Articles tagged with: Visual Arts

  • Brock art exhibition inspired by Canada Games mascot, local wildlife

    Fourth-year Brock Visual Arts student and research assistant Emily MacDonald examines the camera-less photographs created for the Small Movements exhibit.


    Originally published in The Brock News | FRIDAY, AUGUST 19, 2022 | by Charles Kim

    Many aspects of the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games have inspired projects across Brock University — and the event’s mascot, Shelly, is no exception.

    The turtle’s impact has gone beyond the Games to influence two Brock projects now being showcased as part of an ongoing exhibition.

    Presented by Brock’s Department of Visual Arts (VISA), in conjunction with the Games, Small Movements highlights the work of Associate Professors Amy Friend and Donna Szoke. The exhibition was funded by the University’s VPR Canada Games grants.

    Szoke’s work, which saw her collaborate with Grade 1 and 2 students at Jeanne Sauvé French Immersion Public School in St. Catharines, creates a connection between the 2022 Canada Games, the local community and turtle conservancy.

    As part of the project, students experienced a virtual field trip to the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTCC), where they learned about the organization’s important work and visited a hospital for recovering and resident turtles, as well as a nursery with eggs and hatchlings.

    Following their visit, students were given the opportunity to colour their own images of turtles, which were then scanned and animated by VISA fourth-year student Emily MacDonald and alumna Julie Luth (BA ’22). The scanned images were used to create an animation, which was then gifted back to the children, animators, the OTCC and the Canada Games.

    Painted Turtles from Donna Szoke on Vimeo.

    “The children’s approaches to drawing and painting are refreshing in their naiveté, gesture and palette,” says Szoke. “By inventing a platform for generating turtle images created by children, our research-creation team created a turtle animation meant to engage and inspire.”

    Meanwhile, Friend’s project investigates and bridges a connection between sports and Niagara’s regional ecosystems, with a specific focus on turtles. Also inspired by the Canada Games mascot, the project examines watersports that take place in habitats shared with turtles. It includes camera-less photographs, water samples from across the Niagara region, a sound component and digital photography.

    Friend used analogue photo practices to produce camera-less photographs with her creative research team, including research assistants Laurie Morrison and Sarah Martin (BA ’19). Morrison, a first-year VISA student, and Martin, a VISA alumna, worked on capturing and printing the project’s images. Morrison secured light-sensitive photo paper to a kayak, allowing an interaction to take place between paper and water, while Martin collected samples from local waterways and helped to edit and print images with Friend.

    Friend’s work also includes photos that were taken at the surface of the water with a digital camera.

    “The photographs were shot at the water’s surface, precisely where the paddles enter the water and where turtles swim,” she says. “My thought process for this approach was to establish a relationship between the act of paddling or rowing through the water and the movements made by turtles as they move through the water.”

    Research assistant and recent graduate Qiushuang Xia (BA ’22) took photographs across the region’s waterways. Xia also captured the sound component that accompanies the project, recording from some of the same sites that were explored to create the images in the exhibition.

    Small Movements is open now until Oct. 1 at the Marilyn I. Walker Visual Arts Gallery and Student Exhibition Space. There will be a reception with the artists on Wednesday, Sept. 14, from 4 to 7 p.m. All are welcome to attend. More information is available on the exhibit web page.

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    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Current Students, Events, Exhibitions, Faculty & Instructors, Future Students, In the Media, Media Releases, News

  • Visual Arts grad finds passion through experiential learning

    Jessie Richard looks through archival material in Brock’s Archives and Special Collections.


    Originally published in The Brock News FRIDAY, JUNE 17, 2022 | by 

    When Jessie Richard enrolled as a Brock University Visual Arts student, she never dreamed it would lead to a career in the world of museums.

    Her time studying at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts opened her eyes to opportunities she had never given thought to before, an experience that has now inspired her future path.

    Richard received her Bachelor of Arts during Brock’s Spring Convocation Friday, June 17, after deferring her graduation a year in hopes of attending an in-person celebration.

    “My entire experience at the Marilyn was amazing,” she said, while looking back on her studies. “The faculty really made you feel like they were taking care of you every step of the way.”

