Meet the new Acting Dean

For once, a symphonic fanfare is completely appropriate: current School of Music Director Dr. Susan Lewis has been announced as the new Acting Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. (Cue the trumpets!)

Acting Dean Susan Lewis

Acting Dean Susan Lewis

Lewis’ appointment will run from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016, and she will replace current Acting Dean Dr. Lynne Van Luven, whose term ends on June 30. Van Luven herself was standing in for Dr. Sarah Blackstone, who was on secondment as Advisor to the Provost this past year—but has now resigned due to personal hardship.

“As outgoing Acting Dean, I am delighted to hear that Susan Lewis is going to take on the leadership of the Fine Arts Faculty for the next year,” says Van Luven, noting that Lewis received a positive ratification of 97 percent from the Faculty. “Dr. Lewis brings terrific skills to the position: she is a thoughtful administrator, a critical thinker and a faculty member well versed in the overall operation of the university. She brings grace, a sense of humour and a reassuring calmness to the position.”

For its part, the School of Music will require an Acting Director for a period of one year, and the consultation process for that has now begun.

Susan Lewis (second left) declaring the winner in the Vikes Nation Rally Song contest with UVic President Jamie Cassels (second right)

Susan Lewis (second left) declaring the winner in the Vikes Nation Rally Song contest with UVic President Jamie Cassels (second right)

Prior to becoming Director of the School of Music, Lewis herself was the School’s Acting Director in 2010 and 2012. She joined the School as assistant professor in 2001 and was promoted to the rank of associate professor in 2008. One of her mandates as Director has been increased collaboration with other departments on campus—including recent initiatives with Vikes Athletics as the Vikes Nation Rally Song contest and the brand new Vikes Band elective, which sees the creation of a for-credit varsity band course.

A graduate of Queen’s University (BMus in Performance and BA in Music and Politics), the University of Arizona (Master’s of Music), and Princeton University (Ph.D. in musicology), Lewis’ fields of teaching and scholarship embrace cultural history, music and print technologies, as well as music bibliography and genre studies. Her research profile extends to European and global music of the 17th and 18th centuries, sacred music and spirituality, and the music of Claudio Monteverdi, an early opera composer and advocate for experimental harmony and text-driven music.

baroqueAn accomplished scholar with two multi-year SSRHC grants, Dr. Lewis is the sole author of Editing Music in Early Modern Germany (Ashgate, 2007) and The Madrigal: A Research and Reference Guide (Routledge, 2011). Her textbook Music of the Baroque: History, Culture, Performance will be published by Routledge in 2015.

While most of the faculty were expecting Dr. Sarah Blackstone to resume her duties as Dean of Fine Arts this year, it came as a shock when she instead announced her resignation this past April.

“This is an extremely difficult decision for me, and I have not made it lightly,” she said at the time. “As many of you know, I face a challenging and life-changing situation in my personal life that makes it impossible for me to continue as your Dean. For now, I do not have the emotional capacity or the strength to manage the day-to-day operations and the long term planning that are the responsibilities of a Dean.”

Outgoing Dean Sarah Blackstone

Outgoing Dean Sarah Blackstone

Blackstone became Dean in 2007 and her tenure has been one of growth and strengthening for the Faculty. While she has spent the past academic year working as Advisor to the Provost and had anticipated returning, Blackstone recently recognized she’ll need “extensive time” away from UVic in the near future, and acknowledges that this would be “extremely disruptive” to both the Faculty and the operations of the Dean’s Office.

“It has been a privilege for me to lead the Faculty and I am tremendously proud of the things we have accomplished together,” she continued. “You are an extremely talented and dedicated group of people who provide such critical support to students trying to find their way in very challenging professions. Your own artistic and scholarly work inspires your students and many people on and off the campus. I wish each of you, and the Faculty as a whole, the very best of luck in all your endeavours.”

The entire Faculty offers Dr. Blackstone and her family strength and support in the coming months.

26 film award nominations for Writing alumni, faculty

Need proof of the impact of the Department of Writing‘s film production courses? Just look to the 2015 Leo Award nominations, where films by Writing faculty and alumni received a combined 26 nominations—a staggering number for a university that doesn’t technically have a film production program.

Bradley on the set of Two 4 One  (photo: Arnold Lim)

Bradley on the set of Two 4 One (photo: Arnold Lim)

Clearly, the Writing department is punching above its weight when it comes to film futures, but this year’s list of nominees is no exception—as evidenced by past Leo nominations and the department’s 2011 win for  Best Web Series Award for Freshman’s Wharf.

What’s the secret to their success? “Film is just a development of the Writing department’s already well-known streams: fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction and drama,” says film professor Maureen Bradley. “I don’t know anywhere else in the country where this is happening. There are good student films being made, but they’re not being driven by faculty [led-courses].”

Students shooting Freshman's Wharf on campus

Students shooting Freshman’s Wharf on campus

Bradley has spent the past five years building up the technical equipment and supporting talent to create professional-looking 10-minute short student films. “Drama and film are really an applied form of learning,” she explains. “A screenplay and a play are not final products, and they’re always open to interpretation. Students need to see how hard it is to make a film, how to adjust the writing as the film is made, how to write with a budget in mind.”

