BFA students ready to Split

Undergraduates in the Department of Visual Arts are similar to students in any department at the University of Victoria: they come here to learn, to think, to research and to incubate their ideas. But what makes Visual Arts students different is that they also come here to create—and that creative difference is showcased in the annual Bachelor of Fine Arts graduating exhibit, this year titled Split.

BFA student Marina Eglis installs her piece in the graduating exhibit Split

BFA student Marina Eglis installs her piece in the graduating exhibit Split

No question, the BFA exhibit is one of the most anticipated events of the Visual Arts academic year. This year featuring the work of 36 students, Split runs from April 17-26 and will feature a tremendous amount of painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, video and media art spread throughout the Visual Arts building.

“For many of the students, the BFA exhibition is an opportunity for them to exhibit their work publicly for the first time,” says Visual Arts professor Jennifer Stillwell, who is coordinating Split with fellow professor Robert Youds. “Each graduating student has created a body of work or a major work that speaks to their individual point of view as an artist. The exhibit marks the achievement of their degree and celebrates and highlights the work they have put into it.”

BFA student Abigail Laycock with her sculptures

BFA student Abigail Laycock with her sculptures

More than just displaying their work, however, the students have also organized most aspects of the exhibition itself—from curatorial decisions and building preparation to organizing the opening night event and creating a colour catalogue that will further support the work and ideas of each artist in the show.

“Most BFA students arrive here not really knowing what contemporary art is, then they have to go through the process of figuring it out and engaging with it,” says Visual Arts professor Paul Walde. “Then they have to decide what they want to work on and move forward with that. This final year really is the tipping point where you see massive development in a student’s work. That’s why UVic is such a great incubator for artists: it gives you time and space, and it has great facilities and a great faculty—but when students graduate, it’s really important for them to get off the island and test the strength of their ideas in other contexts.”

VASA president Graham Macaulay

VASA president Graham Macaulay with one of his installations

Split 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. “Taking these courses and working with these professors has given me a way of filtering what I’m taking in and providing effective strategies for creating things,” says graduating Visual Arts Student Association president Graham Macaulay. “The strength of this program is the very direct studio practice—you really get into the meat of your artistic practice. I’ve been exposed to a lot of different ideas and people with different practices.”

BFA student Heather Carter with her wall of nudes

BFA student Heather Carter with her wall of nudes

On one level, the exhibit title Split was inspired by a quote by French theorist Roland Barthes,  which appears in the exhibit catalogue: “It would seem that we are condemned for some time yet to always speak excessively about reality. This is probably because ideologism and its opposite are types of behaviours which are still magical, terrorized, blinded and fascinated by the split in the social world. And yet, this is what we must seek: a reconciliation between reality and men, between description and explanation, between object and knowledge.”

Graduating student Chris Savage matches painted plates to paintings

Graduating student Chris Savage matches his painted dishware to paintings

When asked about this, Macaulay chuckles. “It’s kind of tricky naming a grad show—it’s always a bit of the same thing: a lot of people with very disparate practices. You get some meeting places where people work together but the only real connection point is the location—we’re all here, we’re all Visual Arts students,” he says. “But in her catalogue essay, Jennifer Stillwell said, ‘It’s time to split’—which I thought was so funny, it’s been four years and it’s time to split. It’s such a simple thing, and such a contrast with what Barthes has to say.”

SplitBFAGradShow_PosterSplit also carries on the enviable Visual Arts tradition of producing some of Canada’s most notable contemporary artists—such as 2014 Governor General’s Award winner Kim Adams, as well as the likes of Jessica Stockholder, Gwen Curry, Bill Burns, Marla Hlady, Phyllis Serota, Barbara Fischer, Christian Giroux and many, many others.

If you want to brush up on the future of Canadian art, look no further than UVic’s Department of Visual Arts.

Split opens with a 7pm reception on Thursday, April 17. The exhibit runs daily to April 26 throughout UVic’s Visual Arts Building, and is free to attend. Don’t miss our upcoming MFA  graduating exhibit as well, running May 2-10.

 

Rotating and protecting UVic’s art collection

With 2,200 works of art currently on display—out of more than 20,000 pieces in the university’s overall art collection—UVic has more art on view in public, non-museum spaces than at any other university in Canada. Managing the collection responsibly through the Legacy Art Galleries’ Art on Campus program has also meant that a number of pieces previously on display in public spaces have been deemed to be at risk—and are in the process of being replaced with thematically similar works.

Mary Jo Hughes at the 2013 Legacy exhibit Paradox (photo: Don Denton)

Mary Jo Hughes at the 2013 Legacy exhibit Paradox (photo: Don Denton)

“The Department of Canadian Heritage designate some of our works to be of outstanding national significance,” explains Legacy Art Galleries director Mary Jo Hughes, “so they require we only show and store these pieces in places with ‘Category A’ museum standards—which we unfortunately don’t have in the public spaces and offices on campus.”

The risks that Legacy must be concerned about are more than just the possibility of theft. “Art can be damaged from light, temperature, humidity, airborne contaminants, pests and vandalism,” she says.

Canadian Heritage requires nearly 1,000 nationally significant artworks in UVic’s collection to be protected for the benefit and education of both present and future generations. Consider, for example, Legacy’s precious William Morris tapestries. “They are so valuable and so vulnerable to light that we only bring them out for short-term display, and for examination and research,” says Hughes. “We always have to balance preservation with the desire for long-term display; if we were to put them out, they would be so faded after a couple of years that they ‘d be worthless for future generations.”

Legacy curator Caroline Riedel, History in Art Professor Dr. Erin Campbell and History in Art student Holly Cecil (photo by Gary McKinstry)

Legacy curator Caroline Riedel, History in Art Professor Dr. Erin Campbell and History in Art student Holly Cecil (photo by Gary McKinstry)

But while this curatorial shuffle means you’ll no longer find Myfanwy Pavelic’s paintings in the McPherson Library or Robert Davidson’s prints in the Fraser Building, you will now find equally strong and relevant pieces in their place. Pavelic’s portrait of famed conductor Yehudi Menuhin that previously hung outside the library’s Music and Media department has been replaced with alumna Eva Campbell’s portrait of filmmaker Kemi Craig. “Legacy is attempting to match pieces that will continue to speak those messages,” explains Hughes. “Maintaining First Nations prints in the Law faculty, for example, speaks to their respect for and interest in indigenous approaches to law.”

Even though Legacy Art Gallery Downtown and the Legacy Maltwood in the Mearns Centre for Learning are the only “Category A” spaces available, that doesn’t mean the campus will be short on art to display. “We have the most art on public display of any university in Canada,” Hughes says. (By way of comparison, the much larger University of Toronto campus only has 800 pieces on view.) “The Art on Campus program makes a valuable contribution to the educational environment at UVic. It reinforces an interdisciplinary approach in how people work, teach and learnon campus, and recognizes art as a vital part of everybody’s life; it provides invigoration and stimulation wherever it is.”

UVic's Legacy Gallery Downtown

UVic’s Legacy Gallery Downtown

Hughes also points out what our art collection says about the university as a whole. “It reinforces key messages about UVic, about our values, about our culture,” she says. “Think about the remarkable amount of First Nations art we have campus: that speaks to our connection with the Coast Salish people, with being grateful for being on their territory, with recognizing their culture as a vital part of our world right now. That’s very important to UVic, across disciplines. We don’t want to just pigeonhole art in the Fine Arts or Visual Arts buildings.”