    In addition to her Visual Arts courses, Richard took drama classes and spent time in the wardrobe and lighting departments.

    “It’s nice that when you were in the Marilyn, you were able to really scatter yourself around all the different departments,” she said. “I had a really fantastic time in that way. I really got to expand my horizon.”

    As Richard continued her education, she was drawn to courses taught by Keri Cronin, Associate Professor of History of Art and Visual Culture.

    “I had been taking many of Keri’s classes because I really loved her platform, the way she taught, the integration of collaboration and in-person work, and the research,” Richard said.

    Through the courses taught by Cronin, Richard discovered a way to get closer to the in-class material through an experiential learning opportunity. She applied to become a research assistant under the supervision of Cronin and soon found herself mesmerized by archival artifacts.

    “When Keri and I were at the Archives at Brock, I was able to take a quick peek in the back area,” she said. “Going through these newspapers and handwritten letters, there’s just something special about being able to touch a piece of history.”

    Cronin was thrilled to see Richard’s love for history and research grow.

    “What makes her story kind of cool is that she found her passion through this backdoor,” Cronin said. “It was through this opportunity with me that she really discovered where she wants to be, and she is really just running with it.”

    Since completing her studies, Richard has gone on to work as the Collections Assistant at the St. Catharines Museum and the Museum of Industry in Stellarton, Nova Scotia. She currently works as an Archivist at the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre in Stratton, Ont.

    As she reminisced about her experience at Brock and the excitement of Convocation, Richard provided one last piece of advice for current students.

    “I took classes I thought I would never like, and I loved them,” she said. “I didn’t go into this thinking I would work in museums, but because I didn’t turn any opportunity down, I found my passion and a career path that speaks to my soul.”

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  • Graduating art students mount Honours Thesis exhibition

    Pictured above: “Grand-Maman,” a Polaroid emulsion on mylar image by student artist Charelle St-Aubin will be included in the upcoming exhibition “Resurfacing.”

    Originally published in The Brock News |WEDNESDAY, APRIL 06, 2022 | by 

    An upcoming exhibition will showcase the artwork of seven graduating Brock University students, marking a significant milestone in their artistic careers.

    The Visual Arts (VISA) 4F06 Honours Thesis Exhibition, “Resurfacing,” will take place simultaneously at the Visual Arts Gallery and Student Exhibition Space at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) and Niagara Artists Centre in downtown St. Catharines from April 12 to May 12.

    “Resurfacing” explores diverse themes, including issues of identity and resiliency, expressed through various materials and approaches that comprise painting, photography, mixed media and sculpture.

    Taught by Assistant Professor of Visual Arts Troy David Ouellette, with guest curator and writer Shannon Anderson, the fourth-year course is the culmination of two semesters of creative and academic work for students. Participating artists include Rabia Choudhary, Naomi Egbunike, Sarah Formosa, Julie Luth, Kimberley Rogers, Cherilynn Tilley and Charelle St-Aubin.

    The public is invited to attend the opening reception at both gallery locations on Tuesday, April 12 from 5 to 7 p.m. with opening remarks at the MIWSFPA beginning at 5 p.m.

    For more information, please visit the VISA 4F06 Current Exhibit web page.

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    Categories: 4F06 Honours Exhibition, Alumni, Announcements, Current Students, Events, Exhibitions, Faculty & Instructors, News

  • Visual Arts prof creates public art reflecting themes of COVID-19 pandemic

    Image caption: The Breathing Tree by Donna Szoke, made from stainless steel, LED lighting and electronics, was installed in the lobby of OpenText Corporation’s offices in Waterloo.  Photo by Tony Hafkenscheid.

    One of Canada’s biggest software companies recently selected a Brock University professor and artist to create a public art piece reflecting on themes of ‘loss’ during the pandemic.

    Donna Szoke, Associate Professor of Studio Art at Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) was chosen by OpenText Corporation to create new artwork dedicated to their employees impacted by the pandemic and pay tribute to the lives lost to COVID-19.

    The Waterloo-based company wanted to commission and support a Canadian artist, and put out a national call for the project in 2021. Szoke was immediately drawn to the unconventional call for public art creation within a corporate context.

