By Jaime Burnet
Looking around the narrow hallway of the Stride Gallery +15 Window Project at Calgary’s Epcor Centre, it is possible that any one of the arty people strolling past the displays may be Lindsay Sutton. Well, the women at least.
The majority of them wear tweed blazers, sport thick emo-style glasses, have interesting hair (pompadours, green streaks, cut by self), and all seem capable of creating a piece such as Lindsay’s, due to the cliched generality of the work. That’s the way it was intended to be, according to Lindsay, who finally arrives fit in a tweed blazer and blonde pompadour. She cradles a bouquet of flowers in her arms and scans the room, a little flustered. And who wouldn’t be? As friends and strangers peer at her work, forming silent criticisms and commendations, Lindsay attempts to explain the motivation behind her creation.
The piece consists of 32 loose pages from the infamous play, Cyrano de Bergerac, written by Edmond Rostand in 1886, which have been drawn and doodled on to create a message about how romance is perceived today.
For those who aren’t aware, Cyrano de Bergerac is the story of the title character’s plight of love and insecurity, two aspects of life that often go hand in hand. Cyrano is in love with his cousin, Roxanne, but is too embarrassed by his large nose to pursue her, fearing rejection.
“The Cyrano de Bergerac… it’s a pretty epic, romantic love story. I found the book, and it was like a hundred and five year old copy of the book that was destroyed, like totally water-stained, but beautiful,” Lindsay explains.
But within the bubbly borders of her personality resides a thoughtful and valid concept. The pages are arranged into a “cloud-like” shape, with a different drawing, saying, or design on each page: rain drops; a bird carrying a scroll reading “wish you were here”; old-fashioned, wallpaper-like designs; the words “love kicked the shit out of me”; a page covered in tallies.
“The play evolved as a nice backdrop for the drawings, due to its classic nature,” says Lindsay. Collectively, the leaves of paper form the common notion of romantic love which exists in the subconscious minds of many.
“We’re so conditioned to think what romance is, right? Like, swelling music, or kissing in the rain or something, you know? Like what if that really happens? Are you just imagining it from a past experience you saw on TV or is it legitimate feeling?” That’s a good question in a society where romance is hardly ever original, where women read Harlequin romance novels and men take their cues from DeBeers commercials (hint: they sell diamonds, not beer).
“I was hoping that the drawings would kind of play between being super sincere and kind of ironic because they’re so cliche, but then also being sincere because they’re cliche, like, can you read them because they’re so cliche as sincere?”
After a romantic act has been done and seen repeatedly throughout the history of love and courtship, does it still have the same heartfelt meaning? And evoke real emotion? “Like our generation, and it’s like how we relate to romance being so cliche, so from what we see on TV, movies, songs, whatever, but at the same time we’re still experiencing these emotions. So do we know if they’re true or not?”
The deterioration of original romance is depressing, even if it has been done countless times before. There are those of us who like to eat chocolates from a heart shaped box and make out in the rain.