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How Two Artist Couples Have Changed The Family Holiday Card Forever

12/28/2016 08:56 EST | Updated 12/28/2016 08:56 EST

The holidays can be the most horrifying time.

The pressure for everything to be perfect. That perfect moment. That perfect picture that seems like you spend months thinking about. The one that you want to share that captures it all. On Facebook. On Instagram. On email. To mail.

Everywhere.

To show your friends. Your co-workers. Your enemies. Your family.

Everyone.

And what do you want to tell them? No matter what's going on in your family, how many fights were at dinner this week, no matter how bad the gravy has tasted in the past, no matter how much you want to throw a snowball at your mother in law this holiday, you have a perfect family. A family that smiles. That loves each other. All is merry, right???

A new art show is inspiring the millions who celebrate the annual holiday time to think outside of the box when putting plans together for that task many dread.

The family card.

THIS IS US, is a timely visual art show on now curated by Christina Zeidler, celebrated artist and Chief Alchemist & owner of The Gladstone Hotel, that features the works of two artist couples in Camilla Singh + Walter Willems and Robyn + Mark Sprott. The work shows us selections of images from cards they have been sending out by mail and e-mail for over nineteen years and twelve years respectively.

The work is refreshing, honest, and inspires many LMAO moments. Moreover, it reimagines the way we think of the family portrait and awakens a feeling in all of us that we can create our own narrative, and frankly, it's a wonderful exercise for any couple, family or individual to take on.

DIY family cards. Who would have thought?

We had an opportunity to correspond with the two artists couples, and what follows are some insider insights from Camilla & Walter (C&W) and Robyn & Mark (R&M).

You have turned the traditional holiday card on its head. Why?

C&W: It was calling out for satire, an injection of darkness and a sting of remorse.

There is so much shame during the holidays we wanted to find some of that and celebrate.

R&M: We were looking to express something other than convention. Our cards originally only went to our family and closest friends, so it didn't start as a broad statement, more of a way to have some fun and connect with the people in our lives.

What is it about the holidays that makes capturing the perfect moment so stressful for some?

C&W: Anytime people try to capture perfection there is great potential for stress to appear. Especially in these obligatory holiday pictures the stress of creating an image that reflects the perfect family harmony is an almost impossible task. On top of that the holiday season puts a lot of pressure on people to live up to standards that have been set with commerce in mind.

R&M: I think there is a preset notion from the days when a photograph or daguerreotype portrait was a rare and magical moment. You had one shot at it and it was an expensive proposition. In this way, we believe we have done away with the cumbersome mechanical and chemical apparatus but kept the idea that we should be at our best--Sunday finest and gazing stoically into the lens. But, even on a good day, it is hard to be at your best--let alone an entire family.

Has your work inspired general public to take on this type of task?

C&W: We are not aware that our work has inspired the general public but we encourage people to stage their holiday pictures using their wildest imagination. Nothing short of crazed. Go for it and change your world.

R&M: Our friends are part of varied arts community and so some bake, others do crafts, while others brew festive beer. But no one has attempted a card like ours that we know of. One year we had a challenger, but he dropped the ball professing he had to go on tour to promote his new album.

How can these type of creative exercises be a way to bring our world together at a time we need it most?

C&W: Being creative is an unstoppable force. Humankind has been creative from its inception, be it in the arts, in science, in math etc. We don't think we are separate from each other, but think there are forces who want to keep people from coming together. In the end we all have more in common than we have differences. Let's cherish what we have in common and celebrate our differences.

R&M: We get a lot of cards at this time of year because of our card efforts. It's the best--we can see how many our friend's kids have grown, others write small notes telling us about their year or their plans for the New Year. Others really make you feel special by hand delivering baked goods or crafts to your door. It gives you an awfully great sense of community and kinship. We are lucky to be part of a varied arts community who pool their collective creative forces consistently throughout the year. Efforts peak in the spring, where we gather together in a collective arts group hug disguised as a hockey tournament. The power of these creative exercises is undeniable--it helps us find belonging, positivity, camaraderie and props us up when things are tough, combats depression and just feels so damn good. People feeling good make other people feel good.

THIS IS US continues through December 30th and is free. For gallery hours and more information, please visit here.

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