uses art as
a tool to plumb the depths of human experience. Memory, perception, history,
war, exploitation, and oppression are all open to her artistic investigations.
Her work often begins with archival source material and takes form in the
gallery as photographs, videos, sculptures and
If, as Winston Churchill once said, history is written by the
victors, this is something that Blain attempts to equalize through her work.
The Canadian artist sometimes uses a single symbol as a stand-in to bring the
viewer into the issues explored in her work, as in the case of Missa
(1992), a grid of 100 pairs of army boots arranged as though on puppet strings,
sculptures made of fused-together steel helmets, or her ball gowns made of
images of children rummaging through garbage or from layers of dirt-stained overalls. In other works, she uses
existing cultural material to make a statement, combining layers of image and
graphics in the visual language of advertising or appropriating
text in ways that call to mind the work of
In addition to more overtly political concerns, Blain explores the
history of culture—including way it is shaped by politics—in works like the
series “Mirabilia,” in which etched glass plates act as memorials in a
graveyard to looted and lost cultural masterpieces.
Despite her intentions, Blain’s choice of source material has
sometimes found critics. “I may be accused of aestheticizing horror, although I
reject having my work associated with images of horror. But this is the way in
for the viewer,” Blain has said. “Often, we’re attracted first by what we see,
and on second reading, we wonder what we’re looking at.” By shining light on
these dark corners through her work, the disenfranchised, the lost, and the
voiceless are resurrected and allowed to speak.