“What are you going to do with that?” Nearly everyone who has made the decision to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree has fielded such a question, often couched in a tone of deep concern, from friends, family and well-wishers alike. With a dearth of “real world” job positions for artists per se, is a BFA education more of a liability than an asset? What prospects face BFA students after graduation? With these questions in mind, this exhibition, featuring a selection of current BFA students from both the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina and a panel discussion held in the gallery on February 28th were assembled to investigate the current state of BFA programs in Saskatchewan. A special thanks to all of the students who submitted to this exhibition and the faculty at both universities who helped organize studio visits and participated in the panel discussion.
In Gutted House, Andreas Buchwaldt reconfigures the quotidian and ubiquitous building materials of suburban tract housing into a bodily form that appears to have quite literally ‘spilled its guts.’ With an affinity for the material and craft of carpentry, Buchwaldt re/deconstructs the middle class suburban environment in which he was raised, laying bare the inner workings in disarray to propose a critical revaluation of what initially appears idyllic. Erin Gee interrogates our relationship with machines in the interactive Formants. Brushing the all too human hair on the featureless mannequin heads elicits an operatic aria from the uncanny automatons. Formants postulates a time when our instinct to anthropomorphize technology reaches the point where we mistake our tools for ourselves and ‘machines of loving grace’ supplant the roles of friends, lovers and pets.
J.G. Hampton’s photographic series, Portraits in Paper, questions assumptions about portraiture by concealing more than they reveal. In each portrait, the sitter’s head is covered with torn strips of paper, abstracting the head and blending it into the paper that the photograph itself is printed on. This reductio ad absurdum literally effaces the identity of the subject, raising the notion that all subjects are constructions based on the observer’s own reading of signifying traces. In My Three Day Affair With a Pair of Manolos Left Me Wanting More Rachel Ludlow looks at the role conspicuous consumption plays in identity constructions within contemporary Western society. Ludlow questions the crass commodification of status, value, power and satisfaction embodied in a product as seemingly banal as a pair of shoes. Most troubling in the work is the suggestion that abstract values of status are in fact bestowed upon the wearer by virtue of the flattering masses aspirations and adoration of celebrity.
Drawing from his experience growing up in a small Saskatchewan town, Lindsay Mitchell depicts the familiar yet profound experience of seeing a prairie town at night in Francis .2. From a distance the ethereal glow of artificial light is already abstracted to a thin band of brightness floating between the immensity of empty sky and featureless prairie. The scale of the void invoked here is delimited by the gestural marks and brightness of the paper, suggestive of a presence amidst the darkness. Levi Nicholat uses the materiality of paint to create indeterminate narratives by juxtaposing elements drawn from a varied and expansive archive. Layering figures and indistinct forms in Memorial, Nicholat presents the indefinable nature of identity in a world where a dizzying profusion of meaningless signs coexist simultaneously in the context of their own confounding.
Paper Route is a selection from Julie Oh’s I-m-migrant series where she has used actors to portray her and her little sister in seemingly banal situations as first generation immigrants. Recreating childhood fantasies of “how to become Canadian,” these pictorial narratives express the sense of displacement and awkwardness that were “familiar to a little Korean girl growing up in Saskatoon. “ Amber Reed’s digital print Courtyard is taken from her series Transience, addressing the universal theme of the temporal nature of existence. Like the other work in the series, in Courtyard, Reed layers transparent figures and environments that occupy an indeterminate middle ground between presence and absence.
 All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, Richard Brautigan; The Communication Company, 1967