Though some key works have been moved out of offices where they were well-loved, protecting the art will create opportunities to share the pieces with a wider audience through the gallery—in our own era and in the decades to come.

Maxwell Bates' "Circus People" (1969) will be seen in Legacy's upcoming Epiphany exhibit

Maxwell Bates’ “Circus People” (1969) will be seen in Legacy’s upcoming Epiphany exhibit

The program is also providing new opportunities for community engagement, as seen in Legacy’s upcoming exhibit Epiphany:Highlights from the Legacy Permanent Collection opening May 1. Featuring artists of national significance like Norval Morrisseau, Lawren Harris, Frederick Varley, Robert Davidson, Emily Carr, Myfanwy Pavelic, Robert Rauschenberg, Jack Shadbolt and Jean-Paul Riopelle, among others, Epiphany will showcase art that may previously have had limited exposure. “This will enable a lot of people to see some of the cultural properties that have been taken off-campus,” she explains. “A piece may have been hanging in someone’s office or a hallway the general public couldn’t get to before. We’re trying to give access to these key pieces in exhibitions like this.”

Hughes also feels it’s important to remember that community engagement is only part of the role of UVic’s art collection—with the other part being experiential learning. “We cater to faculties whenever they want to have artwork as part of their teaching. We offer art for teaching in classes on campus or at Legacy and we provide study access to reseachers . . . what we do is very much linked to the academic mandate, and real-life experience of working with art. ”

“We’re still dedicated to providing access to all our pieces,” Hughes concludes, “through temporary exhibits, research, classroom visits, and through our database. We have to balance the protection of the artwork with access for scholarship, research and exhibition purposes.”

 

Art on the horizon

With classes ending and the semester wrapping up, it’s a good time to pause and take a breather—and what better time to check out some art? There’s a fresh batch of exhibits coming up this and next month, all of which showcase the work of both UVic artists and art historians.

Pub Crawl (2)First up is the PUB(lic) Crawl happening Saturday, April 12. Part walking tour and part film screening and discussion, the PUB(lic) Crawl offers an active, participatory tour of several interarts projects in the public sphere. Led by Art Gallery of Greater Victoria educators, Open Space and visiting artists—including Jackson 2Bears, the current Audain Professor for the Department of Visual Arts, who will be screening a new multimedia work at the end of the tour. This freewheeling appraisal of public space runs rain or shine. Meet outside the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (1040 Moss) at 3pm for the two-hour walking tour, which will reach the Garrick’s Head Pub (1140 Government) at 5pm, where the screening and discussion will continue till 7pm. Admission is by donation.

The Pub(lic) Crawl is just one of the many exciting events leading up to the April 25-26 event Reclaim the Streets: A Symposium on Art and Public Space.

From Chris Lindsay's "I like the wind"

From Chris Lindsay’s “I like the wind”

Already open is Chris Lindsay‘s latest exhibit,  I like the wind at Xchanges Gallery. A recent Visual Arts MFA alumnus and the current workshops technician for the Department of Visual Arts, Lindsay presents new work exploring the non-conventional mark-making possibilities of the rust process. The inventive attitude of the artist and the dynamic physical character of the rust process are captured, reflecting our connection to the world outside of our selves and our relationship to that which we imagine and bring physically into this world.

Curious about how rust influences the artistic process? Don’t miss Lindsay’s artist talk at 2pm Sunday, April 27. I like the wind continues to April 27 at Xchanges Gallery, 6E-2333 Government St. The gallery is open Saturdays & Sundays noon to 4pm.

SplitBFAGradShow_PosterThe Visual Arts BFA graduation exhibit is always one of the most anticipated events of the Fine Arts academic year. This year’s exhibit is titled Split and will feature the diverse work of 36 graduating BFAs—including painting, photography, sculpture, drawing, installation and extended media works. Split 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. Supervised by Visual Arts professors Jennifer Stillwell and Robert Youds Split will fill the entire Visual Arts building and also offer an exhibit catalogue created by the students themselves.

Owen Mathieson's paintings can be seen in "Split"

Owen Mathieson’s paintings can be seen in “Split”

Split also carries on Visual Arts’ enviable tradition of producing some of Canada’s most notable contemporary artists—such as 2014 Governor General’s Award winner Kim Adams, as well as the likes of Jessica Stockholder, Gwen Curry, Bill Burns, Marla Hlady, Phyllis Serota, Barbara Fischer, Christian Giroux and many, many others. If you want to brush up on the future of Canadian art, look no further than the Department of Visual Arts.

Split opens with a 7pm reception on Thursday, April 17, and continues 10am to 6pm daily to April 26 in the Visual Arts Building.

Just in time for Easter weekend is Windows Into Heaven: Religious Icons from the Permanent Collection. Opening April 23 at the Legacy Downtown, this exhibition is curated by History in Art graduate student Regan Shrumm as the result of a directed studies course under the supervision of History in Art professor and exhibit co-curator Dr. Evanthia Baboula.

Windows Into HeavenThese 18th and 19th century icons—created from egg tempera, enamel and silver metalwork—are from the eastern Christian tradition and show how religious imagery maintained a central role in orthodox Christianity. Icons were venerated in churches, private homes or during a journey to provide protection to body and spirit. Images of saints, Christ and the Virgin that date back to the Byzantine tradition, the medieval empire of Constantinople, are also a concrete remnant of how the religious communities of imperial Russia built on these traditions to create a recognizable, yet distinctive and lively art. “The icons in this exhibition are similar in age and importance to others found in major galleries and museums worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum, the British Museum, and the Ashmolean,” says Baboula.

Learn more about the historical and cultural significance of these icons with the curator’s talk and tour at 7pm Thursday, April 24. The exhibit runs to August 9 at the Legacy Art Gallery Downtown, 630 Yates. Admission is free and the gallery is open 9am to 4pm Wednesday to Saturday.

The button blanket receiving its inaugural dance at UVic's First Peoples House (Photo Services)

The button blanket receiving its inaugural dance at UVic’s First Peoples House (Photo Services)

It’s also worth noting that your last chance to see the Legacy exhibit Adasla: The Movement of Hands is coming up fast—the exhibit must close on Friday, April 25. Featuring the world’s biggest button blanket, Adasla is the culmination of work done by History in Art professor Carolyn Butler-Palmer, HIA sessional instructor Peter Morin and their fall 2013 class. Find out more about the project here, and be sure to see the exhibit before it closes.

Also of note on the Legacy Galleries front are two upcoming on-campus exhibits: Honoris Causa: University of Victoria First Nations Artist Honorands, which runs to the end of May at First Peoples House, and Margaret Peterson: A Search In Rhythm which runs to August 9.

Kwagiulth Chief and Frog, Henry Hunt, 1980

Kwagiulth Chief and Frog, Henry Hunt, 1980

Honoris Causa features the work of First Nations artists who have received honorary degrees from the university. Twice yearly at convocation, UVic awards honorary degrees to those who have demonstrated distinguished and extraordinary achievements—and, during its 50-year history, UVic has granted honours to seven First Nations artists who have contributed not only to the arts but also to the community at large as leaders, activists, visionaries, role models, and groundbreakers. Honoris Causa features works from UVic’s art collection and an excerpt from the citation that was read at the occasion of granting the degree. It continues to May 9 at First Peoples House.

