New student art exhibit offers unique views of Hamilton
A new exhibit created by McMaster Studio Art students is using dramatic vantage points, unique source materials, and a range of mediums to explore Hamilton through art.
The works are part of Hamilton: The View from Here, a collection of abstract art now on display in the President’s Corridor, part of the course work of students from three different Studio Arts classes and inspired by the urban, industrial and natural landscapes of Hamilton.
“The overarching theme is Hamilton – the idea of looking at the city as a starting point for making art and thinking about art as being connected to where you are,” says Judy Major-Girardin, Associate Professor in McMaster School of the Arts and course instructor for all three classes.
Students in Book Arts (ART 3BA3) and Environmentally Responsible Art (ART 2ER3) went up the Stelco Tower, Hamilton’s second tallest building, to get a 360 degree, bird’s eye view of the entire Hamilton region. From the 20th floor, students created small, fold-out books and small paintings that captured a range of views of the city, from distant landscapes to the urban cityscape below.
The exhibit also includes a series of 4 ft. by 4 ft. paintings of Hamilton informed by maps from McMaster University Library’s Lloyd Reeds Map Collection. Students in New Directions in Painting and Drawing (ART 3PD3) visited the collection, located in Mills Library, where Map Specialist, Gord Beck talked to them about the elements of map-making – an art form in its own right – and brought out a wide selection of maps ranging from centuries-old rare maps to aerial photos. Students also looked at maps specific to Hamilton including soil maps and fire insurance maps.
“I’ve worked in the Map Collection twenty years now but continue to be amazed at the range of uses our maps are applied to,” says Beck. “I’m especially grateful to innovative professors like Judy—without them, many non-geography students overlook what we have to offer them.”
Beck adds that he was “blown away” by how much content he found identifiable in these abstract works. “I shouldn’t have been so surprised—after all, cartography speaks the same language of colours and symbols, just with a different accent,” he says.
The largest and most complex piece in the exhibit is a 4 ft. by 8 ft. map of Hamilton made entirely of felt, a recently added medium for the Studio Art program. 22 students in Major-Girardin’s second year Environmentally Responsible Art class each worked on a small section of the map. The pieces were then stitched together to create a cohesive whole.
The materials used to create the map were provided through a generous donation by Alyx Fitzhenry, part of a gift to support the introduction of fibre arts into McMaster’s Studio Arts program.
“There’s a variety of experiences embodies in the work in this exhibit,” says Major-Girardin. “There’s so much in our environment and on campus that we can tap into that can invigorate and enhance student learning. Artists tend to work in isolated mind-spaces most of the time, but what is of value in this exhibit is that there were opportunities to learn from other people and to share. Sometimes you have to shake things up a bit to make that happen.”
The works will be on display in the President’s Corridor until the end of August.