What does it mean to be part of a community? Owen V. Gordon’s painting ‘Community Policing’ urges us to reflect

A report by Deborah Dundas for The Toronto Star.

We can stand together, or we can stand apart. Even when we feel we’re part of a shared moment, a familiar scene when rendered as art can reflect back to us a separation that we don’t always see.

Jamaican/Canadian Toronto artist Owen V. Gordon’s painting “Community Policing” is part of a new exhibition at the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives: “When Night Stirred At Sea: Contemporary Caribbean Art.” He appears with nine other artists whose art was exhibited together in an inaugural art fair in Mandeville, Jamaica earlier this year. Now, they’re showing together here.

Although Gordon’s painting, above, was painted 25 years ago, it remains contemporary, providing a commentary on police in the community. If they are perceived as part of the community, police can foster feelings of safety. Alternatively, “they can sit outside of the community as outsiders looking in as they appear to be here,” notes the gallery. “The artist positions the police as if they are watching, as people engage with each other in public space. They are present but not really a part of the community.”

Gordon’s work explores a wide variety of subjects informed by his lived experience, the gallery notes.

“From capturing vignettes of the urban environment, landscapes, domestic scenes, still lifes, and portraits — of real or imagined characters — to global politics and events, his work opens a vibrant window onto the world we collectively inhabit, but to the realities of which we are often oblivious.”

The art draws us in with its vibrant colours, its familiar scene. It lets us think about how all members of our community experience daily life. As we look at it, together, we become community — and so must ask ourselves: what does it mean to belong?Ten artists are participating in “When Night Stirred at Sea: Contemporary Caribbean Art” at the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives virtually from Oct. 29 and then in person when the gallery reopens. Go to http://www.pama.peelregion.ca/en/index.asp.

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