Meanwhile, A Search In Rhythm features the artworks and personal papers of  groundbreaking mid-20th century abstract painter, Margaret Peterson. Peterson had a big vision: to search for the spiritual realm, in rhythm with the artistic aims of Indigenous peoples across the world. Peterson’s main medium was egg tempera on plywood panels—striking in size, colour, and form.

Portrait of Margaret Peterson by Curtis Lantinga, 1978

Portrait of Margaret Peterson by Curtis Lantinga, 1978

This is the first in an upcoming series of exhibitions presenting UVic’s Artist Archives and Legacy Art Galleries joint holdings which demonstrates the rich research potential of this recently acquired material. This exhibit runs April 11 to August 9 in the Legacy Maltwood at the Mearns Centre in the McPherson Library.

There will also be a lively panel discussion of the artists’ archives and this exhibit at 2pm Tuesday, May 13, in room A003 of the Mearns Centre. Titled “Working with Artists’ Archives at the University of Victoria,” it will feature UVic archivist Lara Wilson, local art writer Robert Amos,  art historian Nick Tuellie and exhibit curator Justine Drummond.

Work by MFA candidate Neil McClelland

Work by MFA candidate Neil McClelland

Finally, we have the much-anticipated MFA Graduating Exhibit in the Department of Visual Arts. Featuring the work of six graduate students in the Master of Fine Arts program, the exhibit—this year titled In Your Eyes—offers contemporary art in a wide variety of disciplines.

In Your Eyes essentially offers six separate solo exhibits in one, as each graduating student—Megan Dyck, Ethan Lester, Neil McClelland, Kaitlynn McQueston, Carley Smith and Jeroen Witvliet—has their own exhibition space in the Visual Arts building. “We look 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 professor and graduate advisor Paul Walde about the MFA students.

Work by MFA student Carley Smith

Work by MFA candidate Carley Smith

The key to contemporary art, says Walde, is to spend some time with the work. “If you walk into a play or open a book and just spend five minutes with it, you’re probably not going to have a good sense of what the total accomplishment is,” he says. “That’s the same with visual arts—you have to spend some time with the work, maybe do a little reading around it . . . sometimes the content of the art is such that a level of understanding will have to preface it in some way.”

The opening reception for In Your Eyes begins at 6pm, Friday May 2, with opening remarks at 7pm. The exhibit runs 10am to 5pm daily (except Sundays) to May 10 throughout UVic’s Visual Arts Building.

Books, books, books

Spring has sprung and there’s no better way to mark the return of the leaves than with some exciting book news from Department of Writing graduates. (Get it? Books, leaves, pages . . . ah, never mind.)

Arleen Pare

Arleen Paré

First up is news that recent MFA Arleen Paré is launching her second book of poetry this month. Lake of Two Mountains. Published by Brick Books, Lake of Two Mountains is described as “a portrait of a lake, of a relationship to a lake, of a network of relationships around a lake. It maps, probes and applauds the riparian region of central Canadian geography that lies between the Ottawa and the St. Lawrence Rivers.”

Paré’s first book, Paper Trail, won the 2008 Victoria Butler Book Prize and was shortlisted for the 2010 Dorothy Livesay BC Book Prize in Poetry. She’ll be launching Lake of Two Mountains alongside authors Jane Munro, Joanna Lilley and Karen Enns at 8pm Tuesday April 29 at Open Space (510 Fort Street). The event will be hosted by Kitty Lewis, with a  Q&A  session will be facilitated by Sara Cassidy.

Martens

Garth Martens

The first book of poetry by Garth Martens was also recently released. His Prologue for the Age of Consequence (House of Anansi) offers an elemental world both beautiful and severe, where characters assume a collective status both emphatically human and radically mythic. While his Prologue is about Alberta’s tar sands industrial project, and the men who work in them, these are poems of great philosophical ambition with a startling ethical and psychological reach.

Wigmore

Gillian Wigmore

Better still, Martens will be launching his book alongside fellow Writing alum Gillian Wigmore, who will whose debut book Grayling is described by no less than retired Writing professor Jack Hodgins as “a spirited journey story I found as irresistible as the powerful river that carries us through the beautiful and treacherous northern landscape.” Grayling is released through the venerable Mother Tongue press.

Join both Martens and Wigmore for their launch celebration at 7:30pm Thursday, April 3, at Russell’s Books (734 Fort Street).

Shepard

Aaron Shepard

Also on deck for his debut novel is MFA alum Aaron Shepard. He’ll be launching When Is A Man on April 8. Described by publishers Brindle & Glass as “an original debut novel that is meditative, raw, and exuberant in tone, Shepard’s When is a Man offers a fresh perspective on landscape and masculinity.” You can read our full interview with Shepard here before joining him to celebrate the release of When is a Man at the reading and launch party from 7-9pm Tuesday, April 8 at the Copper Owl, 1900 Douglas Street in Victoria. The event will be hosted by Writing professor David Leach. Shepard will also be participating in the At the Mike: Fiction Night! (alongside guest authors M.A.C. Farrant and Margaret Thompson) at 7pm Tuesday, April 15, at Russell’s Books, 734 Fort.

celona

Marjorie Celona

Congratulations go out to Writing grad Marjorie Celona for making the prestigious Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award shortlist—which is the richest story prize in the world! Celona is up against five other writers—including two Pulitzer Prize winners—for this hefty £30,000 prize. (But the runners-up will receive £1,000 each, so that’s okay too.) The winner will be announced on April 4. For those keeping track, Celona’s first novel Y was heralded as a stunning debut back in 2012.

wilson

D.W. Wilson

Further congratulations to Writing grad and novelist-on-the-rise D.W. Wilson for making the Amazon First Novel Award shortlist with his Ballistics (Hamish Hamilton Canada). Wilson has continued to earn fans and critical acclaim alike since the publication of his short story collection Once You Break A Knuckle—which includes the “The Dead Roads”, the story that earned him the 2011 BBC National Short Story prize. Alongside Marjorie Celona, Wilson was also selected for 2013′s prestigious Waterstones Eleven list in the UK.

More prize-winning news from the Department of Writing: MFA candidate and filmmaker Connor Gaston just won “Best College Short” at the 2014 Phoenix Film Festival in April for directing the 2013 Writing 420 class project, ’Til Death. This is the fourth prize for ’Til Death, which continues to attract attention wherever it screens.  

BooksWriting grads are well represented among the nominees for the forthcoming 2014 BC Book Prizes. Two alum are both nominated for the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize: Arno Kopecky made the shortlist for The Oil Man and the Sea, as did Jane Silcott for Everything Rustles. Meanwhile, Ashley Little has been named in two different categories: the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize for her novel Anatomy of a Girl Gang and the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize for The New Normal. Finally, Catherine Greenwood is up for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize for The Lost Letters. (Also noted in the fine print were faculty member Lynne Van Luven and instructor and alumnus Steven Price as judges in the non-fiction and fiction categories, respectively.) The winners will be announced at the 30th Annual Lieutenant Governor’s BC Book Prizes Gala on Saturday, May 3, at the Renaissance Vancouver Harbourside Hotel. British Columbia’s Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Judith Guichon, OBC, will be in attendance.

