C/O Cotton Factory

Light the Night market brightening the winter season for artists and community members alike

Artists have been among those particularly hard hit by the pandemic, having limited to no opportunities to exhibit their work as well as significantly reduced income. In recent months, such opportunities are increasing but the uncertainty of the pandemic is still taking a toll. The Cotton Factory’s second annual Light the Night event is brightening the winter season and bringing some joy to the community while also supporting local artists and businesses.

Located in Hamilton’s industrial district and formerly a cotton mill, The Cotton Factory is now home to artist studios, the coworking space, CoWork, and a number of community events and workshop spaces.

Night markets, featuring various local artists, performers and vendors, are a particularly unique staple of the Cotton Factor, though the pandemic has made such events more difficult. Last year at this time, the provincial lockdown didn’t even allow for a traditional market.

In place of a traditional market, the team at the Cotton Factory held Light the Night and transformed the building into an illumination installation piece. They gathered donations from the community and through installation pieces, light exhibitions and projection art, they created a drive through exhibition for the community for three days in early Dec. 2020. 

“It was pretty magical,” said Annette Paiement, curator of the Cotton Factory.

This year the Cotton Factory will host Light the Night, a night market, on Dec. 4, 2021 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Similar to last year, the event will feature illumination and projection art, but there will also be two markets where many local artists and businesses will have booths.

It will take place inside and outside, with the entire first floor of the building being open, and the Cotton Factory will also be following provincial public health guidelines, requiring masking and checking vaccination status at the door. 

At its core, Light the Night is about supporting local, particularly local artists.

“This is really to feature them. It's been a long two years where many artists haven't been able to perform, they haven't been able to sell work, they haven't been able to showcase work because the galleries have also been closed so this provides an opportunity for them,” explained Paiement.

Paiement also noted how excited the artists are for the event. Many also participated in the Cotton Factory’s recent fall market in October and are eager for another opportunity to celebrate and come together as a community. 

Community is a crucial part of the holiday season. Given how difficult these last few years have been for everyone, an opportunity to gather and celebrate safely is a welcome one, not just for artists but also for the entire community.

“I'm hoping that if people get out of the house for the first time in a few years it'll bring a little bit of joy — a little bit more joy — back into their life. I think we need community and we need interaction with people and I think it's been a really tough two years for people, so I'm hoping it brings light into their hearts,” said Paiement.

McMaster University zine aims to showcase art from survivors of sexualized violence

C/O Tim Mossholder

cw: sexual violence 

Four McMaster University undergraduate students have launched a zine aimed at showcasing art from survivors of sexual violence and their supporters. It is open to McMaster students and members of the Hamilton community.

The zine is part of an initiative called Colours of Solidarity that started in 2019 for the course HTHSCI 4X03 — Collaboration and Peer Tutoring. In March 2019, the organizers created an interactive survivor art installation. This year the organizers shifted the project’s focus to the zine to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Sexualized violence is a traumatic experience that can have ranging effects on survivors, including physical, psychological and social impacts. It can also affect survivors’ sense of self and identity.

“Our zine’s focus is on survivorship . . . and we're really just hoping to create a space where people are comfortable sharing their experience and talking about whatever it is that they feel is important. [Through the zine], we can try to support them as much as we can, while also letting them have a space where they can just be themselves and reclaim their identity,” explained Zahra Abdullah, a fourth-year health sciences student and member of the Colours of Solidarity team.

“[Through the zine], we can try to support them as much as we can, while also letting them have a space where they can just be themselves and reclaim their identity,”

Zahra Abdullah, member of the Colours of Solidarity team

The zine is now accepting submissions in a range of formats such as poetry, art, writing and photography. The deadline for submissions is to be determined, but will likely be in late March or early April.

The team has also provided some optional prompts for individuals to consider in their contribution.

Colours of Solidarity acknowledged that sexual violence is a large problem that exists institutionally at McMaster and within other postsecondary institutions. The organizers hoped that this zine can provide a safe space for survivors.

“We [hope we] can let people feel like there are others that they can reach out to people who've been through it to create some sort of support,” said Abdullah.

The team also recognized the importance of giving survivors the power to shape their narratives through this zine.

