Good Things Come in Threes

“Three Way Mirror,” Eastern Edge Gallery’s current exhibition, shows how multiple perspectives give greater dimension to what we see.
The main gallery space. Photo By: Ksenia Korniewska.

As soon as visitors enter the gallery, they’re greeted by four rows of vinyl letters that spell out “Three Way Mirror” and the names of the artists:  “Daniel Barrow, Glenn Gear,” and “Paige Gratland.” It was a humid day when we put that vinyl up. Between the four of us staff members, we fought to peel the letters off of their white backing.

In the early days of my career, I could walk into a gallery space and not even consider the care, attention, and effort that went into an exhibition. Today it’s a different story: What type of paint did they put on the walls? What kind of nails did they use? How much did they pay the artist to show their work? These questions might seem unrelated to the work on display, but only if you are looking at it from the position of a visitor. Since I began working at a gallery, my perspective has changed. It has opened up a whole other dimension to the experience of an exhibition. It was always there, of course; I just wasn’t able to appreciate it until now.

“Three Way Mirror” plays on this theme: namely, that when we arrive somewhere, our individual experiences and positions come together. And, the inclusion of such different approaches only enhances this meeting point. The exhibition explores how, much like looking into a three way mirror, seeing from multiple perspectives can illuminate new dimensions of things and offer a richer experience of them, owing specifically to the process by which they are made. It features the work of Daniel Barrow, Glenn Gear, and Paige Gratland. It opened at Eastern Edge Artist-Run Centre on September 2nd and will close on October 15th. Before that, however, these three artists arrived in the studio space as part of our residency program. 

An artist residency provides the space, support, and funds for creative practitioners to explore their ideas and create new work. Some artists use these opportunities to build on previous projects, as is the case with “Three Way Mirror.” As Residency Coordinator, I work with visiting artists to assess their technical and conceptual needs, program community events like artist talks and workshops, and occasionally dart someone to KENT or Michael’s for supplies.

Barrow, Gear, and Gratland had previously met at an International LGBTQ+ Residency at Gibraltar Point on Toronto Island in the summer of 2018. There, they developed the idea to share their practices of queer reclamation and craft. They put together an application to exhibit at Eastern Edge. Typically, artists-in-residence don’t also have their own exhibition. However, in this situation (due to COVID, of course), we were able to offer them both an opportunity to create and also share their work. The call for exhibiting and resident artists has an annual deadline to which anyone can apply. The application process is friendly; Eastern Edge accepts both written and video submissions.

Close-up of Glenn Gear’s “Six-fold Animals,” Digital Prints, 2022. Photo By: Ksenia Korniewska.

Glenn Gear is a queer Indigenous artist and filmmaker from the province’s west coast. Inspired by Inuit and Indigenous knowledge, Gear creates animations, beadwork, traditional craftwork, and photographs that chronicle his interest in folklore, exchanges between Indigenous and settler communities, and queer histories. Currently based in Montreal, Gear’s work has been shown throughout Canada and internationally.

Paige Gratland works with craft, textiles, and film, with a focus on creating documentaries on subjects throughout North America. Weaving is a new practice for Gratland, who took up the skill in 2019 with the Richmond Weavers and Spinner Guild. Her textile work comes from her interest in colour relations, particularly the connection between colour and cultural memory. 

Based in Montreal, Daniel Barrow is a genderfluid artist and storyteller who works with paper dolls and animation. Their unique animation style is “manual”; Barrow manipulates drawings and backgrounds on overhead projectors or retro-styled computer programs. Like Gear and Gratland, Barrow’s films have been exhibited around the globe. 

They all arrived in July–bringing with them different perspectives and expertise in a variety of media–excited to have the chance to expand on their shared experience at Gibraltar Point. For the weeks they were here, they each created their own individual works that personally resonated with them and each other. Barrow was in the studio almost daily, crafting delicate paper dolls while going through hundreds of X-Acto blades. Gear created a kaleidoscope, decorated as if it was straight out of the 1990s, that fit over the lens of his digital camera. Gratland assembled a loom and produced a set of lightly coloured weavings, each with a more intricate design than before. As a staff person, I had the honour of seeing the skill and compassion that went into each piece in the exhibition and the magic created when they all came together.

Toward the end of their residency, we worked to plan the layout of their show. Barrow, Gear, and Gratland would leave St. John’s before exhibition day. Through drawings, Zoom calls, and a handful of emails, we figured out how to put each artwork in its proper place, with the appropriate hooks and the correct labels with the right sized font. It was a true team-building activity. Exhibition planning and installation can vary drastically depending on a number of factors. Still, once completed, there is a feeling of contentment that I have yet to compare.

Eastern Edge’s gallery space consists of our main and rOGUE galleries. Set in our main gallery, “Three Way Mirror” is the visual representation of collaboration through skill-sharing and object-making. This exhibition is smaller in scale. Travelling clockwise, the first work is by Gear. Nine small, white frames are installed in rows. Each frame houses an intricate, symmetrical pattern of images symbolic of life in the North: huskies, narwhals, and seals, to name a few. Gear’s black and white installation is paired nicely with Gratland’s print to the right. Fitting snuggly into two wooden bars, this large image is of a weaving titled “Grey Area “(2020). Here, Gratland explores the relationship between black and white and how combining the two through tight weaving techniques creates the illusion of a third greyish colour. 

Moving along in the space, we settle on another colour collaboration. The exhibiting artists have worked together on another set of small, white frames. The elements of Gear’s art practice and sealskin works are entwined in Gratland’s woven squares. Barrow’s glimmering beads wrap around the tufts of fur, secured with Gratland’s thread, truly tying together their theme of community work and knowledge-sharing. 

The largest piece in “Three Way Mirror is a black, white, and pastel rainbow textile work about twelve feet in length. This work by Gratland is suspended well above eye level and falls like a waterfall down over a plinth. Titled “Colourway: Pride for Introverts,” the delicate piece, although high in stature, seems to personify the experience of quiet queer pride. It offers a spectrum of tones whereby the final product is a consequence of a variety of colours coming together to form something beautiful and new that could not be achieved alone. 

Daniel Barrow’s “Equilibriste Bouquet.” Hand-dyed and cut paper dolls on screen printed mat board, 2022. Photo By: Ksenia Korniewska.

Perhaps the most intricate works in the show are Barrow’s paper-cut dolls. You have to get up close to them as each board is loaded with rainbow-washed tissue paper shapes, ranging from mermaids to toilet seats. Inspired by Victorian-era dolls, these two pieces are as striking in their visual detail as their video work. Throughout the main gallery space are three videos. A textile documentary by Gratland and an animation from Barrow are shown on TVs; the third is a kaleidoscopic projection from Gear, which acts as the final work guests come across as they arrive at the end of this open space, a playful conclusion to this harmonious exhibition.

When you visit Eastern Edge to view “Three Way Mirror,” you are invited to consider the processes that led to its completion and how the combined efforts of the staff, the visiting artists, and you as a gallery-goer reaffirm the theme of collaboration that is celebrated in the work of Barrow, Gear, and Gratland. Different perspectives might separate us, but they come together in the art and in the gallery space.

Eastern Edge, located at 72 Harbour Drive, is open to the public from Wednesday to Saturday from 12-5 PM. “Three Way Mirror” is available in the main gallery until October 15th.

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