With no other Vancouver Island college or university offering film production classes, Bradley feels UVic’s Writing department is uniquely situated to help fill a gap both locally and nationally. “I think we have the best [student] screenwriters in Canada here, and I have a lot of experience in the other centres,” she says. “This is a unique situation where the production comes through the writing first. I’ve seen beautiful films at student screenings across Canada, but the story is usually lacking—so it’s really exciting to see story and surface come together here. Why make a film if there’s no heart to it?”

This year’s Leo nominees with ties to the Writing department include:

Blackfly

Blackfly

• Alumnus Jason Bourque‘s feature film Blackfly leads the pack with nominations for 10 awards, including best motion picture, direction & screenwriting

• Professor Maureen Bradley‘s feature film Two 4 One (produced by Fine Arts Digital Media Technician Daniel Hogg) is nominated for six awards, also including best motion picture, direction & screenwriting—and costumes, which were created by Theatre grad Kat Jeffery

Gord's Brother

Gord’s Brother

• The short film Gord’s Brother—created by the busy alumni team of Daniel Hogg (producer), Jeremy Lutter (director) & Ben Rollo (writer)—received four nominations

• Alumni Kate Bateman & Matt Hamilton‘s web series The Actress Diaries received four nominations

Godhead

Godhead

• Recent MFA grad Connor Gaston‘s student film Godhead received 2 nominations

A project of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Foundation of British Columbia since 1999, the Leo Awards are an annual celebration of excellence in BC’s film & television scene.

The awards will be presented over three evenings  in Vancouver, depending on program: June 6 at the Westin Bayshore and June 13 & 14 at the Hotel Vancouver.

Community sings over Troubled Water

What do you get when you combine one of the best-known songs of the past 50 years with the latest technology? A fascinating art installation by Visual Arts sessional instructor Yoko Takashima: Bridge Over Troubled Water, continuing until May 30 at UVic’s Legacy Art Galleries Downtown.

Bridge Over Troubled Water (family), 2015

Bridge Over Troubled Water (family), 2015

An interactive video and sound installation project developed using Cycling74’s MAX and JITTER with other computer software and a Microsoft Kinect for interactive data collection, Takashima produced this new form of video installation in close collaboration with Visual Arts alumna Ruby Arnold.

“In this project, no identical image or performance is seen,” says Takashima. “More significantly, this technology allows for unexpected narratives to be constructed through the constant self-generation of the video and sound.”

Takashima will be giving an artist talk about her project, beginning at 7pm Thursday, May 14, at Legacy Downtown (630 Yates).

Described as a “so-called music video” of Simon & Garfunkel’s classic “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Takashima video-recorded 37 volunteer community singers—friends, family, choir groups, folks in the theatre community, both professional and semi- professional singers—in a variety of age groups all with the same framing: face centred and looking directly at the camera lens. The artist then used a green screen and chroma keying of the footage to provide the collage of singers with a background of moving images of ambiguous hybrid landscapes, which act as “visual metaphors of our modern reality, encompassing anxiety, horror and hope.”

Bridge Over Troubled Water (Chris), 2015, Video still

Bridge Over Troubled Water (Chris), 2015, Video still

“It is significant for me to explore the shifting role of artists in the digital era,” explains Takashima. “In a time of saturated images, information and ‘high-speed fetch’, our role is now focused on selecting and preparing guidelines and then witnessing what technology can provide and manipulate. I am interested in exploring how technology used this way can produce effects beyond the artist’s authorship and premeditated aesthetic.”

Takashima felt the lyrics of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” convey a message of friendship and support, which she describes as “fundamental, ageless human needs. In exploring new technology with this song, we celebrate the up-lifting spirit in humanity and the new ways of delivering it.”

The exhibit is organized by Legacy director Mary Jo Hughes as the second of her continuing IN SESSION exhibits showcasing the work of the many sessional instructors in the Department of Visual Arts. But far from an exhibition of static work hanging on a wall, Hughes feels it’s the viewer who really brings Takashima’s work to life.

Bridge Over Troubled Water (Thomas), 2015, Video stillI

Bridge Over Troubled Water (Thomas), 2015, Video stillI

“When the darkened exhibition space is vacant, the audio plays quietly while the video is reduced to black and white,” she explains. “When someone enters the space, the sound level and colour intensity are gradually increased—the nearer one approaches the projection, the louder the sound becomes. To retreat is to attenuate the volume. The layered faces fill the wall in magnitude larger than life.”

“We see the singing human faces as beautiful in their openness and sincerity, while verging on the ridiculous in scale, proximity and unexpected combinations of over-layered facial features. The space is filled with their presence,” Hughes continues. “While interactivity has been integral to some of her past works, the constant regeneration of this work is new to Takashima’s 20-year video-based practice. It represents her desire to push video installation art beyond simple screening pieces placed within a space to offering infinitely-varied experiences involving the whole space with the viewer.”

Takashima's "Islands Burning" (1998), installation

Takashima’s “Islands Burning” (1998), installation

Hughes notes that, over the past two decades of work, Takashima has consistently “focused on her own body over various stages of life to explore her place as an individual while concurrently delving into the universalities and depth of human existence.” Video works such as Brushism (1996), As If (1996) and Islands Burning (1998) saw Takashima presenting her body as non-narrative subject, “performing within a limited or unidentifiable context, often truncated, anonymous, and isolated in an unnervingly close proximity.”