    Through a creative and personal exploration of themes related to the pandemic and their impact on mental health, Szoke created her proposal and drawings for The Breathing Tree. Inspired by the concept of ‘box breathing,’ used to calm anxiety, and Szoke’s desire to be in nature, the idea for a back-lit sculpture in the form of a tree came to life.

    The tree sculpture is made of stainless steel that was digitally cut and mounted to the wall in the OpenText lobby that employees pass by every day. The artwork, which appears as a tree and its reflection, invites viewers into a meditative moment while taking in the piece.

    With a resemblance to lungs, the sculpture also connects with the respiratory nature of COVID-19. Lit from the rear, the piece glows with soft purple and blue lights that dim and brighten in six-second intervals. The timed coloured lights subtly invite viewers to breathe along with the tree.

    “As a testament to the lives lost from COVID-19, it gives us an introspective moment with nature, grounding us in our own breathing and our own lived moment where life, loss, love, grief and resilience are inextricably bound,” Szoke said in her artist statement.

    Szoke worked with local fabricator Ramm Design to cut the steel for the sculpture, and with Hamilton-based electrical engineer and artist Jim Ruxton to create the timed electronics lighting the work in a very collaborative process. A holder of a technical diploma in Foundry, Szoke was familiar with the steel material, although the cutting techniques used were new to her.

    Szoke’s artworks become teaching tools for her Studio Art courses. In the Visual Arts course VISA 3Q91 — Research Seminar, Szoke models the process of creating public artwork from design inspiration through to fabrication, including the techniques and tools she employs in the process.

    The virtual opening for The Breathing Tree was held in December, with 10,000 OpenText employees in attendance. The permanent installation includes a plaque sharing details of the piece.

    Szoke has also recently received a Canada Games grant as well as an Ontario Arts Council grant for new work, both coming up in 2022-23.

     

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  • STAC and VISA students explore curation with arts industry experts

    Brock University students from the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture (STAC) and Visual Arts (VISA) at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) are having important conversations with arts professionals around the curatorial function of museums, galleries, and cultural organizations.

    Students enrolled in STAC/VISA 3P42 Methods and Principles of Curating will be participating in a field trip to the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum and upcoming classroom discussions with professionals from the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and Yale University Art Gallery.

    The events are led by Instructor Sonya de Lazzer, Gallery Coordinator at the Visual Arts Gallery & Student Exhibition Space at the MIWSFPA. Sonya is an alumni of the Visual Arts Program at Brock (BA Honours). In 2013, she obtained her M.A. in Art History from University at Buffalo, The State University of New York and is currently completing her PhD in Art and Visual Culture at Western University. Sonya brings extensive experience from the museum and art gallery world, where she worked as a Programming and Curatorial Assistant at a local art gallery and museum for several years, developing her exhibition writing and installation skillsets.


    Upcoming class events (not open to the public):

    March 7 – Exploring Experiences: Conversations Around Curating
    Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum: Shawna Butts, Assistant Curator & Education Programming
    Students will be toured through the historical society and view current exhibitions and learn about the way in which these sites collect and care for their collection(s).

    March 21 – Exploring Experiences: Conversations Around Curating
    Nick Clemens, Preparator, Royal Ontario Museum
    Preparator and museum professional Nick Clemens will be joining the classroom to share his many experiences working with art/artefacts/objects at the Royal Ontario Museum. The class will explore the need for mindfulness and respect for the object as it relates to the curatorial practice, and the care that goes into curating and presenting a work to an audience.

    March 28 – Exploring Experiences: Conversations Around Curating
    Where Collections Live: Roksana Filipowska PhD, Wurtele Study Center Programs and Outreach Manager, Yale university Art Gallery
    Dr. Roksana Filipowska joins the classroom for a virtual exploration and conversation on open and visible storage. Filipowska works as Programs and Outreach Manager at the Wurtele Study Centre, Yale University Art Gallery. Students will engage in discussing the importance of collection visibility, as well as learn about the many challenges that many collections face regarding storage.

    These events are supported by an Experiential Education grant from the Co-op, Career & Experiential Education Office.

