Art: a shared narrative

Digitally manipulated collaged photograph image titled ‘Persons of Interest.’ | Photo courtesy of Francis Cruz

Catch a look at the faces in the time of our pandemic from the Surrey Art Gallery exhibition Facing Time (Jan. 23–Mar. 27), examining a collection of paintings, photographs, and performances based on the subject of portraiture.

“As an immigrant, my work as an artist has always dealt with my experience assimilating and trying to fit in – the struggles and paradoxes that come with camouflaging in a society that is alien,” says Patrick Cruz, who is showcasing two pieces of work in the exhibition.

One is a digitally manipulated collaged photograph image titled ‘Persons of Interest.’ of Cruz’s core bubble. The other is a performance piece.

A lived reality

Cruz says Jordan Strom, curator of the Surrey Art Gallery, approached him and asked if he could collaborate with his brother, Francis Cruz, and his girlfriend, Qian Cheng, on pieces for the exhibition.

“We realized that the invitation directly dealt with the idea of a ‘core bubble,’ and the notion became the premise of our collaboration,” says Cruz.

“The inspiration behind the performance piece Passport came from a shared experience of the difficulties of being interrogated at the airport,” says Francis Cruz.

The piece deals with racial profiling and the technologies used to identify faces. As it turns out, much facial recognition software often mistakes people of color due to skin tones and non-European features.

“It was an interesting concept to wrestle with and definitely a lived reality for me and others who have been flagged in spaces like the airport,” reflects Cruz.

Francis also agrees as he shares that these experiences have led him to prepare extensively to act accordingly before traveling.

“The idea of preparation in order to adjust and convey an appearance of non-threatening has been so normalized in my preparation,” says Francis.

The performance Passport aims to unpack the abstractions and errors that happen when one tries to appear normal.

The people behind the art

Cruz has lived in Canada for almost 15 years and says there still seems to be a disconnect at times.

“This feeling is a source of inspiration for my art practice,” says Cruz.

Francis, a musician and hairstylist, is also inspired by his lived experiences. His intention for the performance is to explore the difference.

“I am a hairstylist by trade, which allows me to witness people positioning themselves to be in a state of becoming,” explains Francis. “Usually they look and leave with a feeling of resolve, and sometimes they don’t.”

Like her collaborators, Cheng’s work also has an underlying desire toward breaking down her understanding of concepts and structures, whether it’s her emotions or the environments in which she’s situated.

“Currently, I’m working with MS:T Performative Arts, Calgary Black Empowerment Fund, and Bianca Guimarães de Manuel, where we’re dreaming up alternative ways of being together, mutual aid and resource distribution strategies,” says Cheng. “It has been a very enlightening process so far, and I’m excited to see what comes from it.”

Cruz is pleased to be working on the same project, as he’s never collaborated with his brother and girlfriend at the same time.

“There are a lot of interesting connections in terms of lived experiences as a person of color, as an artist, and as a Canadian,” says Cruz. “I am definitely looking forward to the performance on Jan. 30, and it will be streamed live via the Instagram page of the Surrey Art Gallery.”

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