FOURTH ANNUAL FINE ARTS GRADUATING STUDENTS’ EXHIBITION
June 8 to 25, 2005
Artists shown in the FOFA Gallery vitrines included Malcolm Sutherland (Birdcalls, 2006) , Michelle Lacombe (Portrait Pack, 2005), Zachary Barnett and Valerie Boxer (Crash Test Embryos, 2006), Sarah Febbraro (National Treasure, 2006), and Afke Benoit (Chicken Soap, 2006).
Once again the remarkable talents of Concordia University’s Faculty of Fine Arts students are being showcased within the context of the Fourth Annual Fine Arts Graduating Students’ Exhibition. The 2006 show represents a cross-section of the many disciplines and research activities of the students completing their degrees at Concordia University, whether at the Graduate or Undergraduate level. The thirty-six students participating in the exhibition are representative of the Faculty’s different departments, including Cinema, Art Education, Painting and Drawing, Design, Sculpture, Art History, IDYS, Computation Arts, Print, Photo and Fibres. In addition to the five works in the FOFA Gallery Vitrines, work is being displayed in four other locations within the University – on the second floor in EV 2-635 and on the eighth floor in EV 8-767, and in the VA Building on René Levesque Boulevard, in the VAV Gallery and the VA lobby.
The Graduating Students’ Exhibition is a juried show staged during the weeks surrounding Convocation, and provides an opportunity for the students to display their work in a public venue while celebrating the completion of their course of study. Concordia University’s Faculty of Fine Arts is known nationally and internationally for the quality of both its faculty and its graduates. Fine Arts students are equally encouraged to develop their skills in traditional studio practices and to explore multidisciplinary and non-traditional approaches to art-making.
The works exhibited in the FOFA Vitrines share a sense of playfulness while displaying a commitment to careful, professional execution. In three of the works seen here (by Lacombe, Febbraro and Barnett/Boxer) the artists “make spectacles of themselves,” drawing attention to the ways in which personal identity is formed through public acts. In the other two pieces, by Sutherland and Benoît, the artists make work that places them within the continuum of art history.
Lightheartedly punning on the title, Malcolm Sutherland’s 6-minute film, Birdcalls, follows in the fine tradition of animation. Using the abstract visual notations developed to record the sounds and meaning of bird-song, the film puts a new spin on taking down messages from an answering machine. As the songs intensify the notations take on a life of their own, eventually escaping the page.
Crash Test Embryos is a collaborative work by Zachary Barnett and Valerie Boxer, who have constructed soft-sculpture “bodies” that can be assumed by the performers. The title of this work brings two ideas into association: that of the “crash test dummy”, suggesting experimentation with the physical stresses that will be experienced by real bodies; while “embryo” speaks of the nascent human, without distinct identity. The anonymity suggested in the two ideas is reflected in the undifferentiated character of the sculptures. But anonymity also allows for the adoption of alternative personalities. In the accompanying video the inanimate bodies become activated, and are seen testing their physical limits, and in so doing, begin to create a sense of personality.
Afke Benoît’s work, Chicken Soap, reflects the artist’s desire to create quirky experiences for the viewer. Previously exhibited in a public washroom, these odd multiples seem to be hybrids between the mundane and the joke-shop novelty. Her work has a foot in the Funk Art movement of the 1960s, in which artists took an irreverent attitude towards the art object and traditional fabrication. Related to Dada, much of this work is characterized by humour, irony and a sense of the absurd.
Irony also figures in Sarah Febbraro’s video, National Treasure. Superimposing her image tap-dancing over stereotypical Canadian landscapes, Febbraro is questioning the construction of national identities. The title of the work recalls the idea of the revered artist considered master of his/her form, and the prized object that signifies in the narrative of a collective heritage. She equates the ideas of fame, stardom and “making it” with the American ideal, as opposed to the more stepped-back notion of Canadian identity. Febbraro mines reality TV and music videos where fame and glamour are manufactured for quick consumption and equally quick disposability. She uses a deliberately low-tech method to critique the ideas of fame and celebrity culture.
In Portrait Pack: Where I Was/Where I Am Going, Michelle Lacombe presents the documents of a privately enacted performance. Having asked her mother to stain her neck blue with Tintex dye, the results are documented in Sears Portrait Studio photographs. The familiar nature of the “media” employed stands in contrast to the unusual records they form. The photographs are a variation on the standardized depiction of the happy family relationship between mother and child, but closer inspection reveals an unusual aspect. For Lacombe, her mother’s collaboration in this performance provided a means of bridging a gap between their experiences, created through differences in education and artistic practice. The choice to dye her neck marks both the artist and her mother physically, but as Sherry Lacombe’s quote reveals, relationships are formed of both acceptance and mystification at the acts of the other.