“I think oftentimes in a lot of these [sexualized violence] cases, survivors voices' aren't heard as much as we would like them to and there are often so many other factors that take priority over their own narrative, which should be the most important thing in that situation . . . This zine can serve as a springboard for survivors to talk about their own experiences,” said Sowmithree Ragothaman, member of the Colours of Solidarity team.

". . . survivors voices aren't heard as much as we would like them to and there are often so many other factors that take priority over their own narrative, which should be the most important thing in that situation."

Sowmithree Ragothaman, member of the Colours of Solidarity team

The team hopes that the zine will become an ongoing initiative that can collaborate with other McMaster clubs and organizations to create safer spaces for survivors.

They have collaborated with MSU Women and Gender Equity Network for their Making Waves week campaign. This week-long event hosted survivor-centric events, including a session for attendees to create art for the zine or in general

Submissions for the zine are accepted through a Google form and any questions can be directed to the team directly at solidaritysubmissions@gmail.com.

Local artists and cultural workers express their concerns about gentrification and the housing crisis in Hamilton

C/O Hamilton Artists Organizing

The arts and artists have long been associated with the gentrification of inner-city neighbourhoods, the displacement of vulnerable groups and working-class communities. With increasing focus on creativity in urban development, artists and cultural workers have become a vital part of city revitalization projects.

Yet their creativity has become highly valued not so much for their innovation, artistry or vision, but more for its power to attract investors and wealthier residents. This has caused real estate values to rise, residents to be pushed out and poverty conditions to intensify. Hamilton is no exception to this trend of art-stimulated gentrification.

Walking down James Street North, you may have seen the slogan, “Art is the New Steel”, on public art, t-shirts and posters. The emerging arts districts in Hamilton have brought social and economic changes, leading to the recent dramatic shifts in housing costs and migration of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour groups to more marginalized neighbourhoods.

Walking down James Street North, you may have seen the slogan, “Art is the New Steel”, on public art, t-shirts and posters. The emerging arts districts in Hamilton have brought social and economic changes, leading to the recent dramatic shifts in housing costs and migration of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour groups to more marginalized neighbourhoods.

Reports from the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton in 2019 revealed that about 45 per cent of residents spend a disproportionate amount of their income on their rent. Furthermore, between June 2019 and June 2020, the city’s rents experienced the highest spike in the country, increasing by 33.5 per cent.

The rise in unaffordable housing is one of the seven urgent issues highlighted by Hamilton Artists Organizing in a letter to Mayor Fred Eisenberger and the city council. HAO is a loose collective of artists, musicians, writers and cultural workers mobilizing against gentrification in the city.

The rise in unaffordable housing is one of the seven urgent issues highlighted by Hamilton Artists Organizing in a letter to Mayor Fred Eisenberger and the city council. HAO is a loose collective of artists, musicians, writers and cultural workers mobilizing against gentrification in the city.

The group formally formed in 2019 and began drafting the letter prior to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, a larger group of local artists, including current members of HAO, have been assembling and discussing the involvement of the arts in gentrification for some time.

They have engaged in conferences such as Gathering on Art, Gentrification and Economic Development at McMaster and Pressure Points: Gentrification and the Arts in Hamilton at Hamilton Artists Inc. art gallery. Sparked by these conversations, the collective ultimately formed to take direct action and break the cycle of art-powered gentrification.

“The fact is that artwashing and these kinds of vanguard behaviours by artists to move into communities and gentrify them is a historical relationship that needs to be interrupted,” said Derek Jenkins, a multidisciplinary artist, filmmaker and member of HAO.

The letter was written as a group, with perspectives and contributions from artists who are new to the issue and by those who have been researching the issue for a long time.

In addition to rental costs, the letter questions and demands the current plan of action with regards to the shortage of adequate social housing; class-based disparities between neighbourhoods; poverty; homelessness and loss of service providers; with references to impacts of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Until the Hamilton city council responds and meets these demands, the group and supporters have promised to withhold their services and focus more on highlighting the actions, or the lack of actions, from the city.

