Montréal artist explores motherhood and Québécois culture

Using a combination of video installation and performance, Myriam Jacob-Allard explores motherhood with an interdisciplinary approach. Jacob-Allard, an artist from Montréal who is currently in residence at Struts Gallery, works with music in connection to familial relations.

Jacob-Allard’s most recent works attempt to deconstruct conventional notions of motherhood. By embracing the appearances of Québécois country musicians, she explores the strong relation of music to her grandmother and mother.

“[The Québécois country music scene] is a culture that has been represented in my family. My grandmother is a big fan, so it has always been there,” Jacob-Allard said. “I really hated it until I was about 18. I always feel like I am outside of that culture, but inside in some way.”

In her work, Jacob-Allard tries to illuminate the disconnect she feels to this culture.“It is a love and hate relationship with that culture,” said Jacob-Allard, “So it is what I try to evoke.”

A dissonance characterizes Jacob-Allard’s tense relationship to the culture. “Country-western is really comforting and also a familial reference, but I also feel that there is a gap,” Jacob-Allard said. “There is a kind of melancholia, because it has been passed on through the generations.” Jacob-Allard expresses these mixed feelings in her artwork, drawing from the the different ways her grandmother and mother explain the culture to her.

In her works Soldat Lebrun: devenir et être le héros and Willie Lamonthe: devenir et être le héros, Jacob-Allard dresses as male country musicians, forcing the viewer to reconsider the boundaries of gendered identities. Her femininity still apparent and unconcealed, the adoption of male personas invites the viewer to contemplate the effect of women on society.

Through her videos and performances, Jacob-Allard tries to understand how collective culture can become personal. In doing so, she proposes that music is tied to tradition and explores music as “a vehicle of transmission.”

Jacob-Allard films herself dressing up in costume, then goes out to perform day-to-day activities. In character, she ventures out in a cowboy hat and tassels to get groceries, sing karaoke and ride a bike around Montréal.

“I am interested in the notion of [the] everyday,” Jacob-Allard said. She navigates culture to understand how these characters exist in current society, investigating the falsehoods that connect one generation to its descendents. “It is a way to create a relation through the generations,” she said.

While in Sackville, Jacob-Allard has been working on a collaborative installation. Maintaining her interest in motherhood, Jacob-Allard asks attendees at her workshop to write their mothers’ biggest flaws onto shoeboxes. She then illuminates the boxes on a wall.

Another project of hers in her capacity as Sackville’s artist-in-residence follows a similar theme. Working with volunteers, she asks them to sing songs that remind them of their mothers. “Music is a part of my vocabulary in my work. [This work] shows the relationship of mother to daughter, but distances away from country music,” Jacob-Allard said.

Jacob-Allard’s whimsical work explores motherhood in an eccentric and captivating way. Her work is on display at Struts Gallery, where she is currently working away at her new projects. Before her residency ends on Dec. 8, be sure to pop by Struts to see the light-box installation.

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