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Residency Week 1: Open Studio, “Between Us” & Setting Roots

As an emerging artist a lot of the plans I have laid out for my time here at the ABRS involve challenging my comfort zone. There are a lot of new experiments and experiences, and as exciting as that is, it can also be a bit scary. Additionally, despite the positive anticipation I have had leading up to this spring, I have also been  juggling some grief and transition in my personal and professional life. For the purposes of shedding professional sugar-coating and being real, I’m going to admit that as a result, the preparation for my transition to this new studio environment looked a little bit more like this than I would have liked:

PM+Scare+2More Polite Toothpaste for Dinner Creative Process diagram

Sources: &

(for an in-depth and relatable analysis of the procrastinator’s mind I recommend taking a look at Tim Urban’s brilliant blog post on the subject here

BUT- despite the initial panic of moving my studio and setting up, I am truly grateful to say that my first week here went, well, really well! I got by with a little help from my friends & many, many, many cups of tea. The following are a few snapshots of the week as it unfolded:

1. Setting Up a Creative Space

Setting up a Creative Space

“Beauty’s light comes up slowly and shyly along the edges of limitation, confusion, anxiety and helplessness…a spirit and atmosphere of graciousness often emerges when the human heart reaches into its own nobility and allows the destructive reaction to disappointment and hurt to open into something more healing and creative.” -John O’Donohue

2. First Open-Studio night

There were six people that came by on Thursday for open studio. It was a quiet but dynamic and diverse group- an excellent starting point for the weeks to come.

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Some participants worked on their own independent projects. Like Shawn Zinyk, who made this rad goth flower for a mental-health awareness project in association with the Art Mentorship Society of Alberta
Art tiles
At our first weekly open studio we had a lot of fun making art tiles with prompts from this modified book on Greek mythology, then from the imagination

3. “Between Us”

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One great thing about being on campus is it allowed us to easily investigate & appreciate the nearby UofA BFA graduation exhibit, “Between Us”. All in all, congrats class of 2017, you put on a great show!

I’m not going to dig too deeply into this today (though I would like to in the future, there were some really powerful pieces!), but I will briefly highlight a couple works that really caught my eye.

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“The Man Behind the Curtain” (2017), Video Installation by Michael McInnis

“during a recent trip to the drug store the cashier asked if I was doing okay on account of what I was purchasing”…

This piece hit me right in the gut. Kind of reminiscent of Jenny Holzer, whose work has been known to do the same…She too has worked with bold text to bring small, intimate, vulnerable moments or thoughts right “up in your face”. It is just so simple yet painfully real.

For this piece, the text was screen-printed  onto the shower curtain with a water-based ink. McInnis then showered using the curtain, and filmed the process which was then projected back onto the curtain for the installation. So many luscious layers of significance in all this.
In his artist statement he writes:
“I seek to transform relatively inconsequential personal anecdotes into ambiguous, emotionally-charged narratives. In doing so, I am attempting to navigate the tension between a desire to withdraw in the when confronted with shame and guilt, and the necessity of being visible in order to participate in contemporary society.”
Definitely going to be chatting more with this artist.


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From the “Outfitter” Series by Mitchell Chalifoux (2017)

In this series artist Mitchell Chalifoux recreated classically masculine garments with knit yarn, working to reclaim femininity & feminist masculinities. He writes:

“My work is a search for new masculinities. I use vulnerability and self-criticality of my identity as a way to build emotional awareness, self-support, and tenderness for others and myself. I place my self and my body in scenes of scrutiny where I can question my own privileged position, while being aware of its faults, and support it in new productive ways.”
It was awesome to see another artist working with fibre to explore themes of vulnerability and identity, but in a completely different way from myself.

4. Settling into some quiet studio time

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Some time alone in the studio allowed me to play a bit in my sketchbook with imagery from a previous life drawing session with a phenomenal Vancouver-based Dance Artist and friend of mine

All in all I feel like the week has set me off to a good start and I am feeling enthusiastic about the research and events to come.


This String Portrait Project  is supported by the Edmonton Arts Council and the City of Edmonton.

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