In her latest exhibit, Surrey-based artist Alex Sandvoss takes aim at social-media “influencers” and the “toxic” levels of consumption they encourage.
Satirical, cartoonish images painted with oil form The Influencer, shown at Coquitlam’s Place des Arts for a month, starting on Friday, Jan. 10, along with two other collections.
Sandvoss aims to shine a light on how the “fast fashion” industry is destroying our planet.
“I have two sets of paintings in this show,” Sandvoss explained. “Half of them are screen shots of influencers off Youtube, and I anonymized them by placing Barbie’s face over their faces.”
The other works are historical paintings recast as symbols of modern worship, she added.
The Surrey-raised Sandvoss, a Semiahmoo Secondary grad, continues to live and work in the city, after she studied music at McGill University in Montreal. Upon her return to B.C. in 2015, Sandvoss began pursuing a career as a painter, not a jazz saxophonist as first planned.
“I don’t want to sound cheesy,” she said, “but painting kind of found me.”
Sandvoss’ debut exhibition, 2018’s The Faces We Pass by Every Day, showcased the people of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in detailed portraits created from photographs she took while traveling to work at a framing shop in the area. The collection attracted the attention of several Vancouver-area media outlets, and two of the paintings are now shown in a departure lounge at Vancouver International Airport.
Sandvoss says The Faces We Pass by Every Day and The Influencer are both linked.
“My two (art) shows are kind of connected in a way,” she said. “My last project was about people who become invisible because they’re ignored by society, and this project is about people who are centre of attention. And I want to explore what is it about us as society that gives these people our time and energy while marginalizing others.”
With The Influencer, Sandvoss aims to show how the modern world seems obsessed with consumerism and appearance – even if the impact to the environment is devastating.
In a statement for the collection, Sandvoss explains how Millennials have birthed a new form of online advertising on YouTube and Instagram. These “influencers” have enormous followings and celebrity-like status on social media, and “can shape their audience’s purchasing power on items from clothing and cosmetics to electronics and cars,” she writes.
“Virtual content such as photos, videos and blogs are monetized by corporations to promote products and services. For example, many videos show influencers unpacking enormous purchases of clothing, sometimes worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. This trend of encouraging consumption in these proportions is toxic. It’s unsustainable for the planet and for the human psyche.”
At Place des Arts, an opening reception for The Influencer, along with Collaborative Alchemy, by Pierre Leichner, Edward Peck and Phyllis Schwartz, and Tammy Pilon’s Happiness is a thing called…, will be held on Jan. 10 from 7 to 9 p.m. at 1120 Brunette Ave., Coquitlam. For more details, visit placedesarts.ca/exhibitions.