While wallflowers typically blend into the background, Brittany Reitzel’s work of the same name has thrust her into the spotlight.
Reitzel (BA ’16, BA ’19), a Brock Visual Arts alumna, was recently honoured with the Audain Travel Award for her series of works “Wallflowers” — small ceramic sculptures that document the cohesion of body and environmental expression.
The $7,500 award, given to five post-secondary students annually, encourages travel to view and study art, allowing honourees the opportunity to engage with different artist communities worldwide.
Reitzel, who is now pursuing her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) at the University of British Columbia, plans to use the money to travel to Japan, when it is deemed safe to do so, to explore the practice and history of ceramic art. She will meet with leading professors in ceramics education at the University of Tokyo and visit the renowned pottery towns of Mashiko, Arita and Hagi.
The trip will conclude with a forest-bathing experience at Akasawa Natural Recreational Forest, where she will walk the forest to engage with the natural environment. Connecting to a place and its land is a key theme of Reitzel’s practice.
“The research I will complete will aid me to further understand the history of ceramics as a material, and explore the ways clay, body and land are connected outside of Western perceptions,” she says. “This trip will help me further engage with how an area’s resources can impact artistic work.”
After graduating from Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) with bachelor’s degrees in Visual Arts and Studio Art in 2016 and 2019, respectively, Reitzel moved to the Okanagan Valley to practise her art and engage with the landscape.
“My art practice focuses on translating sensorial input of the experiences I have with the natural environment in the Okanagan,” she says. “I believe the more I can synchronize with the rhythm of nature, the stronger my work becomes.”
This process is extremely important to Reitzel. As a visitor on unceded Sylix lands, she says she wishes to practise her art consciously and work in relation to her surroundings.
During her time at Brock, Reitzel gained valuable learning experiences and mentorship from the faculty in the Department of Visual Arts. From her first impactful “art school” moment engaging with red clay, to discovering the power of experimental photography, she credits her rich experience at MIWSFPA with giving her the opportunity to dig into her practice and grow as an artist.
Although travel plans are on hold for now, Reitzel is busy working on her thesis MFA show and scouting the terrain of the Okanagan for local clay to work with for future exhibitions. She is also working on applications for artist residencies.
Motivated to keep learning and creating, she hopes to someday become an educator.
“I think life experience is so important for an artist and vital to developing your work,” she says.