Artist blends beauty with harsh reality

Gallus Domesticus: We are the keepers that will be on display at Gage Gallery until April 18

Gallus Domesticus: We are the keepers runs until April 18 at Gage Gallery on Oak Bay Avenue.

Artist Diana Durrand’s series of gorgeous, hand-coloured portraits, felt sculptures and interactive displays – including a soundscape – counters our notions of a bird that has been characterized as stupid and fearful.

Her 16 chicken portraits are part of Gallus Domesticus: We are the keepers that will be on display at Gage Gallery until April 18.

At first take the portrayal of these birds as noble seems overdone; it’s only as viewers become participants that the underlying theme of the show comes into high relief – Durrand sets us up for a glaring contradiction by first eulogizing chickens, then revealing in terse script the ways we abuse them.

The grim facts are contained in black, plastic eggs packaged and displayed by the dozen for participants at the show to pop open. There are golden eggs, too, which contain wondrous bits of information about Gallus Domesticus, but it’s the grim litany revealed in the black eggs that Durrand hopes will compel readers.

Gallus Domesticus: We are the keepers runs until April 18 at the Gage Gallery, 2031 Oak Bay Ave.