Artists among us

- December 10, 2004

Artists among us

51st annual Student, Staff, Faculty and Alumni Exhibition opens

by Kristen Loyst

Shana McGuire
Art helps PhD student and French teacher Shana McGuire connectwith family, like nephew Ethan, the subject of this pencil sketch.

"Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around."

Shana McGuire, an alumna, current PhD student, and teacher in the French Department, echoed Stephen King's sage words in her opening remarks on the critical role art plays in life.

Stephen King's words couldn't be truer when it comes to Dalhousie's many amateur artists displaying their works in the 51st annual Student, Staff, Faculty and Alumni (SSFA) Exhibition at the Dalhousie Art Gallery, a tradition as old as the gallery itself.

For many, the SSFA Exhibition is an opportunity to give the world a glimpse of their artistic talent that may otherwise go unrecognized. Maybe you never knew that the professor standing at the front of the class is an accomplished potter, or the friendly person who serves up your morning coffee paints water colours in her free time. But, with over 170 works on display, it's evident that Dalhousie is full of people for whom art is indeed a vital support system for their day-to-day lives.

"The mandate of the Dalhousie Art Gallery is to bring the work of professional artists to the Dalhousie community," says gallery director and curator Susan Gibson Garvey. "Once a year, we throw it open to the Dalhousie community, amateur or professional. It's a way to celebrate the artistic lives of the people in this community."

This year's exhibition was kicked off last Thursday with a celebration of the arts, including a warm and joyful performance by the Dalhousie Chamber Choir under the direction of Gary Ewer, and a zany, energetic actors' warm-up routine created by Lisa Snow and presented by members of Susan Stackhouse's third year voice and speech class.

For McGuire, art is a way to stay connected with family. Pointing to "Ethan," a pencil sketch of her nephew, McGuire says, "I don't get to see my family very often. By taking photos of my family, or drawing them, it makes me feel closer to them, even if they're far away."

Creating art also sparks McGuire's creativity, and helps her explore the topic of her PhD dissertation, representations of "the self" in French cinema. "I think the whole idea of "self" is fascinating. It's odd seeing yourself in a way that other people might see you, and exploring that relationship is very interesting to me," she says, describing "Nostalgia," a triptych of photos showing McGuire on her childhood beach on PEI. "It gets me thinking about the more theoretical parts of what I do in my dissertation."

Charmaine Gaudet
The vibrant colours in "Tulip Drift" reflect Charmaine Gaudet'spersonality, while painting helps relieve the stresses of her work asdirector of communications for the Dalhousie Medical School.

Charmaine Gaudet, director of communications for Dalhousie's medical school, finds art to be a useful outlet. "Painting isn't just a mental outlet, it's also a physical outlet, because I paint very physically, much the same as dancing," she says. "My art is also very emotional. I'm a fairly bright, outgoing person, and I try to reflect that by choosing very bright colours when I paint." That personality is evident in "Tulip Drift," in which fiery red tulips on a leafy green background fill the canvas.

Art is also essential to Gaudet's professional life. "Just as many other things, like family, help me in my professional life, so does art," she says. "I have a very stressful job, and sometimes you can get really caught up in that stress when everything seems so urgent. In painting, I realize that I DO have another life, and life goes on."

To catch a glimpse of the creative works by other members of the Dalhousie community, visit the Dalhousie Art Gallery before December 19. The gallery is located in the lower level of the Dalhousie Arts Centre, and admission is always free.


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