Shots of the wild side

Richmond photographer hopes exhibit sets people on edge

Chris Bryan, staff reporter, Richmond Review.

The latest photographic exhibition by Maria Coletsis, titled Pin Dex Prints, may set some people on edge.

Coletsis hopes so.

The Richmond resident is currently showing her work in the show Artropolis until April 27, at the CBC studios in Vancouver. Pin Dex Prints takes the relatively innocent "pin up girl" of the 1950s, and places her in a seedier underworld of marijuana grow operations, escorts and phone sex operators.

The series of images were inspired by her recent return to Richmond after finishing her Masters in Fine Arts in San Francisco, and traveling in Europe.

"I grew up on No. 3 (Road) and Williams," Coletsis says. "All my life I'd been oblivious to suburban drugs and crime."

But when she came back home after being in cities where they were more evident and, expecting Richmond to be the same, "pure" place of her childhood, she saw things differently.

"Number 4 and Steveston has become a cesspool," she says, citing the massage parlor, pool hall and XXX video store as representing a side of the city most people try to ignore.

"You can be in your illusion, but within that there's stuff to confront," she says, archly. "I started to see what was happening is this metamorphosis of this isolated, rural place to these urban problems emerging. I was surprised to see the transformation of the city I grew up in."

The relatively friendly image of the "pin up" model acts as an invitation to engage more challenging issues, she says.

"Hopefully when they come in, they see more."

Coletsis' work has been published in several magazines, including a front cover and photo essay in the December 2000 edition of High Times, and a photo essay in Vice magazine, published in Montreal. Her Pin-Dex Prints exhibit is in the Super Natural section of the Artropolis show. She says it's ironic, because her work shows what "tourists don't see."

"The rest of Canada thinks we're in Lotus Land, but (my work is) kind of an interesting rebuttal to the Super Natural label," said the McNair grad, who credits teachers Mrs. Reeve for teaching her that women have a place in art, and Mr. Spriggs.

Coletsis' previous work has been shown in the upper gallery at Gateway Theatre, and she will be holding an exhibition in London in September. She is a member of the Richmond Public Art Commission.