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Students channel struggles into exhibition art

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Students channel struggles into exhibition art

They come in different forms from students of varying backgrounds, yet the artwork created during VISA 4F06 shares a similar narrative.

Now on display in downtown St. Catharines, the pieces reflect on the struggles, division and isolation faced by many in the past three years due to events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate crisis, social and political discord, and the withdrawal from social interactions. The works also delve into lifelong experiences, such as mental health and constraining societal expectations.

Each piece reflects the lasting impacts these challenges have had on the student creators.

Their shared trauma inspired the title of the exhibition now showcasing their work: Feeding the Bite. The term describes a form of defense against a biting attacker, where the victim leans into the bite to force the jaws open, rather than pulling away causing more damage.

A large studio space with multiple work stations with a mix of different mediums and artworks.

The VISA 4F06 Honors studio space, where students throughout the year have worked on many of their pieces and shared their experiences.

Much like the expression, the collection of work reflects on each student’s personal trauma or wound, encouraging the artists to embrace their struggles and find a deeper connection through their pieces.

Artist Emily Au felt she experienced considerable growth through the year-long process, during which she created a series of ceramic vessels based on her growing unease with meat consumption. Working in discomfort during her creative process was one of the most rewarding experiences she says she has had.

“By learning to be uncomfortable I have pushed myself, not only as an artist but also as a person,” Au says.

Through the course of the academic year, each student shared and received critiques from the instructor, guest faculty, an invited curator, guest artists and their peers. After receiving feedback, they would take time to reimagine their work, making changes as needed.

Emily MacDonald says her time with the course material and her pieces seemed to grow as she reflected internally. Addressing the construct of time, MacDonald experimented with different approaches, such as developing analogue photographs without fixing them, to visibly depict moments.

“When I first began working on my project, I was working with themes like nostalgia and memories … but experimenting with my medium and spending time with the film I developed, I noticed these quiet, poetic moments that formed a connection with one another in my work.

A female on a ladder, working on putting images up on a wall with a hanger.

Artist Emily MacDonald works on the installation of her photos in the Niagara Artists Center

Similar to MacDonald, classmate Taylor Elliott also experienced changes, experimentation and a growing connection with his art.

This led to his final work, which he is “truly happy with.”

Elliott says the narrative of his work is difficult because of both the material and the dark subject matter, which addresses male violence against women.

“Every time I entered the studio, I tried to add a new mark somewhere on the canvas. Over the course of months, it became something dense and full of small detail,” he says. “Exploring this topic was challenging, but I felt like it was important to speak about it. In the end I feel like I’ve made my most stimulating, conceptual and grand series yet, and I’m very happy about that.”

Course instructor Linda Carreiro, Professor of Visual Arts, says the essential component of sustained research and creation in the course is valuable training for professional practice.

“The class provides continuous questions by professional artists as a means for students to define and refine their concepts, mediums, approaches and presentation strategies,” she says.

Feeding the Bite will be showcased in the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) and Niagara Artists Center until May 6.

All are welcome to attend the opening reception Friday, April 14, at 5 pm at the MIWSFPA Visual Arts Gallery and Student Exhibition Space, before the event shifts to the Niagara Artists Center at 6:30 pm

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