Conversations in Art: Medium of Exchange – Process.
Five women walked into an art school… Three straight women, one gay woman and one who says it’s nobody business walked into an art school… An agnostic, a Wiccan, a Catholic and two atheists walked into an art school… Three settlers, an Inuit and a Metis walked into an art school…
Five artists of diverse backgrounds walked out of an art school…
…and had a conversation:
They called themselves Medium of Exchange. They made work together and apart about topics relevant to them all. Then their lives and professional practices diverged again. After a decade Jesica Campbell, Penny Chase, Jessica Hauser, Debbie.lee Miszaniec and Koren Scott have re-converged for Medium of Exchange: Process.
Process in a collaborative group art show of paintings, drawings, textile, art books, installation and 3-dimensional objects. Process takes place at the Alberta Society of Artists Gallery (1235 26 Ave SE #222, Calgary, AB T2G 1R7) from April 7th to June 5th 2021. Closing reception May 20th 2021, details to be decided.
Process is about the process of making art: the process of the development of the artist over time. The individual’s process of art making. The process of creating a dialogue between diverse individuals through art.
About the Artists
Jesica S Campbell, BFA
Jesica Campbell is a Métis Artist and Maker living and working in Central Alberta. Her work focuses on representing the truth of her indigenous self. Sometimes that truth may be represented in an abstract painting, an intervention in the public space, or even a cheeky piece of embroidery or crafting.
Proud Member of the Manitoba Métis Federation
Michi & Friends™ collection
I am a proud and unabashed 80s kid and toy lines like Masters of the Universe, Transformers, andTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were the centre of my world. I idolized She-Ra the Princess of Power, who would high-kick her enemies all while wielding that awesome sword of hers. I saw myself more in her than anything else around me, certainly not in someone like Barbie, who was tall, thin, blonde, blue-eyed and privileged – nothing like me! Sure, maybe I didn’t look too much like She-Raeither, but she was like me – she wanted to go and do things, she was a leader with agency and power. I know that I couldn’t verbalize this concept as a child, but now, as an educated adult who faces discrimination in wider culture, I know that representation matters.
Hopefully we all find something in our formative years that is a good representation for us – I had She-Ra, but what happens when you don’t find that? Do you fall back on representations of others as a substitute, or even less ideal, do you resort to other people’s (often false) representations of you? Indigenous children have always had to deal with this problem. There is such a limited array of play systems for us, and when you do find them, oh my word… it’s not good most of the time! Not only does this impact perceptions of ourselves in that we think we are not ‘normal’ or welcome, but the most damage comes when everyone else around us doesn’t see us in the picture either. If a child does not have a representations of diversity instilled in them from the beginning, it sets them up to always see us as ‘other’. This doesn’t help any of us in the long run, and this is what we are talking about when it comes to Truth and Reconciliation.
Thankfully, toy makers are starting to come around, mostly due to consumer pressure, but we now have lines like the Fresh Dolls and the Barbie Fashionistas, with its huge array of different skin tones, face sculpts, and body types. This is a great start but I think we can go further, do more, and create more specific, engaged dialogues that really tackle inclusivity and representation.
Jessica Hauser, BFA
Jessica is a Calgary based artist with a BFA from the Alberta University of the Arts ( formerly ACAD). She has completed projects with Heritage Park and has been nominated for Calgary’s White Hat Award.
Jessica’s main artistic focus in recent years has been collaborating with authors by creating book illustrations and colouring pages. She approaches the illustrations in a tradition sense where the written story comes first and then a visual world is created from that. Without the ability to actualize an idea or concept, art would not exist. Thus, Jessica sees her work as a constant search for the best way to interpret written ideas in a visual format that both helps the reader navigate the story and also enhances what is written. She uses recognizable imagery rendered with child like wonder, within a fanciful, surreal but somewhat familiar context so that people will become absorbed and perhaps lost in the magic of the illustration.
What drives my work is my desire to give shape to things that can’t be seen in the ordinary world: a boy looking in wonder at massive time pieces, a girl riding her dragon on a cloud or gnomes finding an unusual object.
Jessica’s work jumps from tradition mediums like pencil, watercolour and gauche to the less traditional medium of digital art. Her digital images still begin as pencil drawings quickly rendered first to come up with different concept pieces and then moved over to digital format to complete them.
S Koren Scott, BFA
S. Koren Scott is a Calgary based visual artist, graphic designer and printmaker. She has a bachelors degree in Fine Art (Prinmaking) from the Alberta University of the Arts
As a graphic designer by trade, I’m required to communicate through visual means clearly to specific audiences that may or may not share my personal POV on any number of topics. Semiotics has surrounded my conscious and unconscious mind my entire adult life, but my hopes of mastering it the way I felt I should’ve had constantly tortured and eluded me. I struggled to find authentic visual terminology that would connect to an audience without giving the ‘milk away for free’ while still providing a visually compelling composition. I believed if my audience didn’t read exactly what I was communicating, I would have failed them and my practice.
