Guts has a double meaning for artist’s first solo show



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  • What: Caitlin McDonagh, Guts
  • When: Opening tonight, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Runs through Jan. 6
  • Where: fifty-fifty arts collective, 2516 Douglas St.

One of illustrator Caitlin McDonagh’s characters opens his belly like a jacket and lets red, pink and burgundy shapes pour out and around him. Another looks at a gash in his hand, where figures slip out and hang from his body. The centre of another palm is a window into a rural world.

For her first solo gallery show, the 21-year-old Esquimalt artist imagined what it would look like if you could see all the things that people keep inside.

“It can be as simple as what you consume,” she said. “What you’re scared of, what you want … desires. But there’s a balance between positive and negative.”

McDonagh chose the title Guts for the show, which opens at the fifty-fifty arts collective tonight. While the theme was universal in many ways, it had a personal double-meaning for her: After hiding her work for years, she is becoming comfortable with putting it out in public again.

“I’m super-excited and nervous,” she said.

McDonagh became seriously interested as a student at Esquimalt High School. With encouragement from her art teacher, Lorna Reid, she undertook a self-directed study of it after completing mandatory classes in Grade 9. She presented her work in some youth shows, but when she moved to Calgary for a relationship, she lost track of her art goals.

“There were a lot of life changes,” she said. “For a couple of years after that, I didn’t show anyone my artwork.”

Her parents also left Victoria, adding to her feelings of disconnection. But when she decided to move back about two years ago, despite an initial period of several moves, she felt grounded again.

“I grew up on the Island. It was a huge relief to come back and I felt so much more comfortable here. … So this show’s kind of about that,” she said. “I started my job [at Lifestyle Markets] and I met my boyfriend almost a year ago. And I think that he was a big part in helping me feel confident.”

McDonagh has participated in several group shows — most recently as part of the drawing showcase presented at pop-up gallery Souvenir. She has also been selected for a three-woman show at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria’s Massey Gallery in February.

But Guts will mark the achievement of her goal to have a solo gallery show this year. McDonagh has prepared about 30 pieces for the show in a variety of media, including two limited-edition screen prints and a small catalogue.

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