Bridge Over Troubled Water, says Hughes, represents the artist’s “continuing interest in using technology as an artistic tool in her ongoing research into new modes of expression. In this work, Takashima involves us in an unending performance that personifies the interconnectedness of a larger more encompassing humanity . . . . The installation suggests that through family, friends, and basic human connections, we can provide for each other the support that will get us through the fear and discord that otherwise characterizes our world.”

Feeling the Reverberations

Looking for the very best in emerging contemporary art practice? Don’t miss the annual MFA exhibit at the Department of Visual Arts, this year titled Reverberations. A group show featuring the work of four graduating students in the Master of Fine Arts program, Reverberations encompasses a dramatic range of photographic and video works, sculptural installations and intermedia practices.

Reverberations kicks off with a 5-7pm opening reception on Friday May 1. The exhibit then runs 10am-4pm daily to May 8 throughout UVic’s Visual Arts Building.

“Pinna” by Ebony Rose

“Pinna” by Ebony Rose

Reverberations is composed of four solo exhibitions: “The Longing of Stone To Be Lively Again” by Rebecca Bergshoeff; “Autopoiesis” by Nicole Clouston; “Between There and Now” by Emily Geen; and “Pinna” by Ebony Rose. But the pieces on display are really just a fraction of the work produced during their two-year residency.

“We’re looking for artists who want to engage with contemporary art dialogue in an environment that really promotes independently driven, rigorous studio investigation in the service of research creation,” says Visual Arts chair Paul Walde.

“The Longing of Stone to be Lively Again” by Rebecca Bergshoeff

“The Longing of Stone to be Lively Again” by Rebecca Bergshoeff

With “The Longing of Stone To Be Lively Again,” Rebecca Bergshoeff playfully engages with trace and process, suspending her works in a state of flux where the instability of material and the oscillation of form between the pictorial and the sculptural, the surface and the edge, present themselves with a certain structural transparency, immediacy and generosity.

“Autopoiesis” by Nicole Clouston

“Autopoiesis” by Nicole Clouston

Nicole Clouston’s “Autopoiesis” explores the beauty of chemical and biological processes, as well as the value that can be found in these experiments when their ability to communicate specific information is stripped away.

In Emily Geen’s photographic installation and video works “Between There and Now,” she uses the inherent materiality of glass to abstract and deconstruct recorded images, regenerating them with the peripheral and perceptual nuances of lived experience.

“Between There and Now” by Emily Geen

“Between There and Now” by Emily Geen

Finally, with Ebony Rose’s “Pinna,”contemplative spaces and subtle interventions proffer a renewed discovery into natural phenomenon and the things that surround us.

UVic’s MFA is an intensive degree predicated on immersive experiential learning combined with critical discussions and one of Canada’s leading Visiting Artist programs.

 

Enter Vodka, exit Masters student

When it comes to their theses, UVic’s graduate students are always looking for something new. Recently, Master of Education student Mike Irvine became the first person to conduct an underwater webcast defence of his thesis. Now, Department of Writing MFA candidate and playwright Leah Callen will present a staged reading of her thesis—the surreal play Enter Vodka—followed by a public defence . . . in front of a live audience.

Dept of Writing MFA Leah Callen

Dept of Writing MFA Leah Callen

“Originally, I asked to do my defence under-vodka, but that was a no-go,” quips Callen. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity to have my play read by some lovely actors to an audience. A script doesn’t mean much unless it is heard out loud.”

Enter Vodka marries the personal histories of two dead Russians—Stalin’s daughter and the Romanov Princess Anastasia—both stuck at 17, and trapped inside a melting Fabrage egg. In Enter Vodka, nothing is as red or white as it seems. The 90-minute show begins at 8pm Sunday, April 26, at the Intrepid Theatre Club (1609 Blanshard, at Fisgard) with Callen’s thesis defence to follow. Admission is by donation.

The staged reading—directed by Melissa Taylor, featuring Kathleen O’Reilly & Julie Forrest, and designed by Kerri Flannigan & Colette Habel (all UVic students or alumni)—is part of Intrepid’s monthly New Play Reading Series and in support of the Equity in Theatre Initiative, which continues to celebrate the work of local women playwrights at all stages of their careers. “We are happy to be working with the UVic writing program on this project to bring new plays to life,” says Intrepid artistic director, playwright and celebrated Department of Theatre alumna Janet Munsil.

A scene from Callen's The Daughter of Turpentine

A scene from Callen’s The Daughter of Turpentine

Nervousness aside, Callen is looking forward to the opportunity of having her new play presented in public. “UVic’s Writing program is wonderful, but I felt pretty cloistered as a playwriting graduate student, typing away by myself for two years,” she says. “I’m both excited and terrified by the defence part—but if I can’t stand up to a little public scrutiny, what kind of a playwright am I? My characters have to go through the fire literally, so the least I can do is honour them figuratively with a little Q&A.”

The idea behind the public defence came from Callen’s MFA supervisor—award-winning playwright and Writing professor Kevin Kerr—who wanted her project to step off the page. “A stage play is meant to be seen in performance and, as a writer, it’s important to see the work handled by the other collaborating theatre artists who bring the work to life,” he explains. “The success of the thesis is not only on the page, but also in the way that it inspires other artists to create a living experience for an audience.”