Melanie Siebert

Melanie Siebert

Acclaimed Deepwater Vee poet, MFA grad and occasional Department of Writing instructor Melanie Siebert was announced as the winner in April of the inaugural poetry prize from the online Lemon Hound with her poem “Thereafter.” Noted poet and prize judge Rae Armantrout had this to say about Siebert’s poem: “Every sentence in ‘Thereafter’ is interesting . . . . It’s as if we’re listening to the voices of the damned (‘Dante’s goddamn mike was open’) and they’re our voices, just skewed enough that we notice what we’ve been saying all along . . . . In this poem our own language comes back to bite us. If only we could wake up.” Visit Lemon Hound to read Siebert’s poem.

While we’re talking about literary prizes, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention 355830d4d1f1585da36e273359cb2e78that our Writing grads are all over the 2014 PRISM International Poetry & Fiction Contest winners list.
The first place Fiction winner is Cathy Kozak and the first place Poetry winner is Jordan Mounteer. First runner-up in Poetry went to alum Kyeren Regehr and the Fiction runner-up went to Leah Jane Esau. And second runner-up in the annual PRISM Creative Non-fiction Contest went to Writing grad Jenny Boychuk for her piece, “Notes on Breath”. (Judge and Can-lit biggie Timothy Taylor described Boychuk’s piece as “A difficult set of family relationships is unwoven and revealed in the process of an episodic meditation on breathing.”)

Carol Lyn Morgan

Cara-Lyn Morgan

Speaking of Writing MFA alum Kyeren Regher, she has also been selected as the only Canadian represented in the U.S.-based collection Best New Poets 2013. (Of course she’s one the best—she came from UVic!) Other first books for Writing grads: Cara-Lyn Morgan just released her book of poetry What Became of My Grieving Ceremony with Thistledown Press, and Colin Fulton‘s book of poetry Life Experience Coolant was recently published by BookThug.

Finally, current Writing undergrad Sheldon Seigel has been named as one of the 10 finalists for the infamous 3-Day Novel Contest organized by Geist magazine and Anvil Press. Siegel is among the five Canadian finalists for the 2013 prize—and he was also profiled as a contestant on CBC’s Canada Writes site, where he shared some humourous insights in both his entrance and exit interviews.

Sheldon Seigel

We’re sure Sheldon Seigel is just hiding his bloodshot eyes as a result of writing a novel in 3 days

As Canada Writes reports, “the last time we spoke with Sheldon was in early September when he had just finished his first writing marathon. Sheldon was zonked, but happy. He called the experience ‘horrendous, spectacular, cathartic, shocking, and enlightening.’ We thought we would ask him now, with time and some perspective, how he feels about being shortlisted: ‘… I’m still shocked that I survived the contest weekend. I have since read my story and found it to be surprising. Perhaps that is because I don’t remember writing half of it! It was indeed a wonderful and horrible experience, one that paid incredible dividends in terms of literary growth and a stronger bond with my dog.’”

You can also hear an interview with Seigel on this episode of CBC’s All Points West.

The winner of the 3-Day Novel Contest will be announced later this week.

Stand by your Man

Chalk up another achievement for Department of Writing MFA graduates: this month, Aaron Shepard is releasing his debut novel, When Is A Man.

Writing MFA Aaron Shepard

Writing MFA Aaron Shepard

Shepard, who picked up his MFA back in 2010, is only the latest in a string of Writing MFAs—including Anne Marie Bennett, Frances Backhouse, Devon Krukoff, Garth Martens, Arleen Paré, Kevin Paul, Melanie Siebert and Yasuko Thanh—to publish. (Expand that to include BFAs and the list grows even further, thanks to the likes of Esi Edugyan, Marjorie Celona, D.W. Wilson and many more than can be listed here.)

But while this may be his first novel, Aaron Shepard has already written some award-winning short fiction, served on the fiction board of The Malahat Review and has been published in a number of Canadian literary journals, including The Fiddlehead and PRISM International. His personal essay “Edge of the Herd” appears in the 2009 anthology Nobody’s Father: Life Without Kids (Touchwood).

When is a ManDescribed by publishers Brindle & Glass as “an original debut novel that is meditative, raw, and exuberant in tone, Shepard’s When is a Man offers a fresh perspective on landscape and masculinity.” In a nutshell, the novel follows Paul Rasmussen—a young ethnographer and academic recovering from prostate cancer—who retreats to the remote forests and towns of BC’s fictional Immitoin Valley, where a drowned man and a series of encounters with the locals force him to confront the valley’s troubled past and his own uncertain future. As Rasmussen turns his attention to the families displaced 40 years earlier by the flooding of the valley to create a hydroelectric dam, his desire to reinvent himself runs up against the bitter emotions and mysterious connections that linger in the community in the aftermath of the flood.

  • Join Aaron Shepard in celebrating the release of When is a Man at the reading and launch party from 7-9pm Tuesday, April 8 at the Copper Owl, 1900 Douglas Street in Victoria. The event will be hosted by Writing professor David Leach.

Calling it “an intimate and affecting exploration of screw-tight landscapes of the Interior,” Canadian novelist Mark Anthony Jarman praises Aaron Shepard’s freshman effort. “Shepard paints scenes in smoke and snow and light and dark, and the crack language and iron settings of river, mountain and forest put me in mind of the best of Ken Kesey the merry prankster,” he writes. “When is a Man is complex and stubborn and a serious joy.”

Shepard FocusFocus magazine book columnist Amy Reiswig is also clearly a fan. Writing in the April 2014 issue, she notes, “Shepard blends his great love for and experience of rural BC communities with the freedom of fiction, resulting in a book that deals head-on with specific BC issues but isn’t bound by specific BC history. Rather, Shepard creatively combines his own personal concerns with knowledge and research from a variety of very real events.” Reiswig also describes how Shepard’s “raw, honest look at male sexuality and constructed ideas of masculinity will encourage conversation about prostate cancer and about self-acceptance, patience and respect—another set of powerful unseens—that we could do well to extend to one another and ourselves.”

Shepard, who works by day as a writer for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (“Way too much desk time,” he admits), took some time to discuss the origin and intention of When Is A Man recently. Explaining that he had “essentially mapped out the novel before I started the MFA program—a much more surreal version than what I ended up with,” Shepard says he only wrote the first third as his MFA thesis. “After I graduated, I wrote the rest. Once I had a rough draft of the whole novel, the revision process—which is basically glorified problem-solving—took me in unexpected directions because now I was focusing on character development, which tends to disregard things like chapter outlines.”

His inspiration came from living and working in the West Kootenays, where he spent a few summers in his twenties building hiking trails beside rivers and doing some fisheries work. “River imagery took over a lot of my writing,” he explains. “I’ve always been interested in water issues, whether it’s the pros and cons of run-of-river dams, fracking, and so on. I was also inspired by the notion of time and events repeating themselves. One of the characters in the book embodies that idea: he keeps encountering the bodies of drowned men until he loses all sense of time . . . . As I wrote, these ideas somehow led me to thinking about the parallels between an altered landscape and an altered body.”

nobody's fatherWhile it’s been a couple of decades now since Robert Bly brought men’s issues to the forefront, both When Is A Man and his essay in the Nobody’s Father collection both touch on issues of masculinity. Does Shepard feel the representation of men and men’s concerns is somewhat ho-hum in literature right now?