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  • Visual Arts podcast launches new season challenging ideas of western art

    Image caption: Co-hosts of Unboxing the Canon podcast, Associate Professor Linda Steer, left, and fourth-year Brock student Madeline Collins.

    Originally published FRIDAY, OCTOBER 01, 2021 in The Brock News | by 

    Unboxing the Canon has made its return with the goal of doing a deep, critical dive into the history of western art.

    The second season of the popular podcast from Linda Steer, Brock Associate Professor, History of Art and Visual Culture, is now live with new 20-minute episodes dropping monthly.

    Unboxing the Canon look at issues that are part of the history of western art, examining how those issues played out historically and how they connect to contemporary culture and thinking.

    The first episode dropped Sept. 17 and explores Orientalism and the Western Gaze. Upcoming episodes will address topics such as the representation of disability in western art, an art movement known as Primitivism connected to colonization, and the history of self-portraits, religion and landscape in paintings.

    According to Steer, who teaches first-year Art History, asking hard questions about these topics is important to developing a deeper understanding of the canon.

    “Students are hungry for a critical view of the western canon; they want to deal with the issues and unpack them and understand why they may be problematic,” Steer said. “When examining the long history of western art and its ties to imperialism, for example, we can ask important questions about iconic images that continue to have a tremendous impact on contemporary society.

    Steer says listeners don’t need any prior knowledge of western art to enjoy the podcast. She started the project last year as a way for students in her first-year VISA 1Q99: Introduction to the History of Western Art class to take a break from their screens and do a little extra learning while taking a walk or relaxing at home.

    Now, other instructors at the University and beyond are also using the podcast as a teaching tool. Each episode includes materials for further learning, including resources and websites where listeners can view the works of art being discussed.

    This continued engagement is an aspect of the project that Steer and fourth-year History of Art and Visual Culture student Madeline Collins are passionate about.

    Collins, who joined the podcast this season as a Research Assistant, said that images are not neutral and that there is a lot happening that viewers are not always aware of.

    “There is so much behind what we see. We need to look critically and realize how biased, gendered, racialized and colonized images are at the forefront of our cultural memory,” she said. “It has been a part of the story the whole time, and once you see it, it totally changes your perspective moving forward. That is my favourite part about this podcast.”

    In addition to co-hosting the podcast episodes, Collins is involved in all aspects of production, including conducting research, sound design and working closely with Steer on writing.

    The pair have been working together since July so Collins could learn the sound design and editing software gearing up for the season.

    Excited to be involved in the project, Collins, an avid fan of podcasts herself, said she has already learned so much from the experience.

    “I’ve always been interested in podcasts and the incredible ways in which we can communicate ideas through them, especially for those who learn better through listening,” Collins said. “I have never been a part of anything like this before, particularly learning all about microphones and sound editing, and I am loving the experience.”

    Unboxing the Canon is publicly available on all podcast services, including AppleGooglePodbean and Spotify. For updates and information on future episodes, follow Unboxing the Canon on Instagram and Twitter.

    The transcripts and sound files from each episode of Unboxing the Canon can be found in Brock’s digital repository.Visual Arts podcast launches new season challenging ideas of western art

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  • Celebrated Canadian artist Michael Snow’s contribution to Brock revisited in new documentary

    A still image from the new documentary short Timed Images premiering Friday, Aug. 20 at the Mighty Niagara Film Fest. The film was produced and researched by Lesley Bell with video work and direction by Tracy Van Oosten.

    WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 18, 2021 | The Brock News | by 

    The legacy and impact of artwork created for Brock University in 1972 by internationally regarded Canadian artist Michael Snow has been captured on film and is being premiered Friday, Aug. 20 at a local film festival.

    Part of the Mighty Niagara Film Fest presented by Niagara Artists Centre (NAC), Timed Images is a new documentary that intimately explores two works of public art created by Snow when he was engaged by Brock University and architect Raymond Moriyama during the construction of Brock’s Mackenzie Chown Complex in 1972. Snow holds an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Brock University received in 1974.

    The short documentary is produced and researched by Lesley Bell, artist and retired support staff for the Department of Visual Arts (VISA) at Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA), and directed by Brock graduate Tracy Van Oosten (BA ’10), artist, filmmaker and current VISA Instructor at the MIWSFPA.

