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Canadian Artist of the Week
LOOK AT THIS: Woollen Skeletons And Other Macabre Creations From Lethbridge’s Shanell Papp
August 29, 2014
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The Hunting Party
1/13 OPEN GALLERY

LOOK AT THIS is a weekly series featuring the work of Canadian artists, designers and creators of all sorts.

Name: Shanell Papp

Born: Lethbridge, Alberta in 1980

Lives and works: Lethbridge, where Papp makes art, teaches at the University of Lethbridge, curates for the public library and does occasional commissioned illustration work for the city.

Her art: Many of Shanell Papp's pieces combine two very different loves: knitting and the macabre. The knitting, she's been doing since she was a young girl borrowing materials from her grandmother's flea market ("I probably made two afghans a year from the time I was 12 to 19," Papp told Strombo.com). The interest in the macabre is about as old. "I grew up down the street from a large graveyard," Papp said. "I also partially blame my family and my upbringing for my macabre interests. My family lived on a farm for a time and I was taught to care for and kill animals.... My aunt and my older sister cleaned hospitals. My brother has worked as a hospice worker. It seems that death was always present." Another thing that a lot of her art has in common: it takes a lot of work. "I use labour intensive and time consuming techniques to prolong the process stage of making artwork. I like to spend time with my work."

On hunting: The three, somewhat grisly figures on the left of the image above are part of a piece called The Hunting Party, which Papp describes as "a portrait studio scene of a family posing for a photograph with their kills." And what, exactly, did they kill? "I think they are hunting creatures that are like themselves, but somehow, the hunted creatures are viewed as being monstrous or lower forms of life. They justify what they do any way they can, and as a group they make each other feel better about killing (e.g. 'We are all doing it, so it must be right!')."

On horror flicks: Unsurprisingly for someone with a serious thing for the macabre, Papp is a big fan of horror film. She told Strombo.com she grew up with movies like Nightmare on Elm Street and The Shining (one of the images in the gallery compares the Banff Centre to that Kubrick film's Overlook Hotel). More recent favourites include Maniac, Possession and The Road. Papp added she's not a fan of "gore porn" like Hostel and Saw or what she called "cheesy predictable stuff" like Paranormal Activity and Scream.

Another Canadian artist she admires: "If I can only pick one I will pick Steven Shearer," whose work ranges from painting and collage to photography and installation (one 2005 show in Vancouver included a steel garden shed with a guitar PA system playing a heavy metal solo inside).

You can see more of Papp's work on her website, and follow her research interests on her Tumblr.

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