The Exhibition by Jessie Anneli Viirlaid McNeil “Outsider Inside” Opened at VEMU/Estonian Studies Centre in Toronto

February 27, 2015

On Wednesday, February 18th 2015, the exhibition by Jessie Anneli Viirlaid McNeil Outsider Inside – A Collage Series of the Estonian Song & Dance Festival 2014 opened at Tartu College, Toronto.

Jessie Anneli Viirlaid McNeil is a working artist and cultural events coordinator in her hometown, Vancouver, BC. Her heritage (Scottish and Estonian) has brought her to many places that inspire her work today. With her curatorial projects, collage, publications and miniature sculptures, McNeil addresses themes of place, collective and personal memory, tourism, language and value with an emphasis on cultural history and identity. Prior to participating in her first Laulupidu, McNeil spent two months last year as a resident artist at the Estonian Printing Museum in Tartu, and has been tirelessly exhibiting work in Vancouver since she’s been back.

The collage series Outsider Inside delivers us back to the Estonia of 2014’s Tantsupidu and Laulupidu (Dance and Song Festival). While walking or parading down the streets of Tallinn, in modern and traditional dress (often a gracious and tactful mixing of the two), visitors and residents from all walks of life were immersed in a celebratory environment of the festival week. During her time in Tallinn, McNeil captured this sensation with her camera, and then later, assembled the collage re-representations in her studio. The series exhibited at VEMU this spring explores the perspective of a Canadian-Estonian during the festival, from moments of mundanity to emotional highs. While expressing themes of memory and experience, McNeil’s collages in “Outsider Inside” pose the complex question, “What is an Estonian today?”

The medium of collage has historically challenged ideas about art making. It is an instantaneous, graphic and intuitive medium that typically uses materials from the everyday environment of the artist. However, the meticulous collages of Outsider Inside are of a figurative nature and are produced meditatively over months rather than minutes. McNeil makes her collages with the eye of a street photographer while fulfilling her need to cut, paste, smudge and assemble.