While April sees most of campus focusing on final exams, graduating visual arts students are getting in one final taste of professional practice as they organize, curate, install and promote the annual BFA exhibit. Titled Don’t Need to Know to Feel It, this year’s show will feature 100 pieces by 23 emerging artists, showcasing their work in sculpture, performance, installation, painting, drawing, animation and digital media. With a gala opening starting at 7pm Saturday, April 15, and the exhibit running daily to April 23 in in 13 different exhibition spaces throughout the Visual Arts Building, there’s plenty of opportunity to see the work on display.

Don’t Need to Know to Feel It is a reminder that what we do as artists isn’t just for us, but for the whole world,” says graduating student and curation co-chair Stella McCaig. “Understanding beauty, magnificence and joy is not something you can learn, and therefore you need not know anything to feel it.”

Stella McCaig “Cars and Girls” (2023, installation shot)

A good example of that is graduating artist Jasper Pettman. A Two-Spirit/trans artist from Secwepemcúl’ecw (100 Mile House) and a member of Cowessess First Nation, Pettman’s practice explores personal conceptualization of identity as it relates to the physical realities of the body.

“I use acrylics and unstretched canvas to depict bodies in motion and transformation, often mirroring sensations I experience within my own body and experience as a Two-Spirit and trans artist,” he explains. “I also engage with similar ideas when I work with digital media, such as 3D modelling software and web coding, with extra emphasis on text and Indigenous language.”

Among Pettman’s work in the exhibit will be his Tumblr-based digital work “napêhkân.blog”, which is influenced by late ’90s/early ’00s internet art as seen on then-popular sites like Geocities and Myspace—but is given a contemporary twist with its focus on Indigenous resurgence and Indigenous language revitalization.

“Through building community and curation of my own space online, I want to imagine or re-imagine the era of early Internet blogging in a personal, Indigenous context,” he says. “I’m constantly updating the [HTML and CSS] coding as I learn new techniques, as well as creating content to post on the blog—including writing in Cree and my paintings.”

Jasper Pettman

Also graduating this year is Leina Dueck, whose work reflects her own cultural history as an artist of mixed Japanese, Canadian, German and Dutch heritage. She uses a variety of multimedia techniques—including canvas, cyanotype, sewing, textiles and photography—to exploring the “emotional baggage” of past events.

“The act of creating is a deeply personal and an intuitive experience,” says Dueck. “Each piece that I make represents a journey, a process of discovery and a way of engaging with the world around me.”

Her work in the grad exhibit will showcase a form of regalia created using traditional Japanese textiles and modern sewing techniques, with an added layer of cyanotype photography symbolizing “frozen moments and breaths of time”. “The concept of this regalia will be targeting my struggles with identity and the shifts I’ve had to make in order to resist being culturally fetishized.”

Ultimately, says Dueck, her goal as an emerging artist is similar to that of any established artist: to create pieces that both challenge and inspire. “I hope to create works that encourage viewers to question their assumptions and see the world in a new context and perspective.”

Leina Dueck, “Delirium” (2022, Cyanotype)

Don’t Need to Know to Feel It runs April 15 to April 23 in UVic’s Visual Arts Building.