Since being published in January of this year, the letter has garnered more than 580 signatures from community artists and cultural workers. There have also been overwhelming inquiries from local artists to join HAO.

HAO believes the purpose of the letter is two-fold: it is aimed at both the city counsellors and artists. Artists are in a unique position in that they are at both ends of the gentrification cycle. They not only help fuel it, but they are often part of the group that experiences displacement due to redevelopment.

It is easy for artists to become ensnared in a vicious cycle of moving to a cheaper area and then being forced out due to their creative activities that raise the economic potential and property cost of the neighbourhood. Take Barton Village as an example.

It’s considered one of the cheaper neighbourhoods in Hamilton; however, it has seen a recent boom of cafés, expensive restaurants and art spaces due to the high saturation of artists in the area who help raise civic interest.

As an artist, it can be challenging to not be complicit with gentrification.

“Many artists are precariously employed and many are experiencing the housing crisis as well. It can become a very difficult problem for artists to weigh the costs of opportunities that may adversely affect their living situations,” explained Jenkins.

“Many artists are precariously employed and many are experiencing the housing crisis as well. It can become a very difficult problem for artists to weigh the costs of opportunities that may adversely affect their living situations,” explained Jenkins.

However, it is often these city and corporate-funded work with less community-minded interests, such as painting a mural in a derelict area, that fuel the cycle.

Members and supporters of HAO hope the letter and their continuous work will help raise more awareness about the power of the arts in gentrification.

“I hope that the artist community can lend our support in ways that we can. As part of our practices, we have all of these skills that we can offer in various contexts. I think it would be really exciting to see how artists can support local organizing,” said Danica Evering, writer, sound artist and member of HAO.

In the coming months, HAO is planning to have general meetings to continue the conversation around gentrification and expand the collective’s network. They encourage student-artists and activists to join.

In the words of Hayden King, an Anishinaabe writer and educator: “Artists must recognize that they're an active player in gentrification and if they are committed to social justice, they should devote their energies to ensuring that people are not being displaced.”

In the words of Hayden King, an Anishinaabe writer and educator: “Artists must recognize that they're an active player in gentrification and if they are committed to social justice, they should devote their energies to ensuring that people are not being displaced.”

It is these words that drive Jenkins, Evering, HAO and the artist community to continue raising their voices against the housing crisis in Hamilton.

Photo C/O buildingculturallegacies.ca

Hamilton is a well-known centre for the arts, with events like Supercrawl bringing in people from across the GTA and beyond. However, it hasn’t always been like this. In a 1959 statement, then Mayor Lloyd Jackson—the namesake for Jackson Square—claimed that the city had no need for modern art.

“The people of this city have made it abundantly clear that they want no part of this modern art . . .  we can't let the arty crowd run things,” said Mayor Jackson in his statement. 

Building Cultural Legacies is a digital storytelling platform that is proving Mayor Jackson wrong. In response to his statement, the Building Cultural Legacies exhibit has the subheading “The Arty Crowd Runs Things”. Their exhibit at the Art Gallery of Hamilton (123 King St. W.) has the quote blown up as a tongue-in-cheek reference to Mayor Jackson, showing just how far this city has come since those words were first said. The arty crowd is definitely running the show now.

The physical exhibit for Building Cultural Legacies is not currently accessible because the AGH has closed its doors until April 5; however, their online content is freely available and easy to access. On their website you can search through art based on criteria ranging from the type of material used to the decade it was made in. If you need a little break during your social distancing, you can just pull up the site and browse through Hamilton’s art history.

Alexis Moline is the Content Curator for the Building Cultural Legacies project, and she says that they chose to represent the second half of the 20th century because these records are most at risk of being lost. 

A screen capture of the "explore artists" page on the Building Cultural Legacies website (buildingculturallegacies.ca)

“We'd like to make sure that those things can be preserved and available so that people [can] access them and learn from them, as well as celebrate those artists and their legacies and the great collections of things that they have built up over the years . . . So the point was really taking over our artistic past and learning from it and to continue bringing it to the present,” said Moline.

One of the ways that Building Cultural Legacies has been helping Hamiltonians connect to the past is through facilitated discussions and public talks. With the mass closures resulting from COVID-19, these talks have been postponed. However, once things are up and running again, here’s a brief taste of what you can look forward to.