Writing professor & playwright Kevin Kerr

Writing professor & playwright Kevin Kerr

Kerr feels this is an ideal opportunity to showcase the creative academic process. “It seemed to be an exciting way to handle this formal step in Leah’s academic journey,” he says. “It’s potentially an opportunity for an audience to get a first-hand encounter with what a Fine Arts graduate degree entails, and demonstrates the connection between the work done inside a university Fine Arts program and the professional practice the students are working towards.”

Both Kerr and Callen expect it to be more than just a standard theatrical talk-back session. “There will be a different level of stakes attached to the process, as the questions—and answers—are part of the final step for Leah to complete her MFA,” he says. “People witnessing the defence will also be able to contribute to that experience with questions of their own.”

Not that Kerr is out to add extra pressure to an already daunting experience. “Will it be nerve-wracking? Yes—but exciting as well,” he chuckles. “Leah is being supported by a team of artists who are invested in presenting the work to the best of their abilities. Their passion is already a vote of confidence in the candidate’s talent and ability, so Leah’s not alone in this experience.”

Callen—who spent the past two years studying with playwriting faculty Kerr and Joan MacLeod—had her first one-act play, The Daughter of Turpentine, produced by Phoenix Theatre’s SATCo in 2014. She has also reviewed theatre for local online magazines Coastal Spectator and CVV Magazine. A revamped version of Turpentine will reemerge as a full production at the Victoria Fringe Festival in August this year; directed by Phoenix Theatre’s Chase Hiebert, Callen promises it will “literally set the stage on fire.”

enter vodkaThe inspiration for Enter Vodka originally came from a poem she wrote about the Romanovs for Writing professor Tim Lilburn’s poetry workshop. “This story is inspired by the two real women, but it’s a metaphor for the places people visit when wounded, to escape or  revisit pain in ways that are as ritualistic as drinking tea, lighting candles or doing shots of vodka,” explains Callen, who cites the likes of Tennessee Williams, Tomson Highway, Sarah Ruhl, and Wajdi Mouawad as influences.

“Anastasia ordering Svetlana about could easily be modern-day Russia trying to drag Ukraine back home. I’m playing with the historical forces that have led to this moment in time, and in the end their holy kiss has explosive repercussions literally and figuratively. But this is not a biographical play. It is symbolic and thematic of the Russian struggle, but it’s mostly about women trying to find joy and freedom in the face of death.”

Kerr is also looking at this as something of a pilot project. “I’d be interested in continuing to find more opportunities to connect our grad students to the larger theatre community and audience as part of their time here,” he says. “I think it could be an important part of what we can offer as a program.”

In Search Of . . . new artists

Looking for new approaches to art? Come In Search Of at the annual University of Victoria Visual Arts BFA Graduation Exhibit. Kicking off with a 7pm opening reception on Friday, April 17, the exhibit will then run 10am to 6pm daily through to Saturday, April 25, in UVic’s Visual Arts building.

"This is for Youds" by Elizabeth Charters will be seen in the annual BFA exhibit

“This is for Youds” by Elizabeth Charters will be seen in the annual BFA exhibit

With a wide variety of art created by more than 30 graduating BFAs filling UVic’s entire Visual Arts building—including painting, photography, sculpture, drawing, installation and extended media works—In Search Of not only offers a glimpse into the future of visual art but also shows the originality of vision that comes with being mentored by some of Canada’s top contemporary artists.

“I’m really glad that title was picked,” says graduating BFA Kaitlyn Corlett, one of the exhibit’s student organizers. “It’s ambiguous, exploratory and kind of open-ended—which is how a lot of our work has come about over the past few years.”

Kaitlyn Corlett with one of her In Search Of pieces

Kaitlyn Corlett with one of her In Search Of pieces

Corlett notes the actual process of preparing the exhibit—from choosing a title for the show and preparing the catalogue to the selection and preparation of pieces—has been an education in itself. “For a lot of us, it’s our first time having that hands-on experience of developing a show. We’ve been doing critiques and getting work ready for assignments, but this is the first time we’ve been preparing for the public—it’s been a great process to consider an audience beyond our teachers.”

In Search Of is curated by Visual Arts faculty members Sandra Meigs and Robert Youds. “This year’s graduating students once again set an excellent high bar for their contemporary quest to wonder, doubt, and remember, through the practice of art-making,” says Youds, a Visual Arts department alumnus himself. “This exciting exhibition represents a broad and yet challenging display of diversity and passion from each and everyone of these young voices of the future.”

the business of art

Corlett, who is also doing a Business minor and participating in UVic’s Co-operative Education Program, understands the importance of putting her creative practice and critical thinking skills to work after graduation. “I’ve always been an artist but I’ve grown up with a real business side, so I’ve always had that duality between rationality and creation,” she says. “My desire to be professional is driven by my desire to be in the business world too.”

Kaitlyn Corlett installing one of her sculptural pieces

Kaitlyn Corlett installing one of her sculptural pieces

While her own ambition is to become a curator—something she’ll be working towards by traveling and studying art history after graduation—Corlett notes that some of her BFA peers have already been accepted into MFA programs or going on to study in related fields like architecture.

But she’s quick to credits the Co-op program with affording her important and relevant opportunities. “I’ve gotten a lot of work experience through UVic’s Co-op, where I’ve had really amazing experiences and great opportunities. I feel really blessed and lucky to have had that.” Her work placements included both the North Vancouver Community Arts Council and the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art. “Those were perfect experiences for me, to understand what curation actually means for non-profit organizations. I’ve been really lucky in finding those niches that have helped me understand where I want to work.”

