Arts·Video

Fences have become a bit of an obsession for artist Melanie Colosimo — at least, taking them down

The Halifax artist notices fences popping up all around her city, and it's prompted her to question them — by making them flimsy in her art.

'They're supposed to be protecting us or keeping something out. But my fences aren't doing that at all'

(CBC Arts)

If you're from Atlantic Canada or have ever spent time in the region, you're probably familiar with the problem of "outmigration" that exists here. We've all had loved ones move away to find work elsewhere, in search of a more prosperous future. Halifax-based artist Melanie Colosimo has been thinking about this and addressing it in her work for some time now.

She says, "I'm from the east coast of Canada. I've spent my entire life here, and I've just been inspired by this place and how it's so hardworking and resourceful — how all of our communities are constantly struggling to keep an economy growing and keeping an industry here to keep their communities together. But I'm also inspired by how they keep going, after those kind of things pack up and go."

When developing a project, Colosimo selects a material or materials that best translates the concept. She describes her process as "working in chapters." And recently, her work focuses mainly on fences, transmission towers and other construction materials. She says she's interested in exploring the links and breaks in a community — communication, power structures, what keeps us together but also what keeps us apart.

Watch the video:

Melanie Colosimo is making her art about fences. Like, literal fences. Filmmaker: Matthew Brown 3:27

In this video made by Matthew Brown with the help of Zöe Boyd, you'll see Colosimo at work on her series Fences, that started as a way to address a moment in her life where she was in a state of transition and trying to overcome personal barriers. She says the creation of the work was a way to interrogate her identity as a female artist and cultural worker. The works are representations of chain link fences made out of chalk or graphite on paper. Colosimo cuts out sections to create illusions of space, presence and safety.

(CBC Arts)

She says, "By creating them out of paper and something that is so weak—I'm robbing them of their original power and original intent, and mocking them. They are supposed to be protecting us or keeping something out, but my fences aren't doing that at all."

Colosimo says that for her the fences represent gender inequality, but she hopes that the work transcends that personal story and allows the viewer to bring their own lived experience to it.

Follow Melanie Colosimo here.

(Melanie Colosimo)

About the Author

Matthew Brown is a filmmaker based in New Brunswick. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts from the University of New Brunswick, he studied photography at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. He is the creator and producer of Studio Tour, a Bell TV1 show that profiled Atlantic Canadian artists and that aired for four seasons in Atlantic Canada.