By Paul Gessell
You may have seen Marc Nerbonne hunting animals, often just before dawn, on the highway linking Ottawa and Montreal. He carries no gun. He is just armed with a camera. And he’s looking for roadkill.
Nerbonne is a Hull artist transplanted to Montreal. He is a brilliant artist, although there is a creep factor in his work that’s not to everyone’s taste. Basically, he creates paintings seamlessly married to collages of cropped roadkill photographs.
You might say the roadkill images are Nerbonne’s building blocks. Take the mesmerizing six-foot-by-four-foot painting “Afraid of What May Be in the Trees” currently on view at his new solo show at Galerie St. Laurent + Hill on Dalhousie. The central feature of the painting is a woman created from a collage of roadkill photo segments all the way from her black hair (dead crows) to her floor-length skirt (dead raccoons). In between there are fashionable uses of dead ducks and dead wild turkeys.
Don’t even ask what animal died to become her corpse-like face. You would be surprised what dead animals are found on the road. The bellies of overturned turtles are particularly loathsome and human looking.
There is a terrible beauty to Nerbonne’s paintings, exhibited here collectively under the title No Med, to signify no medicine can cure this problem. The aforementioned woman is like some seductive, evil witch come to cast a spell on us or perhaps rip us apart limb by limb. Other paintings are of animals Nerbonne seems to have magically brought back to life. Yet others are like some horrible mistakes in Frankenstein’s laboratory in that they resemble no creature that ever dared set foot on earth.
Nerbonne is making a statement about man’s careless treatment of the natural world. Simultaneously, he is empowering the zombie animals; they seem determined to avenge their own deaths by us humans.
This artist’s work is compelling. It’s like driving by an accident on the road. You know you will encounter some disturbing sights, but you are still determined to get a look.
Marc Nerbonne’s exhibition at Galerie St. Laurent + Hill continues until Aug. 22.