The Southern Alberta Art Gallery Maansiksikaitsitapiitsinikssin

Don’t Dream It, Be It

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11 MAY 2024 – 22 JUNE 2024

Harley Morman’s inspirationally titled Don’t Dream It, Be It looks to fun and campy childhood material culture that, combined with self-portraits of the artist, signifies how identity and gender are constituted over time. Within the schoolhouse atmosphere of the Upper Gallery, Morman combines a series of lenticular self-portraits and “stickers”, assemblages of small toys and erasers, gaffer tape gym lines on the hardwood floor, a sculpture of a climbing rope, and Perler bead self-portraits in various sporting poses. Morman’s material choices are deliberately nostalgic, making the gallery feel something like a junior high school gym. References to the gym and the theatre stage meld together, as the games and sports of childhood are places where gender becomes a learned performance.

Along the longest wall of the gallery, a series of lenticular self-portraits of Morman flicker between an adolescent past and an adult in the near present. Lenticular prints are created from clear plastic with embossed lenses that refract light in different directions, giving the illusion of two or more separate images that appear to change or move when viewed from different angles. Think: images of winking eyes, a dinosaur bookmark, or your elementary school agenda cover.

Morman notes how viewers will occasionally fail to realize that the two portraits within the lenticular are actually of the same person since, in his grade school years, Morman presented as a girl. A portrait printed as a lenticular contains multiple realities without fully privileging any of them. Across all of the self-portraits, a few gaps are noticeable for years where school portraits do not exist. The typical photographic portrait, say a sixth-grade school photo, seems to present a single, authoritative document of that time. Morman’s lenticulars, confound the photo’s insistence on itself as a truthful document. The lenticular shows Morman moving between past and present versions of himself all in one moment. Identities and bodies are constantly changing so why should their depictions remain fixed?

Don’t Dream It, Be It is presented alongside the Gallery’s long-running youth exhibition Art’s Alive and Well in the Schools at a time when queer and trans youth have become targets of violence and legal scrutiny, both in Alberta and abroad. Even though Morman’s face and presence figures prominently throughout the exhibition, he suggests that the exhibition is not explicitly concerned with his transition. The portraits could have been taken of any number of people but Morman’s transition stands for just one person’s experience, hoping to normalize queer stories and experience.

Curated by Adam Whitford, Associate Curator & Exhibitions Manager

Harley Morman’s visual work takes a playful approach to considering the socioeconomic relations among artists and institutions. His ongoing artistic research scampers around the intersection of craft, photography, and public design. Morman is trans and lives with multiple sclerosis. A settler on Treaty 7, he grew up along the Minnesota River in traditional Dakota territory. After emigrating to Saskatoon in the late 90s, he studied sociology at the University of Saskatchewan and worked in communications and administration with a variety of non-profit organizations. Now based in Lethbridge, he enjoys riding his red tricycle as well as falling off it. In 2016 Morman earned an M.F.A. from the University of Lethbridge, where he is currently a PhD Candidate in Cultural, Social, and Political Thought, and a sessional instructor in Sociology. Most recently, his work has considered the potential of lenticular images to represent temporality and change; solo exhibition Let’s Do the Time Warp Again was featured in the Art Gallery of Alberta’s RBC Gallery in 2021.

We acknowledge the support of the City of Lethbridge, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. The artist acknowledges the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.


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Saturday, May 11 at 1:00 pm to
Saturday, June 22 at 12:00 am

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