“I often feel like the conversation about masculinity in literature is one-sided, that we expect our male characters to grapple with the so-called ‘crisis in masculinity’ through the familiar tropes of drinking, fighting and fucking,” he says. “Those are presented as the only ways to confront any type of emasculating force—like economic hardships, divorce or boredom. Any kind of weakness, like Paul’s impotence and incontinence, is usually reserved for satire or parody—that’s how we mock or punish characters.”

“As I developed Paul’s character, I thought, ‘What if things like impotence could be seen as a type of opportunity for an alternative take on manhood?’ I liked the idea of someone trying to avoid the questions of sexuality and gender role as they re-examine their identity,” he continues. “Paul learns it’s not a simple matter of choosing a monk-like seclusion or a ‘life of the mind.’ So the questions can never be entirely avoided, but there’s value in the searching. In that regard, I was influenced by [international novelist] A.S. Byatt, which sounds odd, but her female characters are often looking for a way of life that’s not strictly tied up in sex and gender roles —they want to be free just ‘to think.’”

  • Shepard will also be participating in the At the Mike: Fiction Night! alongside guest authors M.A.C. Farrant and Margaret Thompson. That kicks off at 7pm Tuesday, April 15, at Russell’s Books, 734 Fort Street in Victoria.
Lorna Jackson (Photo by Diana Nethercott)

Lorna Jackson (Photo by Diana Nethercott)

Before she became his MFA advisor, Department of Writing professor and acclaimed short story writer Lorna Jackson taught Shepard as an undergrad. “I thought he had a ton of promise,” she recalls. “He had a great attitude, his writing was original and well-crafted.” When they started working together toward his MFA, Jackson was even more impressed. “I really found his preoccupation with masculinity and landscape interesting and appealing, as well as his resistance to writing it as a romance, staying really strong in the idea of who the character was and what he wanted to accomplish. Aaron was really open to suggestions about what the story might need—especially to do with the body—but he’d always take an idea, really develop it and make it his own. That was the pleasure of working with him: seeing what he would do with a suggestion.”

“We had long discussions about the philosophical elements of the book—or, rather, why I want to tell this particular story in this particular way,” Shepard recalls of working with Jackson. “We studied a lot of writing about landscape/body, essays on watching and playing sports, things that helped refine certain ideas and lend a more focused approach to my writing.”

Shepard

An author’s favourite kind of selfie

While he admits that setting his book in the interior of British Columbia was “a bit risky in terms of broad appeal” when it came to landing it with an agent, Shepard proudly stands by his Man. “I suspect many agents felt the book was too ‘regional’ or ‘local.’ For When is a Man—and this is also true for the novel I’m currently drafting—I’ve been wrestling with my own ideas for too long to worry about what’s selling, or what’s popular with agents and publishers, etcetera. Maybe down the road, if I start with a blank canvas, I’ll be more strategic. But I doubt it. Then again, my next novel does deal a bit with climate change, so maybe my interests and the publishing world’s interests will intersect. In the meantime, I’m grateful to Brindle and Glass for believing in the story as is.”

But when it comes to placing that first novel, Lorna Jackson doesn’t feel bigger is always better. “I’m sure he wanted a great big publisher to get all excited, but it’s a different kind of novel than that,” she says of Shepard’s debut. “I think it’s great he’s found a smaller press to release it—I’m all about the small press. They’re so interesting and so not commercial, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m sure we’d all love a rousing commercial success, but it doesn’t always serve the art. Aaron’s a pretty arty guy—he’s a deep thinker and a deep feeler, and sometimes that doesn’t translate into massive sales.”

Current Department of Writing faculty

Current Department of Writing faculty

Finally, Shepard credits the MFA program for being “hugely influential in shaping and refining the starting ideas,” and praises other Department of Writing faculty members, notably Bill Gaston (“He’s a great ‘big picture’ person—he had a lot of good advice for thinking about the book as a whole, which came in handy after I finished the program and still had two-thirds of a novel to write”), Tim Lilburn (“his class on nature writing was, for obvious reasons, extremely useful and inspirational”), David Leach (“his class on travel writing helped improve my sense of pace”) and retired professor and novelist Jack Hodgins. “Three years later, funnily enough, John Gould—another instructor—was chosen by Brindle and Glass to work with me on the final edits after they’d accepted the manuscript.”

What’s up next now that first novel hurdle has been leaped? “I’m working on the next novel, just in the rough draft stages,” he says. “It’s slow going, and I’m bad at multi-tasking, so that’s the only project on the go right now.”

BCAC has money to spend on Fine Arts students

Here’s a bit of welcome news for cash-strapped arts students: the BC Arts Council Scholarship program is currently taking applications for BC residents planning to attend a full-time fine arts degree or diploma program in fall 2014. For any new or returning Fine Arts students, that’s you!

canadian_money1BCAC is providing scholarship funding of up to $6,000 per individual per year. As long as you’re a BC resident who has been accepted for full-time studies and is pursuing a fine arts diploma or degree at a recognized college, university, institution or academy, you can apply. In fact, you can apply to attend any institution in the world; your place of study doesn’t have to be in BC.

Here’s the important part: the application deadline is April 30, 2014. Click here for complete information, guidelines and application forms.

Last year, 144 BC students shared $750,000 in scholarship funding, with their fields of creative practice ranging from music, theatre, dance and creative writing to visual arts, media arts, museology and conservation. Jury panels representing BC’s arts and culture
community evaluate applications and award scholarships.

Better still, provincial support for the BCAC Scholarship program increased in 2012-13 from $150,000 to $750,000, nearly tripling the number of scholarships awarded and increasing the maximum grant from $4,000 to $6,000.

Congratulations to Esi Eudgyan on her Giller Prize win! (photo: Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Esi Eudgyan with her Giller Prize (photo: Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Scholarship recipients from previous years have gone on to achieve success in the arts, including Victoria native Atom Egoyan, now one of Canada’s top filmmakers, and Department of Writing alumna Esi Edugyan—now an acclaimed novelist and Giller Prize winner for Half-Blood Blues.

“BC Arts Council scholarships make great investments in the future of arts and culture in British Columbia,” says BC Arts Council chair Stan Hamilton. “The program has helped inspire many talented young British Columbians to build fulfilling careers in the arts. Their success helps British Columbia’s vibrant arts and culture community continue to achieve excellence across the full spectrum of the arts.”

Bottom line: they’ve got money to spend on arts students, but the only way to access it is to apply. Again, the application deadline is April 30, 2014. Click here for complete information, guidelines and application forms.

Recent Fine Arts media roundup

Whatever the season, our Fine Arts faculty always seem to be in the media. The only trick is keeping up with it all!

EdgeKicking off 2014, History in Art’s Victoria Wyatt was announced as a contributor to the influential Edge blog. For those not familiar with Edge, it’s an ongoing conversation of intellectual adventure. As they say on the Edge website, To arrive at the edge of the world’s knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.

The 2014 Edge question was, “What scientific idea is ready for retirement?” and it’s a bit  unusual for a History in Art professor to be asked to contribute to the conversation. But Victoria Wyatt was more than game for it, weighing in with her idea that “it’s time for the rocket scientist to retire.” She’s not talking about the folks at NASA, mind you, but that tired old cliche, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to . . . ” Read Wyatt’s engaging short essay here. All the responses are compiled in one really long list, so if you want to find hers quickly, just search for “Wyatt”.

