By Chris Tait
Being an artist today doesn’t exactly mean glamorous lifestyles and instant success. Many established artists have war stories of displaying their trials and tribulations, getting out of the gutter and into the gallery. Student artists have two strikes against them–scraping together enough to get gallery space can mean one less crate of KD that month.
Calgary photography students have found a lucky break. PhotoSpace, a local photo gallery, is hosting the second annual Exhibit B this month, a showcase of students’ work.
The three-week show features the work from 21 students, mostly local, including several from the University of Calgary and helps students get a leg up on selling works in the gallery market. When the pieces hit the wall, some fetch more than $250 each, and while the gallery would normally take a commission on any pieces sold, students are exempt.
The diversity of the work on the wall is one of the more striking aspects of the exhibit. From abstract digital art, to artistic nudes, to photojournalism-style portraits, the uniqueness of each photographer is elevated to the extreme in the number of style changes on each wall. Those perusing the wares will notice a jarring change from where, on one wall, there sit perfectly conservative portraits to the wall opposite, where artistic nudes leap out and shock.
U of C students make up about one third of the photographers in the exhibit, but also present are students from SAIT and ACAD. One student fought through the blizzard from our neighbour to the north, coming from NAIT, and another came from the University of Carleton.
“I saw the poster in Fine Arts and decided to enter,” says third-year U of C student Masumi Yajima, presenting her collection on Buddhist statuettes in black and white.
Most of the students seem grateful for the chance to experiment and get feedback from professional sources.
Having the Prairie Chicken nearby, third-year student Doreen Wood used it as inspiration for her short series, involving sliced and reconfigured images and unusual angles of an already unusual shape. The actual photographic presentation was a milkman baby, a happy mistake-turned-marketable.
“It started as a sculpture project,” she recalls. “I was photographing the details when I decided to use it for this other project.”
The U of C’s own Liana Hwang managed to sell a print during the opening evening event from her collection of international portraiture, taking her viewers abroad to Laos and Cambodia. Her simple images saturated in subdued colour are reminiscent of portraits found in National Geographic.
In fact, the majority of the show is of incredibly high quality, with little more than an inkling of amateur attributes one might expect from the word “student.” Incredibly interesting and innovative, the students manage to go beyond boundaries professionals might set upon themselves.
The only major problem with the show for those too poor or too lazy to drive is the fact that it’s at the ass end of nowhere on Blackfoot Trail. For anyone living near the university, this presents the joy of a two-hour span of transit connection nightmare before arriving to the gallery, probably dampening any chance of truly enjoying the show.
Despite accessibility problems, the show succeeds in presenting an optimistic example of the future of photography.