The next two talks that Building Cultural Legacies plans to host is a roundtable discussion with the Native Indian/Inuit Photographers’ Association and a discussion on mentoring in the artistic community. NIIPA was one of the longest-running Indigenous arts services organizations in Canada, and they were founded on James Street, right in the heart of Hamilton. Moline says that the events are designed to encourage connections across communities.

“[I]t's really a chance for people to come out and listen and hear stories and then afterwards speak amongst themselves and make those connections. It really includes talking to each other, [and] intergenerational exchange; we really encourage young artists or Mac students to come out. And so that's a great opportunity to have a friendly, relaxed environment for people to connect about all of our shared history and present,” said Moline.

Building Cultural Legacies is continually working to improve and add to their site. Moline says that she is working with Dr. Angela Sheng's Art History 4X03 Intro to Galleries and Museums class—a fourth year Art History seminar offered at McMaster—to develop new artist pages for the Building Cultural Legacies site, to be published tentatively this May, although this may be impacted by the closures on McMaster’s campus. 

Building Cultural Legacies encourages artists both young and old to work and grow together, and encourages Hamiltonians to learn more about their own history. Whether or not you’re an art devotee, the message to work and grow together is one that we can all benefit from. 

 

Explore Artists - Building Cultural Legacies Hamilton

Building Cultural Legacies has been generously supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.


[thesil_related_posts_sc]Related Posts[/thesil_related_posts_sc]

 

Claire Kim | @ck_digital_arts

I Am Beauty

Ink Illustration and Digital Art

This artwork illustrates the beauty of sexuality and the immersive experience behind self-empowerment. A mixture of space, nature, and modern identity, the self represents the beauty of openness and freedom to express oneself. It also represents the complexity and ambiguity behind a person’s desire to find meaning in a world that demands homogeneity. 

Pluto’s Heartbreak

Ink Illustration and Digital Art

This artwork illustrates heartbreak within broken relationships in a postmodernist society. Living in a technological and ever-changing era has rewired the way humans process relationships. Little details such as the melting snow, rewind and fastforward button on the television heads describe the different stages of ‘time’ and overall healing process people experience.

 

Kyle West | @k.west.art

Untitled 1

 

Untitled 2

Painting

In my work “Untitled 1 & 2” I looked to explore representation and identity. These two works happen to be representative of two strong women from my life. Because of this I decided to paint both figures with strong and decisive postures, looking into the viewer and contesting the gaze cast upon them. Another way in which I wanted to challenge the use of representation within painting is my use of a tricolor system of black, white and red. By removing any sense of skin color or in turn reality of identity I was looking to challenge how representation within art history was commonly used in the renaissance and baroque period. By not providing any visual cues to background of the subjects in any way, the vagueness and multiplicity of identity becomes more clear. The inclusion of many expressive formal elements, such as uses of the brush and colour is meant to represent emotion throughout the fragility that is the human experience and inner strength. Overall, I was more interested in creating portraits of strength and challenge the representational nature of identity throughout the classical art history canon. 

 

 

Katie van Kampen | @kvk_thethird

Lights Get Bright Tonight

[pjc_slideshow slide_type="katie-van-kampen-satsc-2020"]

 

 

Photography 

One day, my friends and I wandered into the Penticton Art Gallery to the main exhibit to be struck with a neon light of reds, purples, blues and pinks. I pulled out my camera to take some shots, gesturing wilding at my friends to pose near the light, trying to capture what I saw at that moment. All my three friends are some form of LGBT with two of them identifying as bisexual women. I raised my camera to take the photos and when I looked down at the 3 inch LCD screen I saw something I thought was beautiful. The light hit their faces perfectly, the colours that make up the bisexual pride flag smearing across their faces and fading into the shadows of the room. 

 

This article is part of our Sex and the Steel City, our annual sex-positive issue. Click here to read more content from the special issue.