A close community of artists

In Search Of . . . the proper angle

In Search Of . . . the proper angle

Corlett also praises the experiences she’s had pursuing her Visual Arts degree these past four years. “I love the range of teachers that I had,” she says. “They’ve really pushed my work to the limit to get it to a more professional level. Getting to work with leading artists like Paul Walde and Robert Youds and Daniel Laskarin and Sandra Meigs has just been amazing. You’re seeing them teach but also learn from you, and vice versa. And they’ve got their own careers and professional practices that are continuing to grow.”

In Search Of . . . the perfect lighting

In Search Of . . . the perfect lighting

Meigs, one of the 2015 Governor General’s Award for Visual & Media Arts, agrees with Corlett’s assessment. “We have some of the top contemporary artists in the country here and we have very high standards,” says Meigs. “We focus intensely on studio practice for the students . . . it’s hard for the general public to get that, but it’s all very exciting. That’s the great strength of UVic’s Visual Arts program—walk through any of the studios and you’ll feel it.”

UVic’s size was another advantage for Corlett. “The scale and closeness of the Visual Arts building and department is a real strength, and one of the reasons there’s such a strong network of artists here,” she says. “Having a community of artist who are all growing at the same rate has also been fantastic—I’ve now got 30 people I can talk to in a couple of years who I could ask to put on a show with me.”

“Priorfriends" by Olivia Prior can be seen at In Search Of, May 1-8

“Priorfriends” by Olivia Prior can be seen at In Search Of, May 1-8

While Corlett admits she was originally being “pushed to go to Emily Carr” by her family, she feels justified in ultimately deciding on UVic. “I wanted the opportunities to go into Business or Art History, and UVic had enough crossover points for that. I’ve always loved Victoria—it’s far enough from but close enough to home that I could have my own life here—and coming straight out of high school, it’s been a nice place to grow up a bit more. And I love the campus here—it’s such a beautiful place.”

in search of . . . an audience

In Search Of . . . the correct Jenga stack

In Search Of . . . the correct Jenga stack

Ultimately, says Corlett, In Search Of has been the perfect conclusion to her BFA degree process—even if that means taking a few creative risks. “It’s been a very humbling process for a lot of us. It’s tough to put your work forward for critiquing and to accept that kind of legitimate criticism. It’s like putting our entire education up on the wall for this show.”

But she’s pleased with how it’s all come together and is looking forward to opening night. “Our main goal was to have a show that wasn’t explicitly for the art community. We should be open to everybody, so we’re hoping to have a lot of new people from the university and the community come out and see it.”

In Search Of, the Annual Visual Arts BFA Graduation Exhibit, opens with a 7pm reception on Friday, April 17 and continues 10am-6pm daily to April 25. It’s free and open to the public.

New afternoon Artist Talks

Visual Arts is kicking off a new short series of free Afternoon Artist Talks with a pair of visiting artists this week—Risa Horowitz and Colin Miner. While the full lineup is still being formulated, the plan is to present a pair of artists twice a week, likely in the weeks of April 27 and May 11. All are welcome to attend.

Risa Horowitz with her Trees of Canada series

Risa Horowitz with her Trees of Canada series

First up is Risa Horowitz, who will speak from 3:30-4:30pm Monday, April 13, in VIS 107. Her extended practice is contextualized by conceptualism, duration, collection and an interest in how visual and information systems frame knowledge. She has lived and worked in seven Canadian provinces as an artist, educator, writer, and gallery programmer.

Most recently, 20 of her paintings in a series called “Trees of Canada” were installed as part of a permanent display at Canada House in London, England. Horowitz travelled to London in February this year to attend the unveiling in the presence of the Queen. “One of the things that I really love about the work is that they don’t look like paintings upon first glance,” she told Regina’s Leader-Post newspaper in this article. “They actually look like screen prints. When you get closer, you can see the brush strokes. So they’re a bit uncanny in that way.”

Horowitz's "Afternoon Sun, August, 3 2013"

Horowitz’s “Afternoon Sun, August, 3 2013″

Currently teaching at the University of Regina’s Department of Visual Arts, Horowitz’s recent scholarly research responds to the disciplining of art practice through its ongoing entrenchment within university structures, blurring boundaries between expert-amateur, hobby-work, and leisure-productivity. She is an active tournament Scrabble competitor, vegetable gardener and amateur astronomer—all of which inform her art practice. She has been awarded numerous grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and several provincial funding bodies, the K.M. Hunter Award for excellence in Visual Arts in 2006, and a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship for her research in visual arts and practice-based scholarship.

She is currently represented in Toronto by MKG127 Gallery, and her work is held by the collections of Canada House, London, the Canada Council Art Bank and the Saskatchewan Arts Board.

Colin Miner

Colin Miner

The next visiting artist this week is Colin Miner, who will be speaking from 3:30-4:30pm on Wednesday, April 15, also in VIS 107. Miner recently completed his PhD in contemporary photographic practices at Western University, and holds an MFA & BFA from UBC. His work draws attention to photography’s relationship to the scientific, as well as to the materiality of photographs. Alongside his art practice, he works on writing, artist projects and the online publication Moire.

