity, social media is changing the dynamics of fame and relevancy, says Bhanot, who incorporates facets of social media into her work to highlight how first and second generation South Asians have used it to make a difference.
“I was influenced a lot by pop culture and social media, what young people are looking at and what is trending. I feel like online there are a lot of first and second generation South Asians making a community for themselves,” Bhanot said.
Her piece Talking Back with the Selfie Gaze is a portrait of social media star Sanam Sindhi taking a mirror selfie with the globe sitting in her lap.
“It was an attempt to juxtapose her influence across the globe via social media from what is a very private kind of photograph,” Bhanot said.
Humber Liberal Arts professor and emerging artist Aujla incorporated her art with 15 years experience developing courses in sociology and provokes questions about what makes up Canadian identity.
Aujla depicts a photo of her grandmother next to the Parliament buildings and various stamps and seals of borders she crossed on her way to Canada in a piece titled Becoming Canadian.
“It was attempt to show the bureaucratic aspect of coming into a new country and going through all the different borders and countries. Once you are in a new place the relation to your homeland and your new home become complicated,” Aujla said.
The work of both artists reflects their experiences and also aims to break the mold of western beauty standards with the liberation and empowerment of South Asian bodies.
“On television and in the dominant culture you’d hear and see different things about beauty than you would from your own community. We’re just reflecting back on these ideas and how it might affect what we tell our children,” Aujla said.
These Toronto artists hope to reverse the looking glass of western culture so we all may re-examine what really defines us as opposed to ‘who’ is defining us. And for some audience members and artists, Dilani Bala and Ramaya Ranjha this work has made an impact.
“This idea of identity is something we are trying to navigate ourselves as South Asian artists and to see these women use social media to create a space for themselves is really inspiring,” Ranjha said.
“We’ve found it’s also really important to create a physical space for the art because on social media it’s so easy to scroll through information without getting what the artist really wants to express. So it’s been great to see it here,” Bala said.
Returning the Gaze can be viewed until Oct 28 in the L Space Gallery at Humber Lakeshore campus.