The online Edge salon is, as they put it, “a living document of millions of words charting the Edge conversation over the past 15 years wherever it has gone.” In the words of the novelist Ian McEwan, Edge.org offers “open-minded, free ranging, intellectually playful . . . an unadorned pleasure in curiosity, a collective expression of wonder at the living and inanimate world . . . an ongoing and thrilling colloquium.”

JMPS_new_covIn other History in Art news, Allan Antliff recently edited a special issue of The Journal of Modern Periodical Studies focusing on “Anarchist Modernism in Print” (Volume 4, Number 2, 2013). As Antliff says in his introduction, “This issue of the Journal of Modern Periodical Studies examines political engagements with modernism in journals where productive comingling gave rise to new modes of anarchism contiguous with modernism, while modernism itself was propelled in new directions. In this instance we have a critical/creative nexus . . . keyed to values profoundly at odds with modernity, including its ‘socialist’ guise. Anarchism’s modernisms grapple with such issues as power relations, sexual difference, colonialism, and the economics of art—to name a few—with revolutionary intent.” Read more about Antliff’s issue here.

Allan Antliff's latest book, Joseph Beuys (Phaidon Focus)

Allan Antliff’s latest book, Joseph Beuys (Phaidon Focus)

Antliff also has a soon to be released new book about sculptor, painter, draughtsman, teacher, theorist and political activist Joseph Beuys. Simply titled Joseph Beuys, the 144-page book from Phaidon Focus is part of a groundbreaking new series that offers accessible, enjoyable and thought-provoking books on the visual arts. Described as “An enigmatic figure whose complex imagination drew on his research across a wide range of themes . . . Beuys strove to establish a truly democratic approach towards artistic creativity, and prove that modern art need not be confined to the museum or the gallery.”

Phaidon notes, “As Antliff effectively demonstrates, the ecological and political issues that informed much of Beuys’s art can be considered as relevant today as they were in his own lifetime.” You can read more about the art and life of Joseph Beuys in this article and this one. The book will be released on March 23.

A happy—and no doubt relieved—Carolyn Butler Palmer watches as the big button blanket is raised in First Peoples House (UVic Photo Services)

A happy—and no doubt relieved—Carolyn Butler Palmer watches as the big button blanket is raised in First Peoples House (UVic Photo Services)

Still in History in Art, Carolyn Butler Palmer‘s Big Button Blanket project—which earned all sorts of media attention during its fall 2013 creation—continued to make headlines with its 2014 public debut. Times Colonist art writer Robert Amos called the blanket’s exhibit at Legacy Gallery Downtown‘s Adasla: The Movement of Hands (continuing through to April 25) a “stimulating and multi-faceted show” in his review. Following the blanket’s debut at the opening of the Diversity Research Forum, UVic’s Ring newspaper previewed the upcoming performance by blanket co-creator Peter Morin and former Department of Visual Arts Audain Professor Rebecca Belmore in this article, and the Times Colonist also ran this article previewing the February 22 performance, summarizing the history of the button blanket and this blanket’s specific intention.

Peter Morin observes the big button blanket after it has been raised in First Peoples House (UVic Photo Services)

Peter Morin observes the big button blanket after it has been raised in First Peoples House (UVic Photo Services)

Local visual arts writer Robert Amos also ran this Times Colonist article about Adasla, describing it as a “stimulating and multi-faceted show.” The exhibit was also featured in the February/March issue of Preview: The Gallery Guide magazine, was written up in this article for the UVic student newspaper Martlet and appeared in the Victoria News article, “Big Art Emerges From A Big Blanket.”

Shifting to the Department of Theatre, professor emeritus  Juliana Saxton was the focus of this March 7 Montreal Gazette op-ed by Andrea Courey about life-long learning. At 80, Saxton certainly knows how to walk the talk! (“When asked to comment on the fun of still ‘coming to class,’ Saxton said she had no time to talk. She was off to teach a class! Bingo. I smiled and remembered the old adage: If you want to learn something, teach it. And if you can, keep learning.”)

Some of the cast of Unity (1918), on to March 22 at Phoenix Theatre (photo by David Lowes)

Some of the cast of Unity (1918), on to March 22 at Phoenix Theatre (photo by David Lowes)

Phoenix Theatre’s last production of the year—the award-winning Unity (1918), written and directed by Department of Writing professor Kevin Kerr—picked up a great deal of media attention in advance of its March 13 opening. The Times Colonist, CTV VI and CFUV’s U in the Ring all featured previews of the production, and the reviews coming in have all been outstanding (“Who knew a play about the flu could be so moving?” writes the Times Colonist). Click to this separate post to read a roundup of the press surrounding Unity (1918).

School of Music instructor Colleen Eccleston was a guest on CFAX 1070′s “Cafe Victoria with Bruce Williams” show (unfortunately not archived online). Eccleston spoke about the recent anniversary of the Beatles appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, and the impact they have had since that day 50 years ago. Music’s Wendell Clanton was also featured on CFAX 1070 in February (but also not archived); both he and members of the UVic Vocal Jazz Ensemble were interviewed about their Singing Valentines fundraiser.

12tet-frontThe UVic Wind Symphony and the Naden Band appeared on Shaw TV’s Go Island South show in advance of their Naden Scholarship fundraiser concert on February 7. Also in the brass department, congratulations go out once more to School of Music professor emeritus Ian McDougall on his latest Juno Award nomination! His album The Ian McDougall 12tet LIVE is nominated for “Traditional Jazz Album of the Year.” The winners will be announced on the March 30 broadcast from Winnipeg.

The School of Music’s new live streaming initiative also sparked this Times Colonist article about the pros and cons of digital content when it comes to audience impact. Concert Manager Kristy Farkas was interviewed, saying “she knows of no evidence suggesting that this program compromises attendance at UVic concerts.” The TC’s Kevin Bazzana quoted Farkas on how technology is “broadening our reach with the community” by allowing a student’s family in another city to watch a graduating recital, for example.

Sandra Meigs' "The Basement Panoramas"

Sandra Meigs’ “The Basement Panoramas”

Over in Visual Arts, the Toronto exhibit of Sandra Meigs‘ new series of paintings The Basement Panoramas got a great full-page review in the Toronto Star, which called it “perhaps the most potent work of Meigs’ career.” As anyone who saw the show when it appeared locally at Open Space back in November 2013 will recall, these are really, really big paintings—so large the Toronto exhibit was split between two galleries!

Daniel Laskarin at Deluge

Daniel Laskarin at Deluge

Current Visual Arts chair Daniel Laskarin had his fourth exhibition at downtown’s Deluge Contemporary Art from January 31 to March 8. In fallen and found, Laskarin returned to a decades-old preoccupation with the role of the sculptor as matterist in this solo exhibit, and you can hear him discuss the work in this video interview from ExhibitVic website.

