Sara Cwynar uses dated commercial imagery and objects for her hybrid sculptural and photographic interventions. Her source material presents aesthetic ideals from the recent past that appear today as outmoded and kitsch. Adopting and manipulating the conventions of advertising, Cwynar transforms cultural detritus into visually seductive images. In her ongoing series Flat Death (2013–), images from book advertisements found in old issues of Life and McCall’s magazines are digitally scanned, reprinted, and arranged on pegboard—commonly used for store displays—then photographed. Cwynar adapts works from this series for four billboards located at a busy intersection in the city’s west end, thereby reinserting the advertisements back into a commercial context. These black-and-white images feel especially poignant at this moment, when books and magazines are being converted to digital forms. They provide a motley portrait of the time, conveyed through snippets of text and image.
Two of Cwynar’s Contemporary Floral Arrangements (2014) are similarly blown up to large format and recontextualized in public space. Reworking original still-life images of 1960s floral arrangements found in the New York Public Library’s picture collection, Cwynar rebuilds their tones and contours by carefully placing hundreds of small objects on their surfaces. The resulting images at first appear as vibrant product photographs, but on closer inspection, they are in fact constructions made of mostly synthetic ephemera of little value—bygone technology, key chains, fake fruit, plastic bits and pieces, random knick-knacks—as though junk drawers have been emptied out across the page. As billboards, Cwynar’s vibrant images become advertisements for nothing, upsetting the conventions of product photography by depicting objects that nobody wants anymore.
Supported by PATTISON Outdoor Advertising and Nikon Canada