    Bell, who managed Brock’s Fine Art Collection for 18 years, was drawn to Snow’s work and wanted to uncover the story behind his pieces and appreciate how they found their home in St. Catharines.

    Bell and Van Oosten, a filmmaker and artist who works with text, video and installations and explores moving images within immersive contexts, collaborated to create an artistic documentary that retraces Snow’s innovative art that delighted the University population in 1972.

    “In order to tell the story about these two artworks by Snow, I envisioned a video document. I had no understanding of the process,” Bell said. “With patience and skill, Tracy Van Oosten crafted the information that I found into an intelligent and visually stimulating artistic video work. This has been a satisfying collaboration.”

    Timed Images screens Friday, Aug. 20 at the RiverBrink Art Museum in Queenston, Niagara-on-the-Lake. Doors open at 8 p.m., with the screening scheduled to start at sunset. The documentary is part of an art-inspired program at NAC’s film fest called ‘An Ode to Escarpment School Films.

    For more information about Timed Images and to purchase tickets, visit the Mighty Niagara Film Fest website.

    This project is supported by David Vivian, the Director of the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture, and Dean Carol Merriam of the Faculty of Humanities, through the Dean’s Discretionary Fund (2020). An installation for the public to view Timed Images at the MIWSFPA and online is currently in development.

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  • Visual Arts prof and photographer exhibits new work on international stage

    Sea, Salt, Moon, Air by Amy Friend, Associate Professor and department Chair of Visual Arts, is part of a new photography exhibition in Zurich, Switzerland.

    Originally published in The Brock News WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 11, 2021 | by 

    An exhibit showcasing the work of artist and Brock University Associate Professor and Chair of Visual Arts Amy Friend has gained international attention.

    Friend was one of eight artists from around the world invited to exhibit their photography at a summer show entitled Ocean at Bildhalle gallery in Zurich, Switzerland. Bildhalle, founded in 2013 by Mirjam Cavegn, is a highly respected art gallery presenting world class photography.

    The exhibition, which explores the motif of water through different aesthetics, was recently featured in the International Edition of The Guardian in their Art and Design section. The article displayed a selection of images from the exhibition and provided details on each artist and their work.

    Becoming 0.4% by Amy Friend from the international exhibition Ocean.

    In her artistic practice, the theme of water and ever-shifting seascapes is of great interest to Friend and is woven through much of her creative work. Due to the travel restrictions of the global pandemic, Friend found herself reflecting on past times at  the seaside during which she collected samples of water from across the world.

    Friend’s photographs featured in the Ocean exhibition came to fruition when she revisited 20 years worth of her photographs involving water and seascapes. Drawing on the notion that photography acts a as vault containing moments from the past, she fused her ideas together.

    “Looking at the abundant images of water in my personal collection, I began to consider my connection to these places and what it meant to take so many images like this,” said Friend. “I questioned what was possible to accomplish with this collection, given my stationary position due to COVID.”

    After selecting a series of the photographs, Friend printed them and then soaked them in the salt water she had collected during previous travels.

    “Over time, the sea water evaporated, leaving a residue of salt on the print,” Friend said.

    She said her pieces Tiny Tears Fill the Ocean (2020) and Endothelium Waves (2020) examine the connection between the body and the ocean.

    “The interplay between the salt content of water and the salt content of our bodies, including our tears, is of particular interest,” she said. “Our bodily connection to place is something that continues to resurface in my practice.”

    Through the exploration of themes of tears and loss, there is an environmental aspect to the work. Although the photographs are not specifically about the effects of climate change, Friend said “it is important to reflect on loss from an environmental standpoint when viewing these works.”

    With the exhibition running into the fall, Friend is looking forward to sharing the details of her experience with her students.

    “It is important that they see others actively engaging within a creative community. By sharing my experience with them, I hope to provide a bit of real-world insight related to the planning and trouble-shooting involved when preparing for exhibitions,” she said.

    To view the exhibition Ocean, visit the Bildhalle website.