 

[thesil_related_posts_sc]Related Posts[/thesil_related_posts_sc]

 

Photo C/O Katie Benfey

A year ago, a magical supply shop filled to the brim with tarot cards, spell supplies and a general sense of wonder was born. The Witch’s Fix (6 John St. N.) is a small slice of the arcane set against the backdrop of John Street. The inside of the shop is cozy and inviting, with fairy lights dotting exposed-brick walls, and every table piled high with unexpected curios. A small room at the back hosts tarot, oracle and tea leaf readings, for those interested in seeing into their future. 

The shop is run entirely by the owner, Lauren Campbell. For the past year, Campbell has been challenging the culture around magic and witchcraft.

“I love traditional witchy shops, but I also go into them, sometimes I feel a little bit overwhelmed or I feel silly asking questions. I feel like there's a lot of places that there's just a sense that you already need to know your stuff before you go in. I really wanted to create a space that was more encouraging to people just starting out, and fun and I want people to . . . ask questions and be curious and feel a little bit childlike. And really, it was just about creating an accessible, safe space to come explore the unknown,” said Campbell.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B8MHdB9HDdS/

Campbell says that her store is popular with students; they frequently visit the shop to spend some time with their friends. Many of them come in search of information and guidance on their future and the choices they should make while they’re away from home. Campbell says that she didn’t know what to expect when she opened the shop.

“I didn't do all the things you're supposed to do when you open a business because I was just following my gut, and it could have easily been a total failure … It was sort of like that Field of Dreams ‘If you build it, they will come’ thing. All these people came out of the woodwork that were so enthusiastic about it. And, you know, it's now as much a part of them as it is me, and it's just become so much bigger than I thought it was going to be,” said Campbell. 

Hamilton has an ever-increasing number of small, independent businesses. James Street, Locke Street and Ottawa Street are well-known destinations for local shopping. However, with rent in the city on the rise, it can be difficult for small businesses to stay open. For example, art galleries are struggling to keep their doors open on James Street. Stores are opening and closing all the time, and even the iconic Hamilton favourite O’s Clothes, a store that has been on James for 8 years, has had to close its doors.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B76P36ynvrC/

“We’re lucky in Hamilton that so many people in the community are committed to shopping local, and I’ve been fortunate to experience a warm welcoming from customers who are eager to support my shop. I definitely worry about when the time comes to renew my lease, as with so much development happening downtown so quickly, rent is bound to go up. I’m hoping it’s a manageable number, but if it isn’t, I’ll have to figure out what will become of my business at that time,” said Campbell.

As popular and successful as The Witch’s Fix is, there is always a chance that rent will rise too high to continue running the store. However, Campbell remains optimistic, and is looking forward to what the next year has in store. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/B7d6p2Nnlot/

“It’s disheartening to see other small business owners closing their doors as a result of high rent, but unless you own your own commercial building, it’s always a possibility that lingers over the horizon. I don’t think people realize how much product you have to sell, as a retail store, to simply break even each month. It can be challenging, but so far I’ve been enjoying the process of learning how to run a business,” said Campbell. 

Campbell has plans to continue expanding the number of workshops and events that she offers, allowing even more people to become involved with the shop.

The Witch’s Fix is a shining example of how a business that has stayed strong despite the odds. The shop is a cozy, welcoming meeting place that’s open to everyone, regardless of their level of experience. Whatever is in store for the store, it’s sure to be magical. 

 

[thesil_related_posts_sc]Related Posts[/thesil_related_posts_sc]

This is part one of a three part series. Throwback Thursday looks to explore the past, present and future of Hamilton’s music scene through the eyes of those within.

The Hamilton music scene is ever-changing. The rise of Supercrawl over the past decade has given local bands a public platform that they might not have had access to otherwise. Through this Throwback Thursday series, I seek to uncover the recent history of Hamilton’s music scene, and how the city has developed the unique musical identity that it’s known for today. This will take the form of three profile-based articles focusing on interactions with the past, present and future of Hamilton’s music scene.

We will begin with a snapshot of Hamilton’s music scene in the 1990s. Our guide is a former Silhouette Arts & Culture Editor, and co-author of Canadian alt-rock music book "Have Not Been The Same".

Ian A.D. Jack began studying Kinesiology at McMaster in 1992. Although his studies were heavily focused on physiology and physical movement, Jack had a passion for music that stemmed from his childhood.

