The two year visual arts program at Grant MacEwan has consistently produced interesting batches of students. Browsing around the main gallery plus the three floors of Grant MacEwan’s Jasper Place campus, I was really quite surprised to see the array of work on display. More concept than formal, mixed media, installation, audio and video, plus the more traditional drawing and painting, were obviously encouraged and explored.
Some highlights included the boldness of Erica Wilk’s various projects, Craig Knox’s “Accumulated Change” and Vanessa Janzen’s pixelated exercise “Hold On,” which within its group assignment, was the only one to fully realize itself as a complete idea between subject matter and execution. There were also projects that initially existed in site specific contexts that I wish were exhibited as such, including Janice Beddard’s “Desperate Measures,” a series of tailored figurines constructed from yards of measuring tape that was situated in the hallway towards the dance studios. Also Karen Cassidy Shaw, who’s ‘Slim Gorge On’s” was a throwback to confectionary indulgences that originally exhibited outside of the school cafeteria.
The use and access of the entire building and its occupants at best breeds a less rigid mentality of what art is and how one makes it. Although there were some devastations like placing live goldfish beneath poles of records, a setup that was far more interesting than the concept and details, and several 2D “canvases” that over and misused objects like balloons and paint brushes, at least experimental was encouraged. Unfortunately, there was no real signs of strong draftsmanship indicated from the still life and painting exercises on display, with an exception to maybe Kari Haddad and Knox.
There is no point in contrasting between Grant MacEwan and the U of A as they are entirely different environments from top to bottom, but as a viewer, the experience of perusing Grant MacEwan’s campus was a far more enjoyable, diverse, and engaging experience than the last BFA show attended at FAB Gallery. The foundational skills may have not compared, but dare I say, the student's conceptual imagination, was far more evident, daring, and original.