The weather is getting warmer, the days are growing longer, spring is here and we’ve reached the end of another school year. For our graduating students in the Department of Visual Arts & Art History (VAAH), this time of year usually signifies the opening of a special showcase downtown Toronto; an opportunity to exhibit art for the general public in the cultural hub of Queen West at Gallery 1313.
This year is an unfortunate exception as the graduation showcase has joined a long list of cancelled arts and culture events due the COVID-19 pandemic. Our grads have missed an opportunity to install their work in a professional venue, exhibit in the heart of the city, and make face-to-face connections with curators and other gallery visitors. The graduation showcase was set to celebrate a long string of successes for these York University visual artists before they begin anew as professionals.
There is no substitution for seeing this work in-person, but in our best effort we present to you a slice of this exhibition featuring work from 5 exemplary visual artists. Please take the time to read their statements and absorb their unique expressions.
Kristen Elizabeth Donoghue-Stanford
Kristen is part of a cohort of badass women nicknamed the “Foundry Squad” by VAAH instructors and technicians. The Foundry Squad has spent countless hours getting their hands messy in the Odette sculpture studio. Kristen credits her professors for inspiring her to expand her artistry into bronze casting and other means of sculpture.
“Their constant encouragement and a genuine excitement towards my own personal achievements allowed me to feel supported during my academic career. I was allowed to explore in mediums I never would have imagined that have now shaped my artistic practice. Every opportunity and word of advice, I can’t quantify what it means to me.”
Artist’s Statement: Femininity Embroidered exists as an exploration between the societal associations of what is considered to be male and female labours. Through the organic burnout process, Donoghue-Stanford’s embroidered “woman’s work” is transformed and re-birthed into bronze, casted into immortality. The words stitched into each piece are synonyms of the word Femininity. Casting them into bronze, the words have no meaning and highlights the ridiculous association patriarchal society has with showcasing femininity as something easy to break rather than strong. Through both these labour intense processes, the work celebrates feminine labour and all that women really are, rather than what we believe them to be.
Another member of the “Foundry Squad”, Esther is well known in VAAH for her intricate casts and moulds. She has a fascination for the human body and has exhibited stunning works of bronze sculpture throughout her tenure as a visual arts student.
Artist’s Statement: Taking plants weakened from the natural cycle of life, Kim reconstructs her lungs into a form of resilience. Made from a collection of red twigs, glued and grafted together to form what resembles the pulmonary veins within the human lungs, the twigs were cast in an investment mould, taken through the process of organic burn out, and casted in bronze. Wildfire is a way to reclaim strength and to deal with the constant battle between the mind and body. The intricate networking of branches is enclosed in a wooden border and illuminated to create a shadow; an illusion much larger than itself.
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Victoria Moreno is a truly international talent. Laying claim to three continents as her background and studying here in a fourth, she likens her personal experience to that of our great city of Toronto; an experience of varied cultural identities.
“Through school and personal projects, I managed to gain a ton of experiences that made me gain a new found love and appreciation for photography, illustration, installation and videography.”
Toronto’s Current Culture
Artist’s Statement: My concepts revolve mainly around cultural and personal identity. Growing up in Africa whilst being ethnically Asian but also culturally Russian, got me quite conflicted with my own cultural identity. As time progressed, I gained a fascination and appreciation in the portrayal of the intertwining of certain cultures that can contribute to the creation of unique identities and characters.
My approach with this piece is to try and identify the current identity of a modern multicultural city like Toronto which in itself does not seem to have any monolithic culture. Whilst doing some research, many said that although there are all these cultures, it seems that they do not really engage and try to further understand each other, but personally I find we do so through food. This brings to question, “Is Toronto considered to be a cultural melting pot or rather a cultural mosaic?”
Serena Kobayashi-LeBel explores the relation between people and nature in her surrealist oil-painting portraiture. She was gifted AMPD’s Willowdale Award for exceptional achievement in painting by an upper-level undergraduate. Because of this honour, Serena was awarded a solo exhibition in the Gales Gallery on York University’s campus this past January.
All Good Things Must…
Artist’s Statement: In my artistic practice, I find myself drawn to all things feminine and from nature, using the links between them to depict the complexities of the human psyche. Each subject matter for my paintings represents a different aspect of what it’s like to be human. Using connections on a scientific level to describe human emotions and tendencies, I hybridize portraits with natural imagery. Connecting our sentience with our long-forgotten animalistic past in a way that helps us remember where we came from.
Last to be featured in this article is an attestation to AMPD’s interdisciplinary culture. Liam Baldwin is a Design major here at York University. And after getting a taste for printmaking in his design classes, Liam decided to pursue printmaking further with training in the department of Visual Art & Art History.
“This year I landed in extended print practice, which drove me to new conceptual and visual heights with the help of the amazing professors, classmates and Dan the print technician.”
Some Gig Posters
Some Gig Posters is a two part series of screen prints that explores the histories, relationships and cultures behind gig posters. As a largely overlooked form of design and art, the gig poster has cemented itself as no more than a piece of well-designed ephemera. This was a notion I wanted to challenge through pastiche by referencing the many styles and techniques that are regarded as synonymous with music and the various styles of gig posters, while simultaneously subverting possible expectations by omitting any sort of legible typography.
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These five grads only make up a sliver of the artistic talent that the Department of Visual Art & Art History has to offer. We want to extend a heartfelt congratulations to them and every other student who is completing their degree with us this spring. Be safe, and keep exercising your creativity!