Jack recalled living in Thunder Bay as a child in the 80s, going to the local library and borrowing vinyl records which exposed him to a wide range of music. When Jack’s parents divorced, he turned to music as a comforting mechanism.

Photo C/O Ian A.D. Jack

“Music has been my saviour all along,” said Jack.

With the late 80s came the surge of bands such as U2, The Smiths and New Order, creating a new wave of music. Music was getting louder, heavier, but strangely more melodic as well. Jack was captivated by this style. He tried to emulate their sounds, find out as much as he could about the bands and build his music collection.

While Jack was at McMaster, he would spend all of his extra money at Cheapies Records and Tapes (67 King St. East), a staple record store in Hamilton’s music scene that is still around today. Cheapies does not confine itself to one type of music, allowing anybody to find their own interests in their vinyl record bins. After his first year of university he began writing for the Sil, after realizing that he would be sent new music for free so long as he wrote something about it.

“It was a great way of funding my habits and became a gateway for me to meet a lot of artists and my heroes,” said Jack.

In the past, the Sil used to have a dedicated pull-out section called Hamilton Entertainment Arts Directory, or HEAD. This section featured movie and album reviews, but also had a heavy focus on reviewing and interviewing local Hamilton-based bands. Jack wrote his first article for HEAD about alternative rock band, Rhymes with Orange. He continued writing for HEAD in his third year and became co-Arts Editor in his final year of school. HEAD was an important way for students to understand the music scene in Hamilton.

In addition to profiling Hamilton music, Jack’s section also featured interviews with bands such as Oasis and Blur. HEAD also ran interviews with notable people in the movie industry such as actor/director Kevin Smith, actor Don McKellar and director Noah Bombock.

In the 90s, there were two pubs on campus that hosted live music. The Rathskeller, now Bridges Café, typically housed Hamilton-based bands, and the Downstairs John, which has since been demolished to make room for L.R. Wilson Hall, typically hosted more well known Canadian bands. Jack described the city’s music scene as being rougher than it is today due to the minimal amount of exposure artists received as well as the undeveloped, underground scene they were playing in.

“Now, you have some more prominent artists like The Arkelles and White Horse, and you have Supercrawl. That festival didn’t exist [before],” said Jack.

Jack also recalls off-campus venues that would host live music. The largest of these clubs was called X-Club, housed on the second floor of a building at King William Street and John Street North downtown. Up and coming indie bands such as Jale, Doughboys and Pure would perform. Jack remembers tall posts extending from the floors to the ceiling, obstructing audience sightlines. Nevertheless, it was a great place to catch an indie show.

La Luna (306 King St. West), was another spot that would host smaller bands or acoustic sets. While primarily functioning as a Lebanese restaurant, it had a small space for live performances, hosting the likes of Dave Rave, Jale and Jacob Moon. This venue is still open today.

Jack noted that The Corktown (175 Young St.) sometimes felt dilapidated, but it hosted a number of punk and alt-rock bands. For that reason, it remained one of his favourite places to watch live music in Hamilton. One notable band who performed at Corktown was Junkhouse, a rock band helmed by Tom Wilson. This venue is still open today and frequently hosts live music.

While not primarily a place for live music, Fever, now Absinthe (38 King William St.), was a dance club playing alt-rock music. This style of music started to gain traction with more and more people throughout the city.

Throughout Jack’s university years in Hamilton, a few major genres dominated the Steel City’s music scene. Punk rock was made prominent in part to Teenage Head; rock n’ roll was from Junkhouse; folk rock came from groups like Crash Vegas; and power pop from bands like The Killjoys.

“Hamilton is like the Brooklyn to Toronto’s New York,” said Jack when describing the 90s music scene.

In Jack’s earlier years, many Toronto-based artists moved to Hamilton as rent was more affordable west of the city. The same is true of New York-based artists who move to Brooklyn.

“It’s financially logical and you also have a collective of creative people that can afford to be creative,” added Jack.