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  • Students showcase video art in local film festival through work-integrated learning

    Image caption: The opening image of Wind Sky, directed by Xudanlei Liu. Liu’s original video art is part of the Advanced Video Art student online screenings at the upcoming Mighty Niagara Film Fest presented by the Niagara Artists Centre.

    Originally published in The Brock News | MONDAY, JULY 05, 2021 

    Brock students have captured their experiences during the pandemic on film and are sharing their insights with the community.

    Exploring themes of identity, isolation and using everyday objects to create art, the project was born from an innovative work-integrated learning course and will see students present their videos during a professional film festival online.

    In Advanced Video (VISA/ISAC/STAC 3P10), students build upon their creative, technical and critical skills for video art production, post-production and critical evaluation, and are introduced to a variety of forms and approaches to video art, emphasizing its creation and contextualization in contemporary art discourses.

    Led by Donna Szoke, Associate Professor of Visual Arts at Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA), the project is funded in part by Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning (CEWIL) Canada’s Innovation Hub (iHub), through the Government of Canada’s Innovative Work-Integrated Learning (IWIL) initiative, and supported by Niagara Artists Centre (NAC).

    Students created independent video art that is available online until Aug. 15 in affiliation with the NAC in downtown St. Catharines. The videos will also be presented as part of NAC’s Mighty Niagara Film Festival running Aug. 18 to 22. Both events are free to the public.

    This rich educational experience has allowed students to produce quality work in a professional setting while exploring their creativity.

    Thanks to the CEWIL grant awarded to Szoke for the course, students will be paid for their work being showcased in the festival. The project has also helped students to add valuable work to their portfolios and build their resumés for future opportunities.

    Minhal Enam, a third-year Interactive Arts and Science student in the Faculty of Humanities, is among those showcasing their video art.

    Enam said the past year has been difficult because of the pandemic and that participating in the film festival was a welcome and pleasant surprise.

    “When I was creating this project, I didn’t think my work would ever be screened at a film festival,” he said. “This shows me that you never know what lies next in terms of opportunities and open doors.

    “As an international student, I am lucky to be involved in a project like this,” Enam said. “Being born and raised in Saudi Arabia, I never thought I would express my thoughts and passion as I am doing now. I am trusting my own journey, and this is just the beginning. I can’t wait to create more.”

    The CEWIL funding also allowed for established artists to virtually visit students throughout Winter Term, delivering presentations focused on their practices as Canadian video artists exhibiting in international film festivals. After receiving advice during the mentorship sessions, students selected their best work from the term for the two public screenings.

    Szoke said it’s important that young artists feel their work, time and creative skills have value.

    “They need to know what they do matters,” she said. “This is a chance to craft their ability to make artwork and grow faith in themselves as artists.”

    Stephen Remus, the Minister of Energy, Minds and Resources at the NAC, has been involved with the artist-run centre in various capacities for the past 15 years.

    “NAC is always interested in what young and emerging artists are creating at the Marilyn I. Walker School,” he said. “There’s a give and take. We learn what their interests and preoccupations are and, in turn, we’re able to introduce them to the NAC and artist-run culture.”

    Remus said Canada can “lay a unique claim to the establishment of a national artist-run network.”

    “It’s unlike anything else in the world. And the NAC is one of the earliest nodes on that network, now more than 50 years old.”

    From Winnipeg to Vancouver to St. Catharines, Szoke has a long history of collaborating with artist-run centres across the country. As a passionate artist who engages with experimental education programs and uses media art as a form of activism, she believes video as a medium occupies a dynamic and vital space in visual arts with great impacts on community.

    Community engagement is at the centre of the Advanced Video course, with a focus on giving students an opportunity to showcase their creative work in a professional setting while earning an industry-standard wage. Educating students about the standards of professional wages in the creative sector is an important piece of the project.

    “Community is the bridge to the future,” Szoke said. “If students can have significant experiences making meaningful work that people in the community value, this real-world labour can change all of our lives and have a big impact on students’ futures.”

    Even though the structure of the NAC is “anarchistic in the best ways,” the centre can be a leader in community and audience engagement, and prioritize support of living artists,” Remus said. “This includes informing students about the professional rates for the payment of artists.”

    The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada or Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada.