WainoAnd the timing was perfect for Carol Wainio’s March 12 appearance as the latest in the long-running Department of Visual Arts VIsiting Artist series. Wainio had just been announced one of the recipients of the 2014 Governor General’s Awards for Visual & Media Arts on March 4, alongside Visual Arts alumnus Kim Adams. Wainio’s talk was teased by an advance photo in the local Victoria News listings.
Finally, in the Department of Writing, Joan MacLeod‘s latest play The Valley opened in Winnipeg recently, earning her this Winnipeg Free Press article: “Over almost three decades, the Victoria-based MacLeod has won a shelf full of awards for her plays, including the 2011 Siminovitch Prize, Canada’s richest theatre award. She is taken aback by the news that anyone thinks of her as a groundbreaking dramatist. ‘That’s extremely flattering and shocking,’ MacLeod says from her office at the University of Victoria, where she teaches. ‘When I sit down to write, I never feel like a master playwright. It’s nice to hear people think that. I’m blushing.’”
BCB-Feb2014-Cover_5_2Fellow Writing professor and Technology & Society program director David Leach wrote a great piece for BC Business magazine’s special all-TED issue in February. “Over the past 30 years, the annual Technology, Entertainment and Design conference has grown into a media juggernaut, fuelled by “ideas worth spreading” (as its tag line promises) and the most effective marketing on the social web,” writes Leach. “Today, this brand without borders aspires to reprogram our entire global operating system for the greater good.”

And the 2014 Southam Lecturer, Tom Hawthorn, popped up in the news a few times recently—not surprisingly, given that his Southam course focuses on sports journalism, and we’ve just come through a flurry of coverage on both the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics. While it’s no longer archived, Hawthorn spoke to CBC All Points West host Jo-Ann Roberts—also a former Southam Lecturer herself—about his January 29 public Southam Lecture titled, “In Defence of Sports Writing (Not All of it, Just the Good Stuff)”.

HawthornHawthorn also spoke about the importance of UVic’s new Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities (CARSA) in this article for the CARSA website: “When it comes to training facilities, there’s no question: CARSA will attract a very high level of athlete,” he says. “You’re going to attract people who want to succeed in athletics—that will definitely be weighed in their decision of where they’re going to do their studies—and you’ll have more people dedicated to success at that elite level.”

Cleve Dheensaw, sports writer for the Times Colonist, also talked to Hawthorn ahead of his lecture in this article. “Even people who don’t follow sports should read the sports pages because sport tells us a lot about ourselves as a society,” he says. (Plus, who wouldn’t want to take a class where your homework is watching the Super Bowl?) And Hawthorn talked about the likelihood of queer activism at the Olympics in this Victoria News article. “I fully anticipate that some athletes will make a display of solidarity with gay people in the community of Russia,” he said.

Phoenix’s Unity (1918) “a visual poem”

Here’s a tip if you’re planning on seeing Unity (1918) at the Phoenix Theatre this week: book fast! Given the outstanding reviews the show has been receiving, tickets won’t last long—and the show closes after two final performances on Saturday, March 22. Click here for ticket information.

Some of the cast of Unity (1918), on to March 22 at Phoenix Theatre (photo by David Lowes)

Some of the cast of Unity (1918), on to March 22 at Phoenix Theatre (photo by David Lowes)

Writing professor Kevin Kerr directs his own Governor General’s Award-winning script with style and grace, crafting a heartfelt and surprisingly funny look at the impact of the 1919 Spanish Flu pandemic on the small town of Unity, Saskatchewan. As discussed in this post, this is the first time Kerr has directed Unity (1918), despite his long and lauded career in theatre as a playwright, director and artistic director.

You can find out more about the backstory to this production in this Times Colonist preview—wherein Kerr reveals the play’s teenage female undertaker is based on a friend from high school (“She said, ‘I think I’m going to become a mortician.’ This beautiful, vivacious 17-year-old was saying, ‘I’m going to spend the rest of my life in death.’ It was like, wow, really?”)—and this podcast of U in the Ring, the CFUV weekly campus radio show (fast forward to the 18:40 mark). CTV VI also offered a preview of Unity (1918) in the  March 13 episode of “Your Island Arts & Lifestyle” (skip ahead to the 1:50 mark), as did CHEK TV in this clip.

Phoenix students Keshia Palm and Logan Mitev (photo by David Lowes)

Phoenix students Keshia Palm and Logan Mitev (photo by David Lowes)

Reviews of the production are unanimously strong. “Who knew a play about the flu could be so moving?,” writes Adrian Chamberlain of the Times Colonist in his four-star review. “The University of Victoria’s student cast does a superior job with a challenging script—the sisters [student actors Haley Garnett, Gillian McConnell and Amy Culliford] are particularly convincing. Kerr has directed his show with panache and grace. Mounted on the thrust stage of the Phoenix’s Chief Dan George Theatre, the production’s simple, bold design elements are first-rate . . . . Kerr & set/lighting designer [Allan] Stichbury have conspired to make Unity (1918) a visual poem.”

Busy local arts blogger Janis LaCouvee was also mightily impressed with the production, describing it as “a masterpiece by any measure” in her review. “Unity (1918) is an ode to our human capacity to endure, to continue to dream, even among unimagined horror,” she writes. “A remarkable production and a fine tribute to preserving our ancestors.”

Local theatre blog The Marble was also very enthusiastic, hailing “Unity is a triumph. Performers . . . never appeared to be giving an ounce less than their best.” Noting that the script “trembles with emotion”, reviewer Drew May also praised the show’s design as a “combination of detailed, turn-of-the-century objects and costumes, and a sparsely decorated but ingeniously flexible set will draw in even stubbornly realist audience members. Detail is used to suggest, rather than assert, and the result refuses to distract.”

Allan Stichbury's effective set (photo by David Lowes)

Allan Stichbury’s effective set (photo by David Lowes)

CBC Radio’s On The Island also reviewed the production, with veteran theatre critic Monica Prendergast noting the opportunity “to see a Governor General’s prize-winning play is always a must-do for any theatre lover, especially a Canadian theatre lover.” Prendergast also felt the age of the characters well-matched the student cast—she singled out leads Amy Culliford (Beatrice) and Logan Mitev (Hart)— and enjoyed how “this event in history is shown through the eyes of its effect on young people.” She also enjoyed Stitchbury’s set, but wasn’t so much a fan of the show’s three-hour run time.

Local online arts source CVV Magazine also praised the production in this review simply titled, “You should go!” Melanie Tromp-Hoover, wrote “Unity (1918) is about so much more than just the flu. It’s a look at the enduring struggle we all face in our ambition towards love and purpose and family; the Phoenix’s production simply gives us an elegant, intuitive tool to better explore it.” Tromp-Hoover was particularly keen on cast members Danielle Florence, Marisa Nielsen, Amy Culliford, Haley Garnett and Francis Melling, as well as Colette Habel‘s sound design.

Finally, the Coastal Spectator blog was mostly impressed with the show, particularly the “memorable performances” of Marisa Nielson and Keshia Palm. “Phoenix’s production of Kerr’s award-winning play did the university proud,” writes Nadia Grutter.

Bottom line, don’t miss this fantastic production!

Former Visual Arts student wins Governor-General’s Award

Toronto-based sculptor and former Visual Arts student Kim Adams has been named one of the winners of the 2014 Governor-General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts.

Kim Adams (photo: Henry Feather)

Kim Adams (photo: Henry Feather)

Recognized internationally for his large sculptures—often created from a mix of eclectic and everyday objects, including vehicles, dolls, toys and bicycles—Adams earns $25,000 for the Governor-General’s Award. This latest honour comes hot on the heels of two other significant awards for Adams: a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2012 Gershon Iskowitz Prize from the Art Gallery of Ontario, which came with a $50,000 award.