Relating to this show and my current body of work, ‘Process ‘and the group ‘Medium of Exchange’, I’ve come to realize that I have built my own visual language that cumulatively grew a dialogue to an audience of ‘one’, of ‘none’ and of ‘many’, and I’m okay with that. Appreciate what you will, take from it what you want, or leave it. The ‘exchange’ happens regardless, whether positive or negative. I am not attempting to be a provocateur nor am I stirring up culture bias. I believe in the power of resonance and if the symbols attract you on any level then the connection is made. My process did not begin at this moment, it began the first time I picked up a pencil and made a mark on paper. My process continues as an interchange between a perceived collective cognition and personal exploration.
Penny Chase, BFA
Penny Chase is visual artist of Inuit descent. For over a decade she called Calgary Alberta home, however has recently relocated to Commox British Columbia. She has a bachelors degree in Fine Art (Prinmaking) from the Alberta University of the Arts. Was the Alberta winner of the 2008 Bank of Montreal 1st Art! Invitational Student Art Competition, participated in the 2012 Artist Ranch Project and received an 2010 Alberta Foundation of the Arts Grant.
As a painter, I found it particularly distressing when I found that I had a medical condition that affected my ability to create smooth painting strokes. For a time, I stopped painting but discovered that I could express myself by painting only dots. This lead me into an entirely different creative process. This process allowed me to still use colour and form without having to stroke the paint.
The repetitive process of putting dots down enabled me to lose myself in the process rather than the product. Repetition is a part of the Covid pandemic. Every day is a count of new cases and those lost. I am trying to find meaning and purpose in my new-found isolation. The dots are isolated but when viewed collectively they produce something entirely different. Separate but together.
Covid 19 gave us something we don’t normally have; solitude. During this time, I returned to something I had done when I was younger. I sat watching the news channel and allowed the creative process to unfold with no direction. The news influenced, at times, what appeared in the drawing creating a feedback loop where marks were added as a result of reacting to previous marks and what was on the news.
As deadly as it is, the images of the Corona Virus were strangely beautiful. With repeated images on the television, they started to show up in my drawings. Because it is part of nature, the virus is amoral and, while we refer to it as the enemy, it is simply a normal part of nature. Nature is beautiful in all its aspects.
Debbie.lee Miszaniec, BFA
Debbie.lee Miszaniec is a Canadian visual artist working from her studio on the edge of Fish Creek Provincial Park in Calgary Alberta Canada, where she lives with her husband and two adult children. Her studio paintings engage art history, popular culture and social movements from her western regional, socialist and atheist viewpoints. Since graduating from the Alberta University of the Arts in 2008 she has been involved in a breadth of creative ventures in Calgary, including public commissions, writing about art, teaching classes, giving talks, participating in and leading art events, organizing shows, volunteerism, and studio painting. Her paintings have most recently been seen in person at the Southern and Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditoriums in Calgary and Edmonton (fall 2019). In 2020 her suite of drawings, the Covid Chronicles received media attention and were featured in multiple online exhibitions including The Women’s Museum of Canada, The Pandemic Archive and a Fortune Magazine Virtual Art Showcase.
In 2017 I met a fellow artist and Alberta University of the Arts (AUArts) alumni for coffee. As is often the case, the discussion turned to art. We were both bursting with a personal artistic revelation to share. To our surprise, we had both arrived at the same revelation.
This was the seedling of an idea for an inquiry into the process of creativity. Our group of five artists, Medium of Exchange, while differing in age and background, had all graduated from the AUArts Fine Art program in 2008. These qualities, coupled with our former experience creating and exhibiting together (Medium of Exchange: Debt, Artpoint Gallery & Studios, Calgary AB, 2010), presented an accessible laboratory.
In my approach to the topic of Process I am interested in investigating the evolution of creativity in artists generally. I approached my collaborative project as research, circulating a creative journal to which each artist contributed their creative journey. This research fed directly into the creation of Life: A Creative Process. By examining the completed journal within a framework for creative evolution, as discussed in Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein’s article Life Stages of Creativity, I discerned distinct in-common stages in the development of our group members as visual artists. Following from this examination I distilled my own creative journey into four distinct stages of creative development, presented in the four panels.
Referencing epic tapestries as a metaphor for the development of creativity over the span of a human life, Life: A Creative Process consists of four large scale paintings on un-stretched canvas, suspended in the gallery space. Each painting distills a specific stage of creative development from this artist’s lived experience. The paintings are exhibited in conjunction with the collaborative Creative Research Journal (Creative Lives).
