Fiona Kinsella, (cake) breath, 2007. Royal icing, rib cage, hair of a boy, flowers, tendons, claws, glass eye, wisdom, bleach, water, lamb skin, pearls, meadow, redpath, and fondant icing, 14 x 13 x 13 in.

Fiona Kinsella

Hamilton, Ontario

Art Gallery of Hamilton

Like an unfolding origami crane, Fiona Kinsella’s work reveals itself in layers. Her exhibition “Cake” challenged viewers to “think beyond surfaces” and to cross the “gray line of how people perceive beauty.” Kinsella’s “cakes” seem like sweet confections. Closer inspection, however, reveals precisely positioned and unsettling decorations such as a fox’s jaw; human and animal teeth, skin, and hair/fur; bison bones; and antique cutlery, as well as curiosities from Kinsella’s travels. The energy of the cake sculptures is found in their push-pull of attraction/repulsion, created by juxtapositions of clean/unclean, raw/refined, and bodily detritus/ethereal spirituality. Here, the Edward Gorey-ish ambiance was aided by black walls, ornate black pedestals, and focused lighting that brought the physical and emotional textures of each cake into stark relief.

The evolution of the body through its life cycle—its remnants and what remains after death—plays a major thematic role in Kinsella’s work. In (cake) breath (2007), parts of a rib cage jut sharply above a tiny field of icing flowers to remind the viewer of mortality and physical vulnerability. Found materials such as hair, tendons, a glass eye, lamb skin, and pearls encourage interpretation on multiple levels. “Objects tell me what to do with the piece,” Kinsella says, “I do not set out to create something upsetting. [An interpretation] is more about the person looking at it.”…see the entire review in the print version of September’s magazine.