Checking out the BFA Grad Exhibition

Guest post by Kim Dias

A confession: I found the BFA graduate art show really weird.

Another confession: I absolutely loved it.

The Visual Arts building was quiet on the day I went to see the exhibit, Scatter, which shows the work of graduating art students. I saw a handful of people as I wandered through the displays, but I was mostly on my own, wandering quietly from room to room. The work was so varied that I never knew what to expect when walking to the next section—I turned one corner and was greeted by a wall full of penises.

Some pieces made me laugh (the penis wall) and others disturbed me (the video showing multiple copies of the same blank-eyed woman staring out of the screen). Some pieces were both, such as the man made out of pink satin staring at a painting of creatures like him by a poolside. It was really. weird. and so fascinating. All I wanted was to be able to speak with each individual artist about their pieces.

Part of my reaction to the exhibit definitely has to do with the fact that I’m not an artist, nor do I know much about art. But I think that speaks to the exhibit’s strength—someone like me, with little to no knowledge about visual art, can walk in and be absolutely enthralled.

At one point, I walked into a room and found a metal bedframe with blackberry brambles arched over it in place of a mattress. The brambles were trapped and they strained against the bedframe; an old patchwork quilt covered the foot of the bed. I had no idea what it meant and I couldn’t look away. I returned to that room three times during my time there (in between spending way too much time playing with the interactive art exhibit).

Art sometimes feels so incomprehensible, but that lack of understanding didn’t detract from my experience of the BFA grad pieces. I could build my own meanings into the pieces without worrying about the artists’ intentions. Sometimes the work unnerved me; other times I thought, “That’s pretty” and moved along; and sometimes I stood and stared and wondered about interpretation. I could see voyeurism in the piece with the pink satin man, and aggression in the wall of penises. I could see play in some sculptures and violence in others.

Is that what the artists intended? I have no idea. All the pieces spoke to me in some way or another, and I’m sure they don’t say the same thing to every person.

Scatter runs until April 27 in UVic’s Visual Arts building. Go find out what the pieces say to you (and then come talk to me about them because I still have questions).

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