Two MFA exhibits: one downtown, one crossing borders

Following a series of on-campus solo exhibitions in the Audain Gallery this spring, this year’s graduating MFA artists have taken their work downtown for their final public exhibit.

Titled In Toto, the annual Visual Arts MFA graduation exhibition runs May 4 to May 14 at 821 Fort Street, between Quadra and Blanshard, with a special opening reception at 7pm on Friday, May 4.

Update: the MFA show will now return for one day only, 11am-2pm Sunday, May 27, as part of the City of Victoria’s Fort Street Celebrations. The MFA show will be used as the venue for a public drop-in session discussing the use of vacant store fronts as art spaces. Live music & refreshments will also be on hand to celebrate the opening of the bike lanes,

Featuring the work of David Michael Peters, Marina DiMaio, Leah McInnis, Connor Charlesworth and Evelyn Sorochan-Ruland, In Toto offers 10 different pieces, ranging from painting and sculpture to installation and media works.

Interestingly, the same storefront was home to the HeARTspace exhibit in the fall 2017, a pop-up art gallery featuring the work of people who have died from overdoses, as well as tributes to them; that exhibit was organized by UVic interdisciplinary PhD candidate Marion Selfridge.

The free exhibit is open noon to 4pm daily.  

In addition to this exhibit, MFA candidate Marina DiMaio has also organized the second in the MFA Connect exhibit series. Running May 13-19 in the Audain Gallery in the Visual Arts building, this second iteration reconsiders the long-standing tradition of Mail Art through an entirely digital correspondence. This conception of MFA Connect integrates the work of six MFA students from Newcastle University in England and six UVic MFA students in a group show that will then travel to the Ex Libris Gallery in northeast England.

MFA Connect is like a conference for visual arts,” says DiMaio in this article about the inaugural MFA Connect exhibit in November 2017. “Other departments make these kind of ‘connections’ all the time, but when we get together we share a visual language. This is about challenging each other’s research, getting our research out into the world, creating our own opportunities, establishing communities, and continuing the larger conversation of the place of the visual arts in an academic institution.”

In addition to Marina DiMaio, MFA Connect also features work by UVic’s Connor Charlesworth, Leah McInnis, David Michael Peters, and Evelyn Sorochan-Ruland, plus Xristia Trutiak. Participating artists from Newcastle U include Shaney Barton, Elizabeth Green, Peter Hanmer, Paul Jex, Hania Klepacka and Gill Shreeve.

Could this be the beginning of ongoing creative alliances between Newcastle University and UVic? Only time—and inspiration—will tell.

Call for Artist-in-Residence Ocean Program

The Faculty of Fine Arts and Ocean Networks Canada at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, are sponsoring an Artist in Residence program. The concept strengthens connections between Art and Science to broaden and cross-fertilize perspectives and critical discourse on today’s major issues such as the environment, technology, oceans, cultural and biodiversity and healthy communities. This program is open to local, national and international applicants.

The Artist in Residence will interact with Fine Arts faculty members and scientists at Ocean Networks Canada as well as with other individuals using the world-leading ocean facilities to ignite cross-disciplinary exchanges. Open to artists working in any visual, written, musical or performance discipline, this residency is suitable for an early- or mid-career artist.

The Artist will learn from and engage with the current research, connecting it to the Artist’s own practice, and to wider societal and cultural aspects, creating a body of work to be presented at the end of the residency. The selected Artist will actively engage with researchers on a variety of ocean science themes, that may include:

The ONC Artist in Residence program is established to:

  • explore arts or alternative cultural practices’ potential in the area of the visions, challenges, philosophical, aesthetic, and ethical aspects of the ocean and the impacts humans have on it;
  • add a complementary artistic and creative perspective to ocean science, the societal ramifications of its exploitation, and its cultural aspects; and
  • help envision the potential long-term impact of ocean changes on humanity.

The residency period can start any time between May and December 2018 and last for up to eight months. A cost-of-living stipend of up to CAD $2000/month will be paid to the selected Artist. Following the residency, a public exhibit of the resulting art will be displayed, performed and promoted by ONC and the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Please note: the application period closes on 27 April 2018.

If interested, please send your application to corinnea@uvic.ca at Ocean Networks Canada with the subject line “Artist in Residence Ocean Program.” The application should include your CV, a concise portfolio of previous relevant artistic work, and a letter of motivation outlining your project proposal for the residency. Applications will be reviewed by representatives of Fine Arts and Ocean Networks Canada, and artists may be contacted for an interview or to supply further information.