The Toronto-based Miner has also lived in Beijing, is the recipient of numerous awards and grants including the Roloff Beny Award for Photography and the Barbara Spohr Memorial Award, as well as the recipient of an emerging visual artist grant from both the Toronto and Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Council. He is also a participant in the artist research group Immersion Emergencies and Possible Worlds, which engages water as culture and resource through contemporary art.

Miner's "Afterimage 21" and "Afterimage 22"

Miner’s “Afterimage 21″ and “Afterimage 22″

Miner has attended thematic residencies with international artists Lucy & Jorge Orta and curator Celine Kopp, both at the Banff Centre. He has presented solo exhibitions in Canada, most notably at the Ministry of Casual Living (Victoria) and the McIntosh Gallery (London). Miner’s work has been included in group exhibitions within Canada at locations such as Art Metropole, The Belkin Satellite, Gallery 44, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, and Rodman Hall. Additionally, he has participated in international group exhibitions at Postdamer Platz (Germany) and The Beijing Center for the Arts (China).

Stay tuned for more details about upcoming Afternoon Artist Talks.

New Phoenix season offers mix of modern and classics

Hot on the heels of their critically acclaimed (and commercially successful) 2014-15 season, Phoenix Theatre recently announced their lineup for next year. A mix of new work, old classics and rarely seen gems, the 2015-16 season is looking like another great year.

“Theatre has a way of reminding us what it means to be human,” says Theatre department chair Allana Lindgren. “At the heart of the Phoenix Theatre’s 2015/16 season are four plays that share compelling human stories, and with master playwrights like Bertolt Brecht, Anton Chekhov and Tennessee Williams in this list, I know you’ll love the plays we’ve chosen for next season.” Here’s what’s coming up:

Loon by the WONDERHEADS (photo: Andrew Phoenix)

Loon by the WONDERHEADS (photo: Andrew Phoenix)

Opening the season with their traditional Spotlight on Alumni, Phoenix alumna Kate Braidwood returns to campus with her performance partner Andrew Phoenix and their widely acclaimed WONDERHEADS company. They’ll be presenting the wordless and whimsical Loon (October 14-24), a beautifully surprising mix of physical theatre, comedy and pathos and a love story the likes of which you’ve never seen. CBC enthusiastically described Loon as “a live cartoon for lovers and for dreamers; that is, for everyone. I’d give it more than five stars—I’d give it the moon.”

Loon centers on Francis, a lonely janitor who is plagued by isolation and tickled by whispers of childhood imagination. He has hit rock bottom and discovers that he has nowhere to go . . . but up. And up. And up! But will plucking the moon from the sky bring him the love he is searching for? The Portland-based WONDERHEADS have been hits with every show they’ve brought to town (including Fringe Fest favourites Grim & Fischer and The Middle of Everywhere) and it’ll be a pleasure to see Braidwood back at the Phoenix in the Spotlight on Alumni.

A German poster for The Threepenny Opera circa 1928

A German poster for The Threepenny Opera circa 1928

Up next is Bertolt Brecht’s classic The Threepenny Opera (November 5-21), featuring the music of Kurt Weill—possibly best known for bringing the jazz standard “Mack the Knife” into the world. Directed by Theatre professor Brian Richmond, The Threepenny Opera borrows from the 18th-century The Beggar’s Opera and offers an edgy mix of biting satire and sheer theatrical innovation as it takes aim at the traditional bourgeoisie and reveals a society where law is fickle, money corrupts and crime absolutely pays.

“This is quite possibly the most important piece of musical theatre in the 20th century,” says Richmond, who will be working with Applied Theatre professor Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta to bring a strong sense of realism to this production. Richmond is well-known for breathing fresh life into classic works, as evidenced by past Phoenix productions like Guys & Dolls, Dark of the Moon, The Wind in the Willows and Romeo & Juliet.

Renoir's 1881 painting "Le Déjeuner des Canotiers" catches the flavour of Wild Honey

Renoir’s 1881 painting “Le Déjeuner des Canotiers” catches the flavour of Wild Honey

Moving into 2016, we have Michael Frayn’s Wild Honey (February 11-20). Directed by Theatre professor and Phoenix alumnus Peter McGuire, and adapted from an original play by Anton Chekhov, Wild Honey offers a charming and hilarious love triangle set on a hot summer day on a provincial country estate, where friends, neighbours and family all get caught up in an elaborate game of romantic cat-and-mouse.

“Shakespeare said, ‘what fools these mortals be’ and I want to celebrate that sense of foolishness,” says McGuire, noting that Wild Honey is a lot like “a Woody Allen film—it shows us lives filled with love, sex and intrigue, all with a strong element of farce.”  McGuire also plans to take a decidedly non-traditional approach to the production, with the design mixing old and new, classic and modern—all to a jazzy, klezmeriffic music score. Curiously, Wild Honey is based on Chekhov’s first ever play, which was then sealed in a bank vault until after his death.

Summer and Smoke is evoked in Richard Emil Miller's 1910 painting "The Pool"

Summer and Smoke is evoked in Richard Emil Miller’s 1910 painting “The Pool”

Finally, Phoenix ends its season with Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke, as directed by MFA candidate Alan Brodie (March 10-19). Set in Mississippi at the turn of the 20th century, Summer and Smoke sees Tennessee Williams at his most passionate as he gives us the tale of Alma—the daughter of a small-town minister and mentally unstable mother, who harbours a life-long infatuation with her restless and self-indulgent neighbour, John. Of course, Alma and John’s struggle—between body and soul, anarchy and order, love and lust—leads to profound changes in both their lives.