Adams studied in the Visual Arts department from 1975 to 1980, when he also took courses in Theatre, Art in Education and History in Art. (Score one for interdisciplinarity!) In this video of his work, which features footage of various pieces and a glimpse inside his studio, Adams mentions the influence Visual Arts professor emeritus Mowry Baden had on the development of his work. “When we learned art history, it was through somebody who knew art today—and that was Mowry Baden. We started seeing things that were more real—the perception of the colours, the scale and the size, what happens between it and you and that space between. For me, it was the street level, I was trying to pull that into the art.”

One of eight veteran Canadian artists honoured at the Governor-General’s Awards, which are typically recognized as “lifetime achievement” awards, Kim Adams is an internationally recognized sculptor who has exhibited extensively throughout Canada, across North America and in Europe in both traditional gallery spaces and more public locations. He was also one of the artists included in 2012′s Oh, Canada exhibit at MASS MoCA.

Kim Adams "Autolamp - 2008" (Perforated ’85 Dodge Ram)

Kim Adams “Autolamp – 2008″ (Perforated ’85 Dodge Ram)

As his page at representing gallery Diaz Contemporary notes, Adams’ “challenging aesthetic and sense of humor emerge throughout his diverse practice.” Adams, along with the seven other winning artists, will be honoured at the official awards ceremony on March 26 at Ottawa’s Rideau Hall. There will also be a group exhibit of the winners’ works from March 27 to July 6, 2014, at the National Gallery of Canada.

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. Nominations are taken each spring, and winners announced the following March.

Carol Wainio (photo: Martin Lipman)

Carol Wainio (photo: Martin Lipman)

And in the good-timing department, another of this year’s Governor-General’s Award winners is Ottawa-based painter and University of Ottawa visual arts professor Carol Wainio. Known for her large, layered acrylic canvases, Wainio just happens to be the next Visiting Artist for the Visual Arts department. You can hear her speak at 8pm on Wednesday, March 12, in room A162 of the Visual Arts building. It’s free and the general public is welcome.

Getting medieval

It’s not a time machine per se, but it just might be the next best thing when it comes to art history. The 34th annual Canadian Conference of Medieval Art Historians runs March 7 and 8 right here at UVic, and features a fascinating lineup of speakers and presentations (a full list of which can be found below).

Amidst the faculty and graduate students coming in from universities across Canada, our own History in Art department is well-represented at the CCMAH, including presentations by Evanthia Baboula, Catherine Harding, Marcus Milwright, Erica Dodd and Lesley Jessop, as well as representatives from other UVic departments.

Milwright speaking to the media at 2012's Medieval Workshop

Milwright speaking to the media at 2012′s Medieval Workshop

(Relevant sidenote: Marcus Milwright is also presenting a separate talk this week, titled “The Crafts of Damascus at the Dawn of the Modern Age.” Milwright will be looking at how the Syrian capital achieved fame since the medieval period as a centre of craft excellence, particularly in media such as inlaid metalwork, glazed ceramics, enameled glass and decorative woodwork. These crafts survived into the 19th century, but many were adversely affected by competition with industrially manufactured goods coming from the factories of Europe. Milwright uses evidence from an Arabic dictionary of Damascene crafts assembled between 1890 and 1908 to demonstrate the interdependent nature of the 400 crafts operating in and around the city. 7:30-9:30pm Thursday, March 6, in the University Centre Senate Chambers.)

Former UVic prof John Osborne

Former UVic prof John Osborne

Keynote speakers for the CCMAH include Joe Polzer, associate fellow with UVic’s Centre for Studies in Religion & Society, and Dr. John Osborne. Currently dean of Carleton University’s Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, as well as a professor of Art History, Osborne is particularly notable for his time as a professor of medieval art in our own History in Art department, as well as being the co-founder (alongside John Tucker) of UVic’s Medieval Studies program.

While there doesn’t seem to be an active link to any wesbite for the 2014 conference, click here to read more about past conferences. The Canadian Conference of Medieval Art Historians runs Friday, March 7, in UVic’s  Arbutus/Queenswood Room and Saturday, March 8 in room 103 of the Fine Arts building.

Here’s the complete list of speakers and their presentations:

FRIDAY, MARCH 7 – Arbutus/Queenswood Room

  • 9:30 Joe Polzer, Professor Emeritus, Calgary & Victoria: “Cimabue Reconsidered”
  • 10:00 Anne Napoli, Master’s student, University of Victoria: “How do you solve a problem like Maria? Examining polymateriality in the Madonna and Child Enthroned of Florence’s Santa Maria Maggiore.”
  • 10:30 Catherine Harding, University of Victoria: “Blood: The Relic of the Corporal at Orvieto Cathedral as Divine Witness”
  • 11:30 John Osborne, Carleton University: “The identification of the pope in the Santa Sabina narthex mural”
  • 12:00 Erica Cruikshank Dodd, University of Victoria: “A Silver Mythological Plate From Tarsos”
  • 2:00 Evanthia Baboula, University of Victoria: “Philagathos on the Cappella Palatina and the Mediterranean silk industry of the twelfth century”
  • 2:30 Munazzah Akhtar, doctoral candidate, University of Victoria: “Piety, Patronage and Politics: Samma Jams of Sindh and the Development of Makli Necropolis, 1380-1524”
  • 3:30 Marcus Milwright, University of Victoria: “Reading in the Round: The Evolution of Concentric Inscriptions in Early Islamic Architecture”
  • 4:00 Anthony Welch, University of Victoria: “A Tiger in Isfahan”
  • 4:30 Barry Magrill, UBC, Centre for Teaching Learning Technology: “MOOC’s Massive Open Online Courses”

SATURDAY, March 8 – Fine Arts building, room 103

  • 9:00  Malcolm Thurlby, York University: “Observations On Structure And Vault Design In Romanesque Italy”
  • 9:30 Caroline Novak, York University: “Gaping Maws: Orality and Oral-Figuration in English Romanesque Sculpture”
  • 10:00 Timothy Ashmore, Master’s student, York University: “Castle Hall of England”
  • 10:30 Valeriya Kotsyuba, York University: “Let me to the Marriage of Great Minds: An Examination of St Peter’s, Northampton”
  • 11:30 Richard A. Sundt, University of Oregon: “Oslo’s Stone Churches at Hovedöya and Gamlebyen and the Tradition of Double-Nave Planning in Scandinavia (11th-15th centuries)”
  • 12:00 Debora Alcide, York University: “Auxerre Cathedral: Innovation in Burgundy”
  • 2:00 C. Ruth Krindle, University of Manitoba: “The Theophilus Relief at Souillac:  The Second Foot of the Devil”
  • 2:30 Jim Bugslag, University of Manitoba: “The Trade Windows of Chartres Cathedral: Historiography and New Approaches”
  • 3:00 Lesley Jessop, University of Victoria: “Trade Images at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris”
  • 3:45 Jill Bain, University of the Fraser Valley: “Medieval Art and Modern Technology: Image-Enhancing Applications for the Study of Medieval Wall Painting”
  • 4:15 Helene Cazes, University of Victoria: “Tokens of friendship and symbols of erudition: the emblems of Amicitia in sixteenth century Alba Amicorum
  • 4:45 Michael F. Reed, University of Victoria: From Crown Colony to Confederation: Medievalism and Cultural Identity on Vancouver Island