school

Notions of Home

I have my first critique of the year scheduled a week from tomorrow. Do I have anything ready for it? Not yet but I am working on it. I am nervous that it will either not be ready in time, or (and let’s be honest here) not successfully translate well. But the latter speaks to my insecurities. More on them later.

I like the theme of the project, which is on the notions of home. The word “home” can mean many things from displacement, loss, to belonging. I chose to tackle the subject by revisiting memories of my childhood, a positive and nurturing environment. I thought about the activities and the surroundings I grew up in, and one thing that struck me was the huge park located near my house that I visited often.

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This park is located in North York and it stretches from Bathurst to Dufferin, Finch to Steeles, and it was my favourite playground. I knew every square inch of that park. I would ride my bike on all of the bike trails. To me, the park was my second home and a place to let my imagination run wild, and to appreciate nature.

This weekend, I visited my parents (they still live in the same house near the park after all of these years) and did a bit of the hike in the park with my mom. The park is still the same but different. Some of the wide open spaces have been filled with trees; some of the big trees I remembered have died. It was nice to be back in it, though the memories I have included green foliage and warm weather, not snow. Also, my memory of walking through the park seemed bigger back then. Of course, when I was a kid, even a teenager, everything seemed big. It was like the trees were 20x their height and for my overactive imagination, these trees were giants.

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So, my project idea includes two possible solutions: to create branches and foliage out of paper, or create cut outs of branches and foliage out of paper. Both of these would hang from the ceiling. I want to do this because I can play with light and shadow. I tried creating the paper cut outs but failed to include bridges between the cuts so the result is flimsy and unsupported. Why paper? I’m curious about using it as a material for sculpture. A catch for this project: it has to be portable.

There’s a lot of self-doubt happening in my mind right now but I knew this would happen. Many of us artists have this and it’s easy to plagued by it. I know a part of me is worried about how the work will be interpreted, which translates to approval from my teacher and classmates. We all want approval. But I’m pushing passed that. 2015 is the year I banish self-doubt. So, I’m still thinking what I can do despite the cut outs not working… I like the idea of creating a forest out of cut-outs and playing with light and shadow.

It’s time to figure out Plan B with a week to spare, and of course, other projects looming on the horizon. I just hope the idea strikes when it’s not two or three days before it’s due. I dislike all nighters and avoid them at all costs but I know that the creative juices really flow when the deadline is so close. I wish I wasn’t so but that’s how it is. Wish me luck!

You were a peach, 2014!

Just in time to submit my last post for 2014!

As you may have noticed, I have been neglectful of this blog for the past couple of months. School is the ultimate culprit. As you might have guessed, I finished my term in mid-December and since then, I’ve been hibernating and it feels good to do so. I’ve spent my break organizing my messy house, reading, and watching a lot of movies at home and at the theatres. So far, I’ve seen The Imitation Game, Birdman, Big Eyes, and The Gambler–don’t bother seeing the latter with Marky Mark, it’s horrible.

During the break, I had the intentions to finish building my website, launch my Etsy shop and work on some art but as soon as I finished my final projects, I didn’t want to make anything. And that’s fine. I don’t need to be making art all of the time. I’m not a cog in the art machine. If I were, I would feel drained and uninspired to do anything for a long time. I loved my time vegging on the couch.

My second term starts next week and I’m looking forward to it. A new set of classes are a great way to get creative and to tackle ideas I’m curious about. I still don’t know what kind of sculpture I want to do but I want to try and figure this out. I know that I want to do textiles, which I’ve experimented with, but I want to build things in wood and metal, too. But that’s what school is about, right? Figuring that stuff out. IMG_1769 IMG_1745

For me, 2014 was a good year with some rough patches. I felt like I got into the swing of things at school when I started in September. I felt more comfortable being a full-time student but I still struggled with getting involved in class discussions. On the flip side, I got to meet other students who are smart, creative and fun, and it’s been great to get to know them better.IMG_2006

This year, I ventured into the world of selling my artwork and it was intimidating, but it was a good lesson for me. I have a better idea of how price things, how I should value my work, how to organize for a show and how to present it. I definitely want to do another show like KMAF but I also want to submit to more group art shows at school to get my work out there.

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In terms of health, I feel good but I know that I can do better. I had a few scares, not major ones luckily, but minor ones. A big wakeup call was my mother’s cancer diagnosis. I had to consider what I was and wasn’t doing for my body. Luckily, my mother is now cancer-free and has bounced back to her former healthy lifestyle. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that her healthy lifestyle pre-cancer enabled her to recover so quickly. I’m super grateful that she’s here, along with my dad who supported her during her treatments. I want to be healthy like my parents when I reach their age and I know that it starts now. The things I’ve done include eating less meat, and not just on a weekly basis but on a monthly basis, too. I’ve cut back on a lot of foods that don’t make me feel well, including alcohol. At the moment, biking and walking is my only exercise, but I want to hike more. There’s so many trails in and around the city that I want to explore. Also, another reason why I want to exercise more is that I want to walk the Camino in Northern Spain in May 2015. This means I have to start hiking–and soon! If that isn’t a great incentive, I don’t know what is!Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

In terms of friends, I’ve lost a few but gained others. In terms of love, it was a tough year getting over a broken heart. I’ve learned to appreciate those who are around me. I have also learned to stand up for myself more, as well as to stand my ground to those that may dislike me or want to hurt me. I have learned to appreciate myself more and to acknowledge that I am good enough. The latter may seem obvious but I have noticed that if I don’t tell myself this, I forget it when times are tough or just plain shitty.