“As a designer, I’ve done plenty of shows but hardly any from the modern American milieu,” says director Brodie. “I’ve always been drawn to early 20th century playwrights like Williams, who emphasize story, character and psychology. This is essentially a love story, just one without a happy ending.” (Better get out your handkerchiefs for this one.)

A bittersweet exploration of love and longing, Summer and Smoke is a true American masterpiece with unforgettable characters that break our hearts even as they touch our souls.

Click here for ticket information, and subscriptions for the 2015-16 season are already on sale here.

Joan MacLeod joins Belfry’s 40th season

Department of Writing professor and beloved Canadian playwright Joan MacLeod‘s most recent play, The Valley, has just been announced as being part of The Belfry Theatre‘s 40th anniversary season.

Joan MacLeod

Joan MacLeod

Running February 2 – 28, 2016, The Valley will be directed by former Belfry artistic director and award-winning director Roy Surette. Described as “relentlessly topical—and deeply empathetic” by the Globe and Mail, The Valley focuses on how a dramatic police encounter binds four people together—a mother and her teenage son, a policeman and his wife. As the Belfry put it in their announcement, “the strength and fragility of everyday people is the cornerstone of Joan MacLeod’s work and The Valley is her latest gem.”

Canadian plays speak to us in a way that plays from other countries don’t,” says current Belfry AD Michael Shamata. “There is a common language, and Victoria’s Joan MacLeod—winner of the Siminovitch Prize and the Governor General’s Award for Drama—speaks that language better than any writer I know. Her writing is subtle; it is calm on the surface with floods of emotion running underneath. This mother’s pain and helplessness in the face of her son’s depression affected me deeply.”

Shamata also notes that Surette’s production of MacLeod’s Homechild was “the first play I ever saw at the Belfry, and I’m so happy he’s coming back!”

2151After debuting in 2013, The Valley has been mounted at a number of theatres across Canada, and the book of the script was released in 2014 by Talon Books.

Joan MacLeod’s other plays include Another Home Invasion, Homechild, The Shape Of A Girl, 2000, Little Sister, The Hope Slide, Amigo’s Blue Guitar, Toronto, Mississippi and Jewel. She also wrote the libretto for The Secret Garden and has written several scripts for CBC television. She has won several awards including the $100,000 Siminovitch Prize, the Governor General’s Award for Drama, two Chalmers’ Canadian Play Awards, the Jessie Richardson Award, Betty Mitchell Award and Dora Mavor Moore Award.

For seven seasons she was a playwright-in-residence at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto and in 2009 was the Senior Playwright-in-residence at the Playwrights’ Colony at The Banff Centre. The Shape Of A Girl has been playing each year since its premiere in 2001 and has been translated into six languages.

Visual Arts professor honoured with prestigious Governor General’s Award

Department of Visual Arts professor and nationally renowned painter Sandra Meigs has been named one of only eight winners in the annual Governor General’s Awards for Visual and Media Arts by the Canada Council for the Arts.

2015 Governor General's Award winner Sandra Meigs in her studio (photo: Michelle Alger)

2015 Governor General’s Award winner Sandra Meigs in her studio (photo: Michelle Alger)

“It’s such an honour to be recognized in this capacity for my career as an artist,” says Meigs. “You get benchmarks of recognition as you go along—a big review in the Globe and Mail, a major Canada Council grant—but this is something very ceremonial, very special. I feel totally thrilled.”

Highly regarded for her expressive, eclectic and interdisciplinary contemporary artworks, Sandra Meigs is best known for large-scale works like The Basement Panoramas and Strange Loop. Primarily working in the mediums of acrylic and oil, she has led a distinguished 35-year career with over 40 solo and 60 group exhibitions in Canada’s most culturally relevant institutions. Her work has been collected by the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Banff Centre, the Canada Council Art Bank and the Musée d’art contemporain. She is currently represented by the Susan Hobbs Gallery in Toronto.

“You can call it a lifetime achievement award, but in a way I see it as the beginning of a new lifetime,” says Meigs. “Some artists make brilliant work in their last 20 years, so for me it’s less lifetime achievement and more career achievement.”

Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts Simon Brault praises the 2015 recipients. “This year’s winners are profoundly shaping Canada’s cultural identity. We applaud their innovative and powerful work, which invites us to question the state of our world and our own personal destinies in ways that we never would have imagined.”

Click here to watch a short video about Sandra Meigs’ creative practice (Directed by Ryan Mah and Danny Berish for the Canada Council, it will play at film festivals across Canada throughout the year and will be seen on Air Canada’s in-flight entertainment system starting in May 2015.)

Open Space will be honouring Meigs with a reception from 5 to 8pm Wednesday, March 25, at 510 Fort Street. All are welcome.

"Red. 3011 Jackson. (Mortality)" from the 2013 series The Basement Panoramas

“Red. 3011 Jackson. (Mortality)” from the 2013 series The Basement Panoramas

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1953, Meigs has lived in Canada since 1973. She left the Rhode Island School of Art to study at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where she earned her BFA. NSCAD had just become internationally acclaimed as a place of critical stimulation and theoretical discourse, where the methodologies of contemporary art were in the process of being reinvented; the spirit of this rambunctious art school became an essential part of Meigs’ thinking, and contributed to her MA in Philosophy at Dalhousie University in 1980. A former Chair of UVic’s Department of Visual Arts (1997-2002), she continues to bring that critical eye to her classes.

