Friday, 25 March 2016

Lakehead University Annual Student Juried Exhibition and Major Studio Show

This year’s diverse and wonderful Lakehead University Annual Student Juried Exhibition runs till April 10 at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. Much of the work combines expressive mixed media; sculpture, wall hangings and installation where traditional functions are set aside to open up a playground of approaches, resulting in fully expressed dream states, a few charged statements, some great portraits, landscapes, conundrums and surprises. It’s a fun journey for the viewer representing a good deal of talent sure to add to our growing art scene.
     The floating rock formations of Gayle Buzzi’s piece, with the incomplete title, On a Scale of…, is made of Styrofoam, acrylic paint and fish skins. It spews fishy debris. The rocks are floating as if in the sky, but the fish emanating from a pipe end at the floor are dead. It’s a surreal setting for what is likely an environmental statement.
     Katie Kramer’s piece, Identity, is made of wood, flocking, transfers and resin, amongst other objects. The pieces are little collage styled worlds; little museum guides where dendrochronology help the viewer to understand our close relationship and use of nature, in time, place and function with human activity.
     Asia Schultz’s ink-on-paper portrait of her mother reveals a brilliant use of technique evoking multiple reactions from what is ultimately a loving portrait. The stark and comic combine with youth and age due primarily to the clever use of shadow. The lips and regions of skin above the eyes are both clown-like yet endearing as if Asia’s mother had used makeup in this way intentionally, but it’s a play of shadows working on your mind.
     Syrian Distress Call, by Claire Everett is a ceramic piece where dozens of faces in the shape of Syria’s borders is a topical piece serving to remind us that such a place is filled with human beings. Each face appears a little comical, rather than completely tragic, but they certainly look helpless, incapable of movement because they have no arms or legs to help them escape or change their fate. Are they drowning? It certainly looks like they want to escape whatever is restraining their movement, as they are sunk into the wall.
     Some of the works mentioned here have won prizes. It’s wonderful to see the support of the community where local businesses and institutions contributed funds for prize money to the many deserving students, just a small sample represented here.
     One of the bigger prizes, the Lakehead University Alumni Association Award, went to a landscape styled acrylic painting called, Dawn, by Bronwyn Boden. With a high degree of competency in its use of subdued colours, strong composition and dramatic contrast of light and shadow the painting rekindles exactly the feelings you might get crossing that same bridge or any bridge like it.
     Certain to be a collection piece in the popular culture vein is Watch Out, a ceramic three headed dog monster with an angry golden snake over its shoulder. Mandy Toope clearly didn’t want this piece to sit quietly on a shelf with little paperweights, wood boxes, teacups and spoons. Approach with caution.
     Surrealist and lover of cosplay, steam punk and sundry other costume manifestations is Samantha Piche, whose ink on paper painting is a floating severed bleeding heart. Samantha’s works are always wonderfully self-expressive and daringly personal. Within the heart she has depicted a Popsicle with a little teddy bear who holds a bag from which emanates a thorny stemmed rose. A simplified version of this painting would make an awesome tattoo for those who want to express a complicated emotional history. Piche has ripped out her heart and yelled, “Here I am!”
     Taking on sundry human qualities is Vanessa Magee’s, I Wait Weighted, made of Masonite, plaster and steel. It’s green and blue suggesting a relationship between earth and sky. It combines a contrast of height. Part of it is bent like a spring and part of it stubbornly immobile. The piece is intended to look like it has a function while simultaneously mimicking human movement.  Possibly it mimics a person with a kite or someone walking a pet. There’s enough motion and resemblance to human qualities that its contrasts and motions can be read multiple ways.
     More wonderful works from six students receiving their Honours Bachelor of Fine Arts this year will show their work in the Major Studio exhibition where opening night is April 7 at 7:30. The show runs from March 31 to April 24.
     Four instructors in the Visual Arts Department ask their students to develop an exhibition proposal where, in their fourth year the students apply their previous three years of study and practice. The students chose a subject and have six months to produce several works for the show.
     Instructor, Roland Martin, states, “Students graduating with an HBFA degree carry with them a clear understanding of how to conceptualize their work, organize a long term plan, produce a cohesive body of work and how to bring it to an audience in a gallery setting.”
     This upcoming exhibition and currently running show combine an incredible amount of work, thought and dedication where the students, as Roland explains, “…begin to really feel a strong sense accomplishment and have more confidence in their ability to resolve the ideas into works of art.”
     Duncan Weller’s latest books are a novel called, Flight of the Silk, with over a hundred illustrations, and a special expanded second edition of the award winning picture book, The Boy from the Sun. Duncan hocks his books and paintings Saturday mornings at the Country Market.


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