About Ocean Networks Canada: Established in 2007 as a major initiative of the University of Victoria, Ocean Networks Canada operates world-leading ocean observatories for the advancement of science and the benefit of Canada. The observatories collect data on physical, chemical, biological, and geological aspects of the ocean over long time periods, supporting research on complex Earth processes in ways not previously possible. The observatories provide unique scientific and technical capabilities that permit researchers to operate instruments remotely and receive data at their home laboratories anywhere on the globe in real time. These facilities extend and complement other research platforms and programs, whether currently operating or planned for future deployment.

About the Faculty of Fine Arts: With experiential learning at its core, Fine Arts provides the finest training and learning environment for artists, professionals, and students. Through our departments of Art History and Visual Studies, Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing and School of Music, we aspire to lead in arts-based research and creative activity and education in local, national, and global contexts. We integrate and advance creation and scholarship in the arts in a dynamic learning environment. As British Columbia’s only Faculty exclusively dedicated to the arts, Fine Arts is an extraordinary setting that supports new discoveries, interdisciplinary and diverse contributions to creativity, and the cultural experiences of the students and communities we serve.

Lunchtime artist talks on contemporary Indigenous art practices

Interested in contemporary Indigenous art practices? Excited by some of the dynamic and engaging work being created and exhibited both locally and nationally? Wondering how contemporary artists respond to important issues like Truth & Reconciliation, and Murdered & Missing Indigenous Women & Girls? Join the Visual Arts department for a special illustrated lunchtime lecture series featuring three prominent local Indigenous artists.

Tlehpik Hjalmer Wenstob: Friday, March 9 • room 103 of the Fine Arts building

Lindsay Delaronde: Monday, March 12 • room A146 of the Visual Arts building

Carey Newman: Friday, March 16 • room 103 of the Fine Arts building

All talks run noon to 1pm, and all are free.

About the artists:

From Tlehpik Hjalmer Wenstob’s “Transfigurations”

Visual Arts BFA/MFA alumnus Tlehpik Hjalmer Wenstob is a multidisciplinary artist from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Coming from a background of carving, Wenstob’s work has transformed and reformed many times over the years, working in many different mediums, with a focus on sculpture. He has three dialects of art practices, all from the same visual language: traditional work, community/engagement, and contemporary art. While heavily involved in youth engagement and politics, as the Assembly of First Nation’s youth representative for BC and Canada, Wenstob’s work has taken on a balance of history, education, humour, question, and politics.

Coming from a background of carving masks, totem poles and working predominantly in red cedar, Wenstob’s work has transformed through materials and subject matter. With an interest in public installation, curation, mentorship, and sculpture, Wenstob has had work displayed and installed nationally across Canada. His most recent installation—created while mentoring youth—was four Bighouses on the front lawn of the BC Legislature building, which then led to a show currently on view at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Lindsay Delaronde running a corn doll workshop at Legacy Gallery in 2016 (photo: Corina Fischer)

Visual Arts MFA alumna Lindsay Delaronde is currently the City of Victoria’s Indigenous Artist in Residence and a strong advocate for Indigenous voices, stories, culture and history. Born and raised on the Kahnawake reservation, Delaronde has been living on the West Coast for the past 10 years. In addition to her Visual Arts MFA, she holds a BFA from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, and a Master’s degree in Indigenous Communities Counselling Psychology, also from UVic.

A professional multi-disciplinary visual artist who works in contemporary Indigenous performance and facilitator of traditional workshops, Delaronde has been consistently active and made significant commitments at the local and national level. Her areas of research are stemmed in Contemporary and Traditional First Nations art, expressive arts therapy and working with Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples within the arts and counseling. Her research focuses on land- based, collaborative practice, cultural resurgence and social/political activism through the arts.

Carey Newman

Carey Newman or Hayalthkin’geme is a multi-disciplinary artist and master carver. Through his father he is Kwagiulth from the Kukwekum, Giiksam and WaWalaby’ie clans of Fort Rupert, and Sto:Lo from Cheam along the upper Fraser Valley; through his mother he is English, Irish, and Scottish. Through his work he strives to highlight either Indigenous, social, or environmental issues. He is also interested in engaging with community and incorporating socially innovative practice into his artistic process. Newman’s most recent major work — the Witness Blanket, made of items collected from residential schools, government buildings and churches across the Canada — deals with the subject of reconciliation. (Another prominent local public piece is the ornately carved ceiling of Pacific Opera Victoria’s Baumann Centre on Balmoral Road.)

