If I had to sum up Angela McGowan in a word or two, I’d choose “joyful and unapologetic”. Her show “True Stories” is on now at the Hintonburg Public House and it is a perfect reflection of this artist’s delightfully cheeky outlook.
“True Stories” features a range of McGowan’s recent paintings, including her infinitely popular “Bad Habits” series wherein nuns cavort like schoolgirls, committing all the forbidden transgressions a convent would suppress. McGowan’s own background includes a childhood education that began in a convent, and when asked if she ever witnessed real-live nuns behaving badly she quips, “don’t wanna talk about it” and leaves it to my imagination.
Fortunately for us, the artist went straight from that convent to art school and the paintings, unlike the memories, are buoyant renditions of characters reminiscent of Pieter Bruegel’s peasants. We look in on Jesus, sitting at a diner surrounded by local artists turning Perrier into red wine. A bus stop clusters hijabs next to habits and homosexuality in a nice little slice of humanity. Everywhere, nuns smoke, drink, flirt and frolic. The settings are well rendered but leave a specific location to be inferred. The bus stop could be any bus stop, the diner, any diner. This, McGowan shares, is part of the point: for viewers to be able to imagine the pieces are any familiar location.
McGowan’s work pokes gentle fun at our foibles, but there is nothing mean-spirited in the stories these characters are telling. They are mischievous, lighthearted, caught in the act and on display for us to delight in their minutiae. It is a refreshing take on some touchy topics, and the show includes a number of works like “Early Birds” that are just gorgeous without underlying commentary, a testament to the artist’s range. There is nothing preachy in McGowan’s observations; she is simply putting them on display for our enjoyment.
“True Stories” will be at The Hintonburg Public House for the rest of the summer. I’d encourage you to go do some eavesdropping.