Meryl McMaster, There Once Was A Song — Stéphanie Hornstein

[Fall 2021]

Occurrence, espace d’art et d’essai
McCord Museum, Montreal
April 2 — August 15, 2021

By Stéphanie Hornstein

Starlings have pride of place in Meryl McMaster’s heart. In 2013, she produced a photographic triptych, Murmur, that shows a young woman, the artist herself, gently twirling within a swarm of paper starlings. Grounded in McMaster’s resolve to build bridges between her nêhiyaw (Plains Cree) and European heritages, the piece evokes the challenge of locating individual experience within collective identity.

Anyone who has seen a murmuration of starling understands the beauty and cacophony of this wondrous phenomenon. Now, with her exhibition There Once Was A Song, McMaster returns to the murmuration to think through humanity’s paradoxical relationship with the natural world.

Upon entering the show, the visitor is met with forest sounds: a river flows, leaves rustle, and, periodically, a crow’s piercing cry resonates in the gallery. Created during a residency at the McCord Museum, the works in this exhibition engage with objects from the institution’s collection: three nineteenth­-century display cases full of taxidermied birds. One of these astonishing items, mounted in a faux­-bamboo frame that bespeaks the Orientalist tastes of the period, contains no fewer than thirty specimens. This particular case is a fire screen, designed to deflect the heat of a parlour fireplace, but the two other objects are bell jars, and this rounded form provides a key for the rest of the exhibition…

See the magazine for the complete article and more images: Ciel variable 118 – EXHIBITING PHOTOGRAPHY