Jack graduated from McMaster in 1996 and went on to teach music in the elementary sector; however, his writing endeavours didn’t stop with the Sil. He co-wrote a book in 2001 called "Have Not Been The Same" that focused on the development of alternative rock in Canada from 1985 to 1995. Through this project, Jack had the chance to interview local Hamilton-based bands from his university days, such as Doughboys and Jale, in a process that came full circle for him.

On a more personal note, I had the pleasure of being taught by ‘Mr. Jack’ from grade four to six. Since my graduation from elementary school, we’ve kept in contact over the years. By coincidence, I also found my way to McMaster for my post-secondary education. When I told him I had accepted my offer, he told me to look into writing for the Sil. My first year was really about finding my own footing at the school, as is the case for many other students, which is why I wasn’t able to pursue his advice. At the start of my second year, he told me to reconsider writing for the Sil. I took him up on his advice and the rest, as they say, is history.

An inspiration not only to my music, but also to my personal morals and values and seemingly to my journalism career, thank you, Ian.

 

[thesil_related_posts_sc]Related Posts[/thesil_related_posts_sc]

Photos by Matty Flader / Photo Reporter

By Donna Nadeem, Contributor

As part of a year-long residency at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, artist Reinhard Reitzenstein is exploring ideas of the natural world and technology through sculpture and drawing in collaboration with the Hamilton community. While an established artist, Reitzenstein’s residency has been an opportunity to reintroduce himself and his artistic identity to the public sphere. 

Reitzenstein graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1971. His work explores the relationship between nature, cultural science and technology while utilizing installation, sculptures, drawings, photography and sound as his medium of choice. Over the course of his career, Reitzenstein has been described as an environmental artist with focuses on land and ecology, and an allegorical minimalist after creating his own art movement combining allegory and minimalism. 

Allegory refers to abstract ideas and principles in forms of storytelling, figures and events, while minimalism is a style that focuses on the simplest of forms and techniques. A seemingly contradictory combination of these two concepts allow Reitzenstein to create visual pieces that are meant to change and unsettle the viewers' perceptions.

Entering the AGH exhibition, you’re greeted by a quote from the artist depicting what he understands his movement to be. “Allegorical minimalism: paradoxical synthesis of the material and natural world, challenging the perceptions of the spectator (as critic) while denying not only a fixed interpretation but the very possibility of interpretation itself.”

Reitzenstein began his residency with the intention of developing at least one or two projects and the capacity to focus on them for a duration of year. This allowed him to engage in a gradual creation process. The space itself was another dimension Reitzenstein had to take into consideration. High and vaulted ceilings along with windows bringing in natural lighting from every direction allowed Reitzenstein to push his sculptures and drawings further to produce larger work that force observation and interaction. 

[pjc_slideshow slide_type="reitzenstein-agh"]

The exhibition features two communal projects that have created an opportunity for community members to contribute through various workshops and interactive tours. 

The first piece, the Erable Project, is composed of an array of discs suspended in the middle of the room. The discs are individually cut sections of a tree and hung horizontally next to each other. Reitzenstein created some of the discs, while community members contributed to others, creating a diversity of unique colour choices and designs. Each piece is covered in an assortment of wet felt. The soft material requires constant repetitive motions to achieve a desired outcome. 

“Some of the kids who were here working on the wet felting got really into it and it was incredible. There's something about the tactility [of felting] that connects to people and allows them to focus and concentrate. It seems to have a therapeutic effect,” said Reitzenstein.

The second piece is a large communal tree drawing done with white gel pens on a black wall. After reflecting on the diversity of languages practiced in the Hamilton area, Reitzenstein decided to ask community participants to add to the drawing by writing the words ‘tree’ or ‘maple’ in their own languages. 

The piece includes approximately 58 different languages and counting. As more and more words in different languages get added to the drawing, the tree visually reflects on the cultural diversity of the Hamilton community. 

“I wanted to make it a community project where, again, we do workshops with community groups. I thought it would be great too because of the multicultural aspect of our region now, and to make sure everybody has a voice here,” said Reitzenstein.

The David Braley and Nancy Gordon Sculpture Atrium is also filled with Reitzenstein’s bronze sculptures and other art pieces from the museum’s permanent collections. Reitzenstein chose the pieces to coincide with his exploration of allegorical minimalism throughout his residency at the AGH.