In 2008, Newman was selected as the master carver of the Cowichan 2008 Spirit Pole, a journey that saw him travel BC sharing the experience of carving a 20-foot totem with over 11,000 people. In 2009, he was selected from a national call to artists by VANOC and won the right to create a large installation: his piece “Dancing Wind” was featured during the 2010 Olympic Games, and consisted of 4 large panels, made from stainless steel, cedar and glass. He has done work for corporations, government agencies and museums around the world and is continually thankful for the opportunity to try new ideas.

These talks are in addition to the Visual Arts department’s proven commitment to Indigenous artists and their practices, as evidenced by their long-running Audain Professorship of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest—which has afforded Visual Arts students the opportunity to work with the likes of Governor General’s Award-winner Rebecca Belmore, Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas, Rande Cook, Nicholas Galanin and Jackson 2Bears. And the Faculty of Fine Arts supports the work of Indigenous artists and creative practitioners in a variety of ways, which you can read about here

Get interactive with writing, music & art at Ideafest 2018

Whether you’re a regular part of the UVic community or simply a visitor to campus, Ideafest 2018 offers an ideal chance to explore the vast and diverse range of research and creative activity happening all around the Ring Road. Fine Arts is offering five distinct events this year, and participating in some others as well.

Rightfully described as being about “ideas that can change everything,” UVic’s week-long festival of research, art and innovation runs March 5-10 and features over 40 events on topics ranging from climate change and chamber music to Indigenous law, optimistic art, antibiotic resistance and so much more.

All events are free and open to the public — please join us at any or all of our signature Fine Arts events, and be sure to take time to explore the full schedule as well. You never know what your new favourite topic might be!

First up on the Fine Arts schedule is the annual reading night featuring Department of Writing MFA candidates. Hosted by award-winning playwright and Writing professor Kevin Kerr, All Lit Up: Creative Writing’s Bright Lights offers live readings and performances by the next generation of Canadian literati, including Levi Binnema (poetry), Sarah Hamill (nonfiction), Daniel Hogg (screenwriting), Elliott James (playwriting) and Kari Teicher (fiction).

Enjoy this lively (and licensed) literary cabaret from 7 to 8:30pm Monday, March 5, at the popular Copper Owl — one of downtown’s most unique and charming arts venues, (upstairs at Paul’s Motor Inn, 1900 Douglas). Doors open at 6:30, and this event always packs out so do arrive early. Note: no minors.

For over 50 years, UVic’s School of Music has had a long history of producing outstanding string students — helped along in no small measure by the Lafayette String Quartet, who have been artists-in-residence here since 1991. Now, you can discover the next generation of outstanding string talent with Cuarteto Chroma — Canada’s first graduate student string quartet. The event String Quartets at UVic: A Musical Continuum offers an interactive performance where Cuarteto Chroma will invite the audience to suggest how they should perform a particular piece — deciding things like tempo, vibrato and the balance between each instrument — which will allow the audience to hear the effects their choices have on the musical outcome.

Afterwards, Chroma will join the Lafayette String Quartet for an informal Q&A session, followed by a Lafayette-taught masterclass for UVic string students — that’s three opportunities to catch a glimpse of the intimate world of chamber music and explore the hidden facets of life in a string quartet.  A Musical Continuum runs 11am-2:30pm Tuesday, March 6, in room B037 and the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, both in the School of Music’s MacLaurin Building B-Wing.

Performers will include the Lafayette String Quartet (Pamela Highbaugh Aloni, Ann Elliott-Goldschmid, Joanna Hood and Sharon Stanis) and Cuarteto Chroma (Felix Alanis, Manuel Cruz, Ilya Gotchev and Carlos Quijano), as well as undergraduate string students. Interactive performance runs 11am–12:15pm in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, while the Q&A session runs 12:30–1:20pm in B037, and the chamber music masterclass runs 1:30-2:20pm back in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, just next door to the classroom.

If Bobby McFerrin’s classic singalong ditty “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” isn’t quite cutting it for you these days, art may be the answer: in troubling times, optimism can feel like a scarce commodity, but for centuries people have found hope and joy in visual art. Art and Optimism in an Age of Worry offers a lively series of short presentations as Art History & Visual Studies faculty members and graduate students will explore how artists and their works have long offered new messages of hope, healing and empowerment. While showcasing a wide range of styles and movements, they will also collectively demonstrate how art can ignite optimism and agency in your own life.