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I’m super grateful for the opportunity to do what I want to do. Travel is still a big goal of mine, and for 2014, I traveled as far as my budget allowed me to. Buffalo was my “big” travel destination, but I also went on a road trip with good friends, and had many, many visits to the beach on the Island. Nothing wrong with that.

So, with this, I say goodbye to 2014 and hello to 2015!

May’s Explorations Into Colour

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I just survived three weeks of an intensive course where I learned all about colour. Before this class, I didn’t quite understand the theory behind colour however I know I do! While it was a lot of information to condense into a three week course, I felt like I’ve learned what I need to know about working with colour. The most fun part: mixing the colours!

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Year One is done!

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I’m a little late to post this but I wrote my last exam on Wednesday. This means my first year of university is done! Yes, I do have summer school, but technically, I’m done, right? Yes, right!

As much as exams can be nerve-wracking, I was more stressed about my final projects. I was concerned at how my class was going to react to them, which luckily, all of the feedback was positive. I have noticed that in first year, feedback is polite and positive, not as critical as it is in the upper years. I think all of us first-years don’t want to hurt each other’s feelings, and also I think we’re all trying to understand and put together the thoughts it takes to be critical. I even had difficulty with this too.

My year back to school was incredibly challenging and rewarding. I’ve learned so much about art, its history and practices, techniques, and also about myself. I will always love photography and make photographs but I’m a tactile artist who enjoys seeing the process unfold and develop. I like to work with my hands, and to repeat certain tasks over and over. It’s a meditative process that I found when I was doing assignments where I build things, as opposed to drawing or painting. I’m looking forward to what I’ll be making in my sculpture classes to see what I can come up with.

It was also a time of incredible stress as I tried to keep up with good grades, balance work and social life, as well as to accomplish chores at home. I’m a mature student and I live alone. There were mentally tough and emotionally difficult moments, and where I would ask the question, “is this really worth it?” I realized that yes, they were worth it. I got through them, and luckily, I wasn’t alone. I have a strong support network which included friends that cheered me on and were there for me when I wanted to vent. First year of school was definitely a period of adjustment. Now, I know what to expect for second year and also know to give myself a bit of slack so that the pressure isn’t overtaking the enjoyment of my experience. If I’m not having fun at school, then what’s the point of continuing?

Now, I have the summer off. I start summer school in a few weeks and I’ll be done with those courses by end of June. Then, it’s freedom. I’ve got a few projects in mind that I want to accomplish, but for now, I just want to catch up on sleep.

We’re oh-so close to the finish line

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Well, it looks like I’m done. I’ve completed almost, if not all of my assignments for this term. The end of my BFA’s Year 1 is oh-so close!

In the above picture is my completed photography assignment. Well, four out of five mounted prints are shown. After spending five hours in the darkroom, I returned to school on Sunday to mount my prints. Sunday was gorgeous in Toronto and everyone was out and about, walking around and enjoying the sun. It had been a long and much too cold winter here. However, I wanted to complete my homework and not leave things to the last minute. As it turns out, it only took me two hours to mount the prints where afterwards, I was able to enjoy the rest of my Sunday by taking a long walk and even bought some new clothes. I’m happy with how the prints look although I did encounter some problems in the process.

I realized that I had made my prints too small. I printed my photos with a large white border around them which made cropping them a tricky task. Luckily I figured out a solution and was able to use the image size I had printed. I would have preferred to use black card stock to mount but I decided to use what I had at home, which was white card stock. I hope that the white picks up the white in the prints, which most of my dominant colour in the prints is black. I love the look of a clean and neutral colour like white but sometimes it can drown out the image. I hope it doesn’t do that here.

Overall, I’m happy with my prints. They look good and they reflect my idea and ode to Abstract Expressionism, even though they were not the original photos I had in mind for the project. But, who cares? They’re done!

Fluxcards for Time Travel

Fluxcards for Time Travel

My second final project is for my curatorial practice class. I wanted to revisit my interest in Fluxkits along with the work of Robert Smithson and his theories of site, non-site artwork. For the final project I created “Fluxcards for Time Travel”. I borrowed a friend’s old Remington typewriter to type special messages on index cards.

