Dark nostalgia

Work Hard Be Nice is one of three sculptural pieces on display at the Mann Art Gallery as part of Saskatchewan artist Heather Benning’s exhibition A Prairie Gothic: Let our Fields be Broader, but our Nights so Much Darker. (Josef Jacobson/Daily Herald)

Art exhibition takes a macabre look at the past on the Prairies

Saskatchewan artist Heather Benning’s latest show is a collection of three large, sculptural works and a film that peels back the notion of the “good old times” to reveal a troubling history.

“There’s a little bit of nostalgia, but then darkness in it,” Benning said.

“It’s this idea that we can go back and everything was all lovely back in the old days but it really wasn’t.”

Benning’s A Prairie Gothic: Let our Fields be Broader, but our Nights so Much Darker will occupy the Mann Art Gallery’s main gallery space until May 13 with an opening reception being held on April 6. It is a joint reception with the High School Juried Art Show.

A Prairie Gothic began with a 2007 piece called The Dollhouse, an abandoned farm house near Redvers, Sask. with one of its walls torn off by Benning and replaced with a Plexiglas screen, giving it the uncanny appearance of a life-size dollhouse. Benning then decorated the inside of the home with era-specific furniture and appliances.

“I wanted the exterior of the house to have a complete abandoned-house look and then the interior to have this sort of newness to the date it was abandoned so you see the juxtaposition of time,” she explained.

In 2013 Benning and the owners of the land decided to burn the decaying farmhouse to the ground. She videotaped the process and the film has since become part of the exhibit.

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Got to go:

What? Opening reception: A Prairie Gothic: Let our Fields be Broader, but our Nights so Much Darker by Heather Benning

When? Thursday, April 6 at 7 p.m.

Where? Mann Art Gallery

Admission? Free