Join host and AHVS professor Catherine Harding from 5-7pm on Tuesday, March 6, in room 116 of UVic’s Engineering & Computer Science building (ECS), where she’ll be joined by fellow AHVS professors Erin Campbell and Carolyn Butler Palmer, plus grad students Holly Cecil, Gonzalo Gutierrez, Alexa Heenan, Ambreen Hussaini, and Katayoun Youssefi.

If you think Fine Arts is just about paintbrushes, sheet music and words on the page, get ready to enter the digital realm and discover a whole new world of creativity when you go Beyond the Digital Frontier: Exploring Digital and Interactive Media in the Arts. From virtual-reality filmmaking and innovations in digital art to interactive gaming, artifact handling, new theatre technology and into the recording studio with Vancouver rockers Bend Sinister, find out how UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts is a leader in 21st century creativity at this interactive, drop-in, self-guided exploration event.

Professors Kelly Richardson (Visual Arts), Kirk McNally (Music) and Victoria Wyatt (AHVS), plus technician Simon Farrow (Theatre) and both graduate and undergrad students will showcase recent innovations in the world of digital media from 5-6:30pm on Wednesday, March 7, throughout UVic’s Fine Arts Building.

And you’ve got the entire week of Ideafest to explore the Visual Arts exhibit Math Garden. Conceived of as an outdoor concept exhibition by Visual Arts instructor David Gifford, Math Garden explores some of the visual aspects concerned with popular mathematics. Topics such as amounts, shapes and change will be imagined by the undergraduate drawing class of ART 300, whose motive is to celebrate a handful of patterns that are present in this abstract discipline.

Math Garden is inspired by Mathematica, an exhibition of mathematical concepts by Charles and Ray Eames that debuted at the California Museum of Science and Industry in 1961. The self-guided exhibit in the Fine Arts Building courtyard will also include didactic panels for the purpose of intellectual entertainment, including the explanation of potentially difficult concepts through pictures and interactive sculptures and installations.

While those are our signature events, Fine Arts students will also be participating in the likes of the annual Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards (JCURA) Fair from 11:30am-3pm on Wednesday, March 7, in UVic’s Student Union Building, as well as the new creative writing contest On the Verge: Student Voices, co-hosted by UVic’s Libraries and Equity & Human Rights, from 4:30-6pm on Thursday, March 8 in Libraries room 129. And will any of our short films about creative practice in Fine Arts make the final cut of the second annual Research Reels contest? To find out, you’ll have to drop by the screening event running from 5-6:30pm Tuesday, March 6, in the David Lam Auditorium, room A144 of the MacLaurin Building.

Exhibition reframes Innocence of 1960s artists

In 1963, National Film Board director Léonard Forest travelled from Montreal to the west coast to direct a documentary about artists and poets working in Vancouver and Victoria. Forest said he came here with “zero idea” of what he would find. He made the resulting 27-minute film, In Search of Innocence, with an innocent eye.

AHVS grad student & exhibit curator Nellie Lamb

Now, the latest Legacy Gallery exhibit, Innocence: West Coast Art and Artists Through a Visitor’s Eyes pairs the original NFB documentary with work by artists featured in the film — but guest curator Nellie Lamb also examines the notion of innocence as it pertains to the West Coast in the 1960s.

Lamb, a graduate student with the Art History & Visual Studies department, selected work by the likes of Jack Shadbolt, Margaret Peterson, Roy Kiyooka, bill bissett, Joy Long, Sing Lim, Jack Hardman, and former UVic Visual Arts professors Fred Douglas and Donald Jarvis for the exhibit.

Curious to learn more? Lamb will be giving a special curator’s talk and tour from 3-4:30pm Saturday, February 3.

Lamb says she first saw the NFB film back in 2013, when her mother gave her a copy for Christmas. “My dad, Fred Douglas, appears in it,” she explains. “He passed away when I was 12 so I’ve been getting to know him as an adult through documents like this, and through his friends, co-workers and students.”

Some of Fred Douglas’ original manuscript pages appear in the exhibit

Douglas was a noted Vancouver artist who eventually joined UVic’s Visual Arts department as a professor.

She calls it a “happy accident” that UVic’s impressive art collection holds pieces by some of the artists in the film; the exhibit also features some pieces on loan from UBC, SFU, and the AGGV. “That’s one of the fun things I’ve found about researching local artists, often their work is right here where we can see it up close.”