The End of The Journey: Medium of Exchange Collective’s Final Art Exhibition
After over a decade as Medium of Exchange, 5 diverse multimedia visual artists reflect on the mysteries and miseries of the creative journey in their final art exhibition as a group, Process.
Calgary, AB, Release: May 12, 2021. For Immediate Release
The Artists of Medium of Exchange, 2008 Alberta University of the Arts Alumni: Jesica Campbell, Penny Chase, Jessica Hauser, Debbie.lee Miszaniec & Koren Scott
have their final exhibition as a group: Medium of Exchange – Process, on view until June 5 2021 at theAlberta Society of Artists Gallery at 1235 26 Ave SE #222, Calgary, AB T2G 1R7. While this exhibition three years in the making is closed to the public due to surging Covid-19 case numbers, they have put together a virtual exhibition at https://virtualartshow.wordpress.com/ and invite the public to a free virtual closing reception including a livestream gallery tour and Q&A on facebook, May 20th 2021 from 2:30 to 3:30 pm, at https://fb.me/e/Z2QvN65v.
The exhibition features 42 works of art addressing the topic of art as process. Included as the group’s specialty, five collaborative works are presented. The collaborative works function as conversations among the five artists on the topic of process. Each artist also presents a body of individual work in which they explore their personal takes on process. As the final show for Medium of Exchange, documentation of the artist’s history working as a group is also on view. Finally, a timely salon wall examines how the artists processed the pandemic of the past year in paintings, drawings and models. Visitors to the show will be treated to ink drawings, paintings, fibre art, sketch book works, sculptural installation and prototype toys displays.
While Medium of Exchange have had multiple exhibitions and projects as a group, both this and the first Medium of Exchange exhibition (2010) were the brain-child of member Debbie.lee Miszaniec. The original exhibition was born of a desire to start a discussion through the medium of visual art, hence the groups name, Medium of Exchange.
The idea for this exhibition came out of a 2018 conversation with fellow group member Koren Scott; “It was 10 years post-grad and I think we had both been doing some soul searching. Each of us revealed to the other that we had recently arrived at a revelation about our art. Funnily, we had basically the same revelation! This lead me to wonder if there was a time based process of evolution with identifiable milestones that artists go through in their creative journey.” Debbie.lee Miszaniec’s collaborative contribution to the show pursues this curiosity through a journal documenting each of the artists creative evolution, while her individual works distill that evolution to four stages in four large figurative paintings on canvas suspended from the gallery ceiling.
Jesica Campbell, a Metis artist and graduate of AUArts drawing program, initiated a discussion on the generational evolution of craft practices in the form of Elizabethan blackwork (a traditional embroidery practice) in her collaborative work Blackwork Embroidery. For her individual work she presents four three-dimensional mock ups of prototype doll displays in her ongoing investigation of Indigenous and Metis representation in popular culture.
Indigenous artist, Artist Ranch Project participant (2012), AFA Grant Recipient (2010), BMO 1st art Awardee (2008) and graduate of AUArts painting department (2008), Penny Chase’s collaborative proposition challenged the process of executing a pure idea onto a pure surface by presenting the group with, Un-painting, a highly textured thrift shop decorative canvas which she asked the rest of the group to react to. In her individual pieces she faces the physical challenge to her established process of creation as a result of a medical diagnosis, and embraces a new form of art making.
Jessica Hauser, graduate of AUArt painting program (2008) and 2019 Calgary White Hat Award nominee challenged the group to allow the physical process of painting to happen on two marbleized canvases. In her individual works she re-finds her childhood passion for narrative drawing in four colourful illustrative ink drawings on paper.
Graphic designer and graduate of AUArts printmaking program (2008) Koren Scott, presented a stream of consciousness ink drawing on watercolour paper and gave carte blanche to successive artists to allow their psyche to take the drawing wherever it might go. In her individual mixed media installation she explores the push and pull between her identity as an artist and as a graphic designer in the process of developing her personal visual language.
About the Author:
Debbie.lee Miszaniec is a graduate of AUArt Painting program (2008) and visual artist based in Calgary AB Canada. Her figurative oil paintings addressing art history and western culture have been included in exhibitions organized by CARFAC AB, The Women’s Museum of Canada, Heritage Park Museum and Historical Village, The Calgary Stampede Western Showcase, and the Edge Gallery Calgary. In 2020 Miszaniec received media coverage for The Covid Chronicles, a series of drawings documenting the first three months of the Covid-19 pandemic in Alberta. She is currently one of five artists presenting their work in Medium of Exchange – Process at the Alberta Society of Artists Gallery in Calgary AB until June 5 2021.
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