For many reasons, art is a decidedly intimate and hands-on endeavour, requiring closeness to instructors, classmates and galleries in many cases, and involves investigating one’s own psyche more than one might have. originally suspect it.
In short, it’s hard to be an artist but even harder to become one in the first place.
Now throw a pandemic on top of your studies and see what kind of art results from it. That’s the big draw for MacEwan University’s 2021 Fine Arts Graduate Fair, now presented virtually in the institution’s John and Maggie Mitchell Art Gallery.
For St. Albert-raised art grads Aminata Bah and Kirsten Sorensen, the show isn’t just a celebration of a well-deserved degree and a cap on what could have been the toughest fine arts program ever. Free. It is also perhaps a most deserving entry into their future as active professional artists.
“I think before this program, art wasn’t really about what I was feeling, what I was going through. It was just, ‘Okay, let’s get a grade, let’s get praise from an art teacher or my parents,’” Sorensen began. “This program really taught me to make art for myself, for what I live and the experiences around me. I just have this new relationship with it, so it’s hard not to get into the heavy stuff.
The heavy stuff seems to be Sorensen’s work. For the show, she has a painting titled Monumental constructionwhose image is centered around a tank on a trophy stand through an arid wasteland where eerily human-like military green appendages stretch beneath a cloud-filled sky.
His monumental comment stems from a plan by Morinville to install a public monument of a LAV III military vehicle made up of demilitarized parts that would honor Canadian Armed Forces service in Afghanistan. The artist began the work out of frustration with the design of the installation, but then realized that his main problem was figuring out what it represented.
“I found this really big disconnect between the idea of seeing a military vehicle just sitting on a cement platform and the people it’s supposed to represent. There are a lot of these monuments across Canada that are planned, and they all look alike, and it’s not really pointing at people. This painting showed how this monument just doesn’t point at people. I wanted it to be this big trophy that crushed the depiction of Canadian soldiers that it is supposed to represent.
Otherwise, Sorensen has focused on creating video art that delves into the effect of the pandemic on her daily routines, particularly her habits and addictions to food, technology and pharmaceuticals while struggling to other stimuli.
Bah’s video contribution is also very personal: the artist and his mother bond while cooking traditional home cooking. Coming from Senegal means adapting to Western culture in many ways, and cooking is one of the most important. There just isn’t enough time to cook Senegalese style. You can still cook food, as long as you do it faster.
That’s why the artist made an effort to capture cooking time with her mother: working together in the kitchen and asking her questions about her life and how she found things different in Canada. Her mother took a job but still had to raise her children, cook and do everything else for the family on a much busier schedule.
The film, titled Home cooking style, could be a precious way to preserve a tender family memory but here, it is a sight on another world. It’s only 11 minutes long, which might be another commentary on how life in this country has sped up its clock.
“It was nice. I loved it because I was learning more about my culture, since it’s been a while since we’ve been home. Having food represents that in a way and showing all the good, happy memories that you can bond with has really brought us together in the kitchen. The kitchen isn’t always a place to tire yourself out and quickly put a few things together. It’s also a when we take the time to come together and help each other,” Bah explained.
Alongside Bah and Sorensen in the exhibit are new fine arts graduates Nicole Balaberda, Dana Belcourt, Isabella Camerino, Elizabeth Carr, Jayce Desjarlais, Max Elwood, Charlie Fairbother, Hannah Ferguson, Autumn Fjeldberg, Mackenzie Fragoso, Rebecca Klotz , Taylor McConaghy, Gwynne McMaster, Amy Munoz Morales, Mark Perez, Maddison Post, Gracie Safranovich, Ana Smith and Jasmine Valdepenas. To view the artwork, visit www.macewan.ca/MitchellArtGallery. It will be on display until May 15.
New VASA exhibition online day by day
May is going to be 31 days of cool art on the computer screen. Artists who are members of the Visual Arts Studio Association bring their spring exhibition to social media, with a new entry every 24 hours. Visit facebook.com/VisualArtsStudioAssociation to catch the show.