In Residence: Reitzenstein is still a work-in-progress at the Art Gallery of Hamilton (123 King St. West). It will be exhibiting until March 29 and is free to all McMaster students with a valid student card.

 

[thesil_related_posts_sc]Related Posts[/thesil_related_posts_sc]

  

Photo courtesy of @nighttimenicholas

Art comes in many different forms, but for Nicholas Tsangarides, neither paintings nor sculptures captured his essence. His work is contained in small vials that burst with vibrant pinks, blues and yellows. A closer look at his art reveals the macabre reality behind the glass.

Specimens float suspended in fluid; their brightly dyed skeletons visible under layers of transparent flesh. The animals’ bones and cartilage are displayed in stunning detail, offering a unique glimpse into their inner structures. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/B1hA_aPASNW/

For decades, natural history museums have been using the process of diaphonization to display animals. Equal parts art and science, the process involves chemically treating specimens to make their flesh transparent and staining the bone, muscle and cartilage. 

Tsangarides recalls being utterly captivated the first time he encountered diaphonized specimens during a trip to the Royal Ontario Museum as a kid. While studying radiation therapy at the University of Toronto, he came across the protocols for diaphonization and he developed his practice under the title Nighttime Nicholas.

"It made me really want to create that experience for other people and to try to elicit that feeling in others as well,” he said. 

First, Tsangarides gets specimens from zoos, museums or pet owners. He only works with recently deceased animals, and he does not kill animals or remove them from their natural habitats. 

He then must meticulously remove all the skin, fat and organs, while leaving the brain intact inside the skull.

The animals are then preserved in formaldehyde, after which they are soaked in a dye that gradually stains their bones, muscles and cartilage. Next, the animals are bathed in a digestive enzyme that renders their flesh transparent.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BuMqHRZgA2k/

All the tissues and muscles remain clear so that we can observe the skeleton entirely. It keeps everything together, kind of like a gummy bear with a tie dye skeleton,” said Tsangarides.

Although seasoned in his craft, Tsangarides still finds that imperfections can happen. Variables such as temperature, pressure and light  can impact the finished product.

“I've tried to make a point of controlling as many of those variables as possible to have an expectation that I can produce the kind of piece that I have in mind,” said Tsangarides.

A deep respect for animals informs Tsangarides’ work. By dedicating time and care towards his pieces, Tsangarides transforms his specimens and gives them new life. He takes months to prepare, monitor and dye each animal. 

“To me it's giving energy to this thing that would just go into the ground and become something else,” he said.

Furthermore, Tsangarides wants his pieces to serve as educational tools, offering an engaging glimpse at biology and reminding people of their fundamental similarities to other life forms.

Interacting with the pieces also serves as a reminder of our own mortality.

“The old philosophers used to do this, they would have a skull on their desk and it would remind them every day that our time is limited and it's important to live fully,” remarked  Tsangarides.

At the same time, he wants to create a community for people who are fascinated by the macabre, and who have been isolated and made to feel different for their interests. By bringing his work to the public, he hopes to educate, inspire and welcome people into his community.

Although Tsangarides has never been to Supercrawl, he is excited to be featured at the Night Market at Absinthe during the festival weekend. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/B1ZmjeigNIm/

“I wanted to be a part of [Supercrawl] in some way because it is one of the largest street festivals in the country … Being away from the main Supercrawl strip I thought would be better for me because the setting of the night market is kind of punky and more of my clientele,” said Tsangarides.

Supercrawl is a chance for artists to gain more public exposure within the city and for Tsangarides, this event will give him the chance to share his love of art and science with the public and to serve as a reminder to live life to its fullest.

Nighttime Nicholas and his diaphonized works will be displayed at the Night Market at Absinthe on Friday Sept. 13 and Saturday Sept. 14 from 6 p.m. - 2 a.m. at Absinthe.

 

[thesil_related_posts_sc]Related Posts[/thesil_related_posts_sc]

 

Subscribe to our Mailing List

© 2022 The Silhouette. All Rights Reserved. McMaster University's Student Newspaper.
magnifiercrossmenu