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  • Visual Arts grad catches the eye of WIRED magazine

    Image caption: “Three Polaroids” is a piece from Amber Lee Williams’ collection “Tethered” that uses a Polaroid emulsion lift technique. “Through self-portraits, photos of my own children and other mothers with their children, “Tethered” is part observation and part documentation of daily life,” Williams says.

    Originally published in The Brock News FRIDAY, MAY 07, 2021 | by 

    While the look of a classic Polaroid picture is familiar to most people, interdisciplinary artist Amber Lee Williams (BA ’20) is challenging that standard and garnering international attention with her creative use of the iconic medium.

    Among those captivated by the St. Catharines’ artist’s compelling work is WIRED magazine, which recently commissioned Williams’ art for an article about adoption. The international publication reaches 30 million readers each month.

    Originally interested in painting, Williams, who graduated from Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) last year with a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art,  discovered a passion for experimental photography when introduced to the darkroom in her second-year Analogue Photography class.

    Williams developed her art practice during her degree based on a technique called Polaroid emulsion lifts. In this treatment, the top layer of a Polaroid photo (known as the emulsion layer) is separated from the physical print by soaking it in water. After the separation of the emulsion image has occurred, it is often transferred to other surfaces such as watercolour paper or hard surfaces like rocks.

    Through creative and scholarly exploration undertaken by Williams during her time in the Visual Arts program, she reimagined the Polaroid emulsion lift technique by capturing digital images of the emulsion lift in process. She was excited by how the images looked floating in water and found them to have an “ephemeral quality.”

    Brock alumna and local artist Amber Lee Williams was recently commissioned by WIRED magazine for her innovative work with Polaroid images.

    In her current work, Williams continues to explore the interplay between analogue and digital media, weaving this theme through her pieces.

    “My time at Brock put me on a very experimental path. My professors encouraged me to use unconventional materials, or to invent new ways to use materials. I was never told ‘this wasn’t the assignment’ — even when I handed in some weird stuff,” she said with a smile.

    Associate Professor of Visual Arts Amy Friend, who taught Williams’ Analogue Photography class, said that Williams consistently challenged her studio assignments, and with each critique, brought in a plethora of work that demonstrated a clear commitment to pushing process and result.

    “Her unique approach of blending alternate materials within the folds of photographic practice wonderfully represents the explorative nature of studio-based courses and the progression of her practice as an artist,” Friend said.

    Opportunity called in December 2020 when a senior editor of WIRED reached out to Williams — a connection made through Friend — to commission her Polaroid works for an upcoming article. With that, Williams embarked on her first big job in the creative sector.

    Fuelled by excitement and a touch of nervousness, she began her creative work for Adoption Moved to Facebook and a War Began written by Samantha M. Shapiro.

    “First, photographer Juan Diego Reyes took some photos using colour film of the family featured in the adoption article. The film was developed, scanned and sent to me to print as Polaroids to turn into lifts,” Williams explained.

    The lead image of the article created as a result is one of her favourite images that she has ever made.

    “The way Reyes photographed the family — with these big shadows cast behind them — felt so symbolic of what the story was all about, which was this dark side of adoption,” she said.

    Williams also created her own still life images featuring children’s items. With a toddler and seven-year-old at home, she had what she needed on hand to create original images for the rest of the article.

    Creating original images took her out of her comfort zone and posed an exciting challenge, Williams said.

    “I’m usually just making art about myself (or my own family), and for myself. Trying to make the work fit someone else’s ideas was very different than what I’m used to.”

    Williams, who recently completed her second term in the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program at the University of Waterloo, hasn’t slowed since graduating from Brock. The busy mother of two looks forward to what the future holds.

    “I didn’t think I would be doing my MFA mostly online with my kids home, but here we are. I got through the first year and now I’ll have the summer to make more work and enjoy some time with my family,” she said.

    Williams hopes to showcase her work, “Tethered,” this fall at an exhibition in St. Catharines pending public health protocols.

    As she continues her schooling, she is contemplating what her next moves will be.

    “What I know now is that I just want to make art, and help other people make art,” she said.

    Williams’ art portfolio can be found on her website, amberleeart.com, and on her Instagram page.

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