UBC Master of Fine Arts students host shows highlighting their talents - InfoNews

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UBC Master of Fine Arts students host shows highlighting their talents

July 04, 2013 - 4:45 PM

Three event options for the public to view different arts styles and media include men in drag, art in nature, and female enigmas in hotel rooms along Hwy. 97

Who: Shannon Lester, Master of Fine Arts (MFA) student
What: Thesis exhibit Gender Euphoria
When: Open until Monday, July 15; opening reception Friday, July 5
Where: FINA gallery, foyer of the Creative and Critical Studies Building, 1148 Research Road, UBC’s Okanagan campus, Kelowna

Who: Julia Prudhomme, MFA student
What: Thesis exhibit Just Passing Through
When: Open until Thursday, July 25
Where: Vernon Public Art Gallery, 3228 31 Ave., Vernon, BC

Who: Lori Mairs, MFA student
What: Thesis exhibit This Communion of Subjects: The Woodhaven Research
When: Opening reception Thursday, July 4 at 4:30 p.m.; runs until August 6
Where: Woodhaven Nature Conservancy, 4711 Raymer Road, Kelowna

Art is often meant to make a statement. That’s certainly the case when it comes to the thesis exhibition for Shannon Lester, a UBC Master of Fine Arts (MFA) student.

Lester, a drag-based performance artist and painter, uses his art to explore his interest in feminism and gender identity. Lester explains that his show, titled Gender Euphoria, is meant to undermine the conventional medical term of “gender identity disorder,” which suggests that people who are transgendered have a mental illness.

“I don't believe that having alternative gender identities is an illness,” he says. “In my view, it is quite normal and a natural part of life. It is time to celebrate our diversity and to stop pushing people who are considered to be different to the outskirts of society."

Lester’s exhibition of large-scale acrylic paintings on canvas, mostly of male nudes, is the culmination of his two-year residency at UBC’s Okanagan campus. There is shock value in his art, but also an important message for today’s society.

“I am exploring my identity as a male-bodied person by showing a full range of possibilities for what it means to be a man. One of my paintings — entitled ‘Genderless Gender’ — has very aptly been described as the ‘Crucified Eunuch.’ It, and much of the work in this show, explores the idea of how we fail to acknowledge that there is in fact a third gender, and that this neglect is very detrimental to the psyche of our culture.”

Lester’s exhibition runs until Monday, July 15 and takes places in the FINA gallery on UBC's Okanagan campus. An opening reception for the show takes place at the gallery on Friday, July 5, from 6 to 9 p.m.

Several of his classmates are also hosting their thesis exhibitions in the Okanagan. Currently, Julia Prudhomme is exhibiting her thesis work at the Vernon Public Art Gallery. Her show Just Passing Through opened in late May and runs until July 25.

Prudhomme’s work focuses on photography and video installation. Her final thesis exhibition explores the female body as scripted by social conventions. She describes her art as essentially a self-conscious process of layering, and primarily uses herself as an anonymous medium to embody certain female enigmas kept secret by etiquette rules, ritualized ceremonies, and popular culture.

This exhibition attempts to explore these themes on a local, place-minded scale through the fabrication of a composite character named LuLu Miller, who resides in hotel rooms along Highway 97. Prudhomme mingles reality and fiction in order to express the imposed and assumed modalities of being human.

“The Just Passing Through exhibition is comprised of a photographic series, a two-channel video, and a found-object sing-along video installation. Each entity is meant to speak to the other within the space,” says Prudhomme.  “I hope visitors to the gallery can be seduced to spend time with the pieces in this exhibition, and to take fragments from the stories and re-imagine them in context with their own histories and memories.”

Prudhomme’s show is at the Vernon Public Art Gallery until July 25. The gallery is open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday’s from 11 to 4.

MFA student Lori Mairs has taken her artwork out of the classroom into the outdoors. Her thesis exhibition stretches 22 acres of land and includes 27 works situated in the Woodhaven Nature Conservancy.

Woodhaven is both her home and a public park operated by the Regional District of the Central Okanagan. As caretaker of the park, Mairs estimates she has walked the trails of Woodhaven some 4,380 times. And it is through walking that the public is invited to experience her work. Artist walks are offered weekly throughout the duration of the show and group walks are available on request.

“Knowledge of the deep communicative possibilities of the natural world can harness a greater care and respect for the fragile nature of its existence,” Mairs says. “Curiosity and wonder are the playing fields of serious enquiry.”

She is now completing her MFA, traditionally does sculptural work with steel, bone, paper, antler, and natural beeswax. She is now combining these materials with the writing of ecological memoirs and installation and sculpture in Woodhaven.

Mairs’ thesis show This Communion of Subjects: The Woodhaven Research opened June 27 and runs until August 5. An opening reception takes place Thursday, July 4, at Woodhaven starting at 6 p.m. Woodhaven Nature Conservancy is located at 4711 Raymer Road in Kelowna and is open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Nancy Holmes, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies for the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, says it’s a very positive sign when so many MFA students have reached the place in their educational career where they can host their own exhibits.

There were four this year, including Amy Modahl’s thesis exhibition, The Object of the Verb, which took place in June at the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art in the Rotary Centre for the Arts, Kelowna.

Modahl's show was an exhibition of prints exploring the use of language and consisted of three silkscreened works: a series of silkscreened textbook pages, a large wooden puzzle with overlaying images and text, and an installation of transparent sheets layered with images and text.

“All of us in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies are very proud of these MFA students,” says Holmes. “They have worked very hard on their art practices during their time in the program, and it is so exciting to see these four students present such diverse and unique bodies of work.”

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