Pictured above: Brock graduate Brittany Reitzel, winner of the The Audain Travel Award 2020.
In October of 2020, artist Brittany Reitzel (BA ’16, BA’ 19) received some very exciting news. The Brock graduate was named an honoured recipient of the prestigious Audain Travel Award for her series of works “Wallflowers”, small ceramic sculptures that document the cohesion of body and environmental expression.
As part of her submission, Reitzel has proposed educational travel to Japan in the summer of 2021 to explore the practice and history of ceramic art. There 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 at Akasawa Natural Recreational Forest where she will complete a forest-bathing experience in which participants walk the forest to engage with the natural environment. Connecting to place and 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”.
Reitzel graduated from the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) at Brock University achieving a BA Honours, Major in Visual Art (2016) and Studio Art (2019). Currently, Reitzel is pursuing her Master of Fine Arts at the University of British Columbia. She lives and practices her art in the Okanagan Valley, engaging with the land she studies on.
“My art practice focuses on translating sensorial input of the experiences I have with the natural environment here in the Okanagan. I believe the more I can synchronize with the rhythm of nature, the stronger my work becomes”, she reflects.
This process is extremely important to Reitzel. She expresses that she is a visitor on unceded Sylix lands and wishes to practice 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 at the Department of Visual Arts. From her first impactful “art school” moment engaging with red clay, to discovering the power of experimental photography, this artist credits her rich experience at the 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 shows. Looking ahead, Reitzel is also working on applications for future artist residencies.
Amid the uncertainty of 2020, Reitzel continues to move forward with her flourishing career, acknowledging the importance of collected experiences. She plans to be an educator in the future and is motivated to keep learning and creating.
“I think life experience is so important for an artist, and vital to developing your work.”
The Audain Travel Award, supported by the Audain Foundation in British Columbia, awards $7,500 annually to five students at the undergraduate or graduate level attending one of the partnering institutions. These include the University of British Columbia, Vancouver and Okanagan, University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University and Emily Carr University of Art and Design. This prestigious award encourages travel to view and study art, allowing honourees the opportunity to engage with different artist communities worldwide. (Source: audainprize.com/travel award).