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I wanted to focus on time and history. I created instructions that enable the reader to imagine scenarios or places that may or may not exist, and that are unique and individual like the person who is reading them. All of them focus on a past event so the reader is time traveling in their mind to these places that may or may not be fictitious. I wrote four different messages and stapled them on telephone poles a couple of miles in and around my neighbourhood. I documented the process which you can see above and below.

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The unfortunate thing is that these messages will disappear because as I was stapling them today, the local weather forecast called for rain. And it’s raining as I write this post. Oh well. I expected that these messages wouldn’t last forever and I knew this, which is why I not only photographed them but also created a Tumblr site as well. So far, I have no followers on that Tumblr site but again, these messages were only up for a few hours before the rain arrived. I would like to revisit this idea again one day, when rain is not in the forecast in the near future.

The only thing left for me to do here is to pick up my prints from the lab tomorrow, which I hope will be ready. Otherwise I will have to fall back on my Tumblr site for the final critique.

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Visit your perfect oasis today!

So, it looks like I’m done all of my projects early. I’m feeling really good about this. More importantly, I’m not scrambling or pulling an all-nighter. But I’ll admit that this is an odd feeling. I’ve pulled all-nighters almost on a weekly basis this term, which I hated doing. I expected to do one with these projects but things didn’t turn out way.

I feel strangely relaxed about everything, about my projects and even about my exams which are next week. Maybe I should panic? I hope my critiques do well so maybe I should worry about that? This is a very odd feeling, but it’s oh-so nice that I’m done with my projects.

5 Hours produced 20 prints

© Stephanie Cloutier

How did you spend your Saturday? I spent my Saturday working and making art. For five hours, I worked in the school’s darkroom to print my final assignment for photography class. I produced 20 prints. Most of them are duplicates of the same image but each were timed differently, so each print is a unique print.

I’m exhausted. I love to print but I also hate it. I dislike being on my feet for hours, trying to adjust my eyes to the low light, and play the guessing game of “will this print be ok or not?” However, I did enjoy printing during in the last couple of months and I’d like to do more in the future. Printing is one of those artistic skills I want to get better at.

This particular series is about texture and abstract images. I’m very inspired by the photography of the Abstract Expressionists, especially those of Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind. My original series were more closely connected to Callahan’s street photography and his use of light and shadow. However those negatives got ruined because of an exhausted developer (Damn it!) I had to reshoot and there were no beautiful sunny days in the forecast to reshoot exactly what I had shot. So, I spent Friday morning, in the drizzling rain, shooting walls in the downtown core with Siskind’s photos of graphic images in mind. I like Siskind’s work, and I’m attracted to graphic design anyway so it was my ode to his work. Below is what he shot and hopefully, I was able to capture his beautiful work with my own.

Aaron Siskind

Aaron Siskind

Aaron Siskind

Aaron Siskind

Aaron Siskind

Aaron Siskind

I found a few interesting looking brick walls with peeling paint, wood and metal. Even though the subject itself is banal, I hope that the graphic elements of these walls will be consistent and present in my series.

Now, the only thing left to do is to mount my prints for the final presentation. I’ll be doing that tomorrow, along with another assignment due this Wednesday for our critiques. The home stretch is here!

Curatorial Practice Final Assignment

I’m putting together ideas for the final assignment in my Curatorial Practice class. Right now, I’m attracted to a few art pieces that speak to the theme of nature vs culture, or specifically, the transformation of nature into culture/culture transforming into nature. But I’m not sure exactly what I want to say, or what topic I want to focus on. I’m hoping that by putting down these ideas here, something will happen. That, or panic will happen and then something will really happen.

Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty (1970)

Smithson's Spiral Jetty (1970) (Image: Good Morning Gloucester)

Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970) (Image: Good Morning Gloucester)

I’m attracted to Smithson’s project because it is a literal translation of culture into nature, something in which we have placed into nature and letting nature dictate the outcome and the life of the art piece. It would be interesting to do something similar where I can alter or add something to the environment and see how the environment deals with it. However, the timeline to see what nature does to the artwork is very short. I have one week. If I had started this a few months earlier, I could have shown the progression of the project but right now, that’s impossible.

Barbara Kruger

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Kruger is another artist who’s work is appealing. I like how she combines images and texts where she questions feminism and consumerism. Her work is graphic in style. They look like advertisements which was the intent for the viewer’s first impression. However, upon further observation, the viewer will see that they are art pieces and also the meaning behind what the texts say. Her work does ask questions about what has shaped us and our culture. It might be a cool idea to investigate further.

Fluxkits

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Can I just say that Fluxkits are awesome? I love them! Ever since I created one for my Cabinet of the Everyday project, I can’t get enough of them. I would love to combine the idea of a Fluxkit into my final assignment but I’m still thinking about what I want to say with them. How will the kit speak to the nature vs culture them? Perhaps I can combine the idea of the fluxkit with that of Smithson’s earthwork sculpture? It could be interactive and be left anonymously in nature. Perhaps I could create messages for people to follow? For thought is required.