Meigs (photo: Michelle Alger)

Meigs (photo: Michelle Alger)

“We have some of the top contemporary artists in the country here and we have very high standards for all our sessional instructors, who are all very good,” she explains about the dynamic learning environment upon which the Visual Arts department is built. “We focus so intensely on studio practice for the students versus doing a lot of theoretical lecturing
. . . we look at everything very carefully, and talk about it in a constructive but critical way—how it’s related to current art context and theoretical ideas of contemporary art. It’s hard for the general public to get that, because you don’t get that unless you’re here, but it’s all very exciting. That’s the great strength of UVic’s Visual Arts program—walk through any of the studios and you’ll feel it.”

Hear Meigs speak about her own creative practice in this video from the Faces of UVic Research series.

"In the Highest Room" by Sandra Meigs

“In the Highest Room” by Sandra Meigs

A member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Artists who also represented Canada in the Fifth Biennale of Sydney, Meigs has been a professor with Visual Arts since 1993 and feels that working in Victoria is one of the factors that set her work apart. “There’s not a huge contemporary art community here, and I like the sense of delight or freedom that gives me in my studio,” she says. “I take what I do here and show it in Toronto and people always say, ‘Oh, that’s so fresh!’”

Meigs is only the second UVic scholar to be awarded a Governor General’s Award for Visual Arts, alongside sculptor and now-Professor Emeritus Mowry Baden in 2006. She has taught painting, sculpture and foundation courses at Halifax’s Dalhousie University, Toronto’s York University and the Ontario College of Art, and the University of Toronto, Scarborough. She has also been a mentor for generations of artists, among them UVic alumni Patrick Howlett, Althea Thauberger and Marianne Nicolson—all of whom have work in major public collections. Former student Kim Adams also won the Governor General’s Award for Sculpture in 2014.

Sandra Meigs' "Baby" (installation view, 1994)

Sandra Meigs’ “Baby” (installation view, 1994)

“This award represents ours country’s highest honour in our profession, and publicly recognizes a lifetime of achievement and contribution to this field of research,” says Paul Walde, Chair of the Department of Visual Arts. “Throughout her career at UVic, Sandra has continued to distinguish herself and the Department through her outstanding work as an artist and professor.”

With 18 catalogue essays and over 60 articles and reviews, Meigs’ artistic output has been covered in influential journals such as Artforum, Canadian Art, Border Crossings, The Globe & Mail, C Magazine, Parachute and the National Post. She has been awarded major grants, is a sought-after member of peer assessment committees, and has advised boards of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, CARFAC and the Canada Council For the Arts. In addition to her studio practice, Meigs writes, researches and occasionally curates. Her most recent major local exhibition was The Basement Panoramas at downtown’s Open Space gallery.

Viewers considering Meigs' work at Open Space (photo: Jacquelyn Bortolussi)

Viewers considering Meigs’ work at Open Space (photo: Jacquelyn Bortolussi)

“Just when you think you have a handle on how Sandra will next explore psychological or physical space, her passion and focus changes shape and direction,” notes Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. “The University of Victoria is fortunate to have an artist of such strong national and international reputation on its faculty.”

Award nominator Helen Marzolf, Executive Director of Open Space, has long admired Meigs’ work. “With each successive series she surprises, jolts, and transforms how we think about the world. I have always been in awe of her confidence and audacity,” says Marzolf. “Her brilliant philosophical paintings always breathe vernacular air—anyone, no matter what his or her background, is susceptible to them. How fitting, and how exciting, for her to win the GG in Visual and Media Arts. Aren’t we lucky to have Sandra Meigs in our community?”

Meigs' "The Newborn, The Brook" (detail, 2001)

Meigs’ “The Newborn, The Brook” (detail, 2001)

In response to her exhibit The Newborn in 2001, noted Toronto art writer John Bentley Mays expressed his ongoing astonishment at Meigs’ ability: “There is art and duty and sorrow and surprises and, always, the unceasing wonder—in everything, in fact, catalogued in this remarkable and intelligent installation. Ms. Meigs is a painter who thinks critically about everything—painting and thinking included.”

As Open Space’s Marzolf wrote in her nomination package, “Meigs’ artistic process resolutely follows the barest whiff of imaginative speculation into uncharted intimacies. Meigs wills us into spaces of profound, mischievous curiosity from which there is no escape. Her agnostic, non-transcendent politics offers a quantum expansion of the psychogeographies of Canadian identity.”

Meigs at home (photo: Nik West)

Meigs at home (photo: Nik West)

Meigs will be presented with a $25,000 cash prize and unique commemorative medallion by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on April 8 and will also participate in a special curated exhibit of 2015 winners at the National Gallery of Canada, running April 9 to August 30.

This year’s other Visual and Media Arts Award winners include Louise Déry, Robert Houle, Micah Lexier, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Paul McClure, Rober Racine and Reva Stone.

The Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts were created in 1999 by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Governor General of Canada. The awards celebrate Canada’s vibrant arts community and recognize remarkable careers in the visual and media arts.