Lamb says she tried to select works that were created close to the time In Search of Innocence was shot. “Margaret Peterson’s ‘Horos, The Welcome Figure’ (1962) was actually in her solo exhibit at AGGV, which is shown in part in In Search of Innocence,” she explains. “ ’Horos’ also relates to the idea of the West Coast as a place that is — at least in some imaginations — ‘natural’ and ‘mystical.’”

A more innocent time?

Was there actually a sense of innocence among west coast artists of the 1960s? “I think Forest’s use of the term ‘innocence’ is much more nuanced and nebulous than what we typically use the word to mean,” Lamb explains.

“Part of my research is about teasing apart what he might have meant and I think what he meant has many facets, depending on which artist he was looking at. For example, Jack Shadbolt’s search for innocence was different from Al Neil’s. Forest features a diverse group in his film . . . [but] the artists in In Search of Innocence wouldn’t have called themselves innocent.”

Yet Lamb does acknowledge that “the west” has long been seen as a place of opportunity, and that “unrealized opportunity” itself is a type of innocence. Add that to the continued perception that the West Coast is distant from the art-world centers (Europe, New York, Montreal, Toronto), and that West Coast cities like LA and Vancouver are “culturally devoid” compared to their eastern equivalents.

“Of course, anyone involved in the arts communities out here knows that’s untrue,” insists Lamb. “But being removed from these major art centers, and choosing to remain physically and sometimes ideologically marginal, can be seen as an innocent choice or, a search for innocence.”

The researcher as audience & curtor

As an AHVS grad student, Lamb says her Legacy exhibit is just one part of a larger research project focusing on documentary film theory, building a history of Vancouver and the West Coast in the 1960s, and considering her own role as audience and curator.

“Sometimes seeing something we are familiar with through another’s eyes reminds us how incredible that thing is,” she explains. “I hope visitors leave the gallery with a feeling of wonder about the place that we live, and the artists who have worked here for thousands of years and continue to . . . . that’s the feeling in [both the film] and the artworks in this exhibition give me.”

“Innocence” at Legacy Gallery Downtown

Originally from Vancouver, Lamb chose UVic for both her undergraduate degree and her graduate work. “I’m from Vancouver and I had originally planned on moving back there after graduating with my BA . . . . [but] I’ve found that both the AHVS department and Victoria’s art community are overflowing with opportunities for students to put their research and related skills into practice.”

Despite the 55-year gap between the NFB documentary and now, when urban growth and development have radically changed both the physical and cultural landscape, Lamb feels some things do remain recognizable.

“I bounce back and forth between lamenting how much has changed — how much has been lost to development and rising cost of living — and then noticing how much is the same,” she says. “The land is still awe-inspiring, there are still diverse and interconnected communities of artists working in just as diverse media, and some of them are still searching for the same ineffable thing that Forest called innocence.”

Innocence: West Coast Art and Artists Through a Visitor’s Eyes runs to March 29 at UVic’s Legacy Downtown, 630 Yates (open Wed-Sat, 10-4pm).  

Fine Arts Wellness Day

Feeling tired? Got the sniffles? Worried about new classes? Start the semester off with a healthy sense of well-being at our Fine Arts Wellness Day! Running 11am – 2pm on Wednesday, January 17, in the lobby of the Fine Arts building, students can shuffle off their January blahs with a variety of special events.

Wellness is an important part of both a general approach to life and student mental health. Fine Arts students often find themselves under additional pressures not shared by other students across campus, given the demands of rehearsals, instrument practice, performance and the push to be creative on top of maintaining a regular class schedule and keeping grades up.

Add to that the unique physical demands that go with being a creative practitioner and you’ve got a lot of good reasons to stay healthy during your academic career.

With that in mind, Fine Arts Wellness Day will feature a number of free services and information essential to your sense of wellness, including

  • free chair massage
  • healthy snacks (including a DIY trail mix bar)
  • a hydration station (featuring both lemon and cucumber water)
  • information about good & simple nutrition
  • tips on stress-reduction and counseling services

And don’t miss the therapy pets at the nearby Pet Cafe (2:30 – 4pm at the nearby Interfaith Chapel), as well as free yoga from 4:30-5:30pm in Hodges 104 (Residence Hub), brought to you by UVic’s SHAPE (Student Health Ambassadors and Peer Educators).

Please join us for this fun and healthy event!