Downtown art exhibition ‘is all about the city’

Hamilton: A View From Here is a mixed-media trip through the city’s history and streetscapes, combining work from two courses taught by associate professor Judy Major-Girardin. The exhibition moved this fall from the President’s Corridor on campus to 1 James. St. North, in the heart of the city it celebrates.

“This is the perfect exhibition to be downtown,” Major-Girardin says. “It’s all about the city.”

Students in second-year course Environmentally responsible art (ART 2ER3) drew their inspiration from a bird’s eye view of the city from a Stelco tower, and third-year students in New directions in painting and drawing (ART 3PD3) visited the maps collection in Mills Library.

For the environmentally responsible art course, “I always try to do something local,” Major-Girardin says. “A lot of kids come from other disciplines and from out of town, some of them never even make it downtown.”

But once they got to the tower and could see the view from that vantage point, “they really got a sense of where McMaster is in relation to city,” she says. “And they could see the balance of urban space and the bay and the escarpment and everything Hamilton has to offer.”

Students did a number of works based on that trip, but the headliner is a big felted map of the city.

Each student was assigned a felted square, and the squares were sewn together into the larger map. “They knew which area it was, but they didn’t have a sense of it until we put them together and they saw this gigantic map take shape Major-Girardin explains. In addition to being an environmentally friendly technique that repurposes material, the project showed students how a collaborative project can achieve something more complex and ambitious than an individual project.

For the painting and drawing students, the map collection was an obvious choice, Major-Girardin says. “It’s so visual, it’s pure imagery. It uses the same kinds of materials and processes that students are using, just in a different application.”

The students each had their own independent visions beginning to form as they checked out historic and contemporary maps of Hamilton. “They each took it from their own individual standpoint,” Major-Girardin says. “They have their own interests: colour, pattern. They were all very independent pieces, and none look alike even though they all came from maps.”

This is the first exhibition to on display in the downtown office space. “There’s a lot of research now about impact of art or colour in the workplace and how it keeps people engaged in the environment,” Major-Girardin says. “And for students it’s a great opportunity to see their work outside the studio.”

Hamilton: A View From Here will be on display until the end of January at 1 James St. North.

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