Milky Way Smiling
Western Harbour Castle Conference Centre, Toronto
June, 2018 – April 19, 2019
Amid towering structures and light pollution emanating from the city, views of the night sky tend to be sparse and undramatic. Vancouver-based artist Elizabeth Zvonar brings a heightened view of the cosmos to the cityscape in her monumental image, Milky Way Smiling. Animating the conference centre, a grey, block-long building at the edge of Toronto’s Financial District, she asks the public to consider the infinite space that extends beyond their sightlines. Her wondrous galactic scene offers physical opposition to both the urban landscape and the nearby lakefront.
Zvonar’s practice focuses on incorporating and recontextualizing imagery collected from found photographs, sketches, and typography in mass-produced books and periodicals. Her collages often employ humour through her choices of aesthetics and metaphor, and draw attention to social discrepancies through unexpected juxtapositions. For this site-specific commission, Zvonar culled a photograph from a popular science magazine and transformed it through digital collage and manipulation. Her choice of subject matter acknowledges the sweeping historical trajectory of images of the night sky inspired by science, as well as the technological evolution of high-powered telescopic photographs that offer increasingly expanded views of the universe. With its band of cosmic light gently curved into a smile, Zvonar’s whimsical galaxy of shining stars brings the metaphysical down to passersby at street level. In the artist’s words, Milky Way Smiling hinges on “a genial sentiment to offset and uplift our workaday lives.” Positioned in the midst of advertising billboards marketing consumer products, Zvonar’s image provides an alternative viewing experience that emphasizes a larger sense of social collectivity and appreciation for the mystery of the unknown.
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