“Mac really shaped who I am today”

Artist and Studio Art graduate Dina Hamed reflects on her time at McMaster as she prepares for convocation

Dina Hamed ended her time at Mac with a bang – or, to be more precise, a bomb.

OK, not a real bomb. It’s a diptych – two digital photos side by side – of women wearing sunglasses and identical t-shirts that say, “I’m the bomb.”

One woman is blond and bareheaded.

One is wearing a hijab.

“In my practice, I’m focused on what it means for me to be a Muslim today, in my particular social context,” Hamed says. “My practice is also focused on bringing my work into a public setting – and a university, a place of influence, is the perfect place for a piece like I’m the BOMB!

That piece, which has been hanging in the McMaster student centre since the end of March, was the culmination of Hamed’s BFA in Studio Art – a distillation of a complicated six-year journey through two different Mac programs and a brief stint at Sheridan College.

“I’ve always known art is my calling, but it took some time before I realized that this was the program for me,” Hamed explains. “Mac really shaped who I am today – it gave me the space to grow and change my mind and change it back again. The faculty in the program are amazing, amazing people – and they’ve given me the foundation to go from being their student to being a colleague in the art world.”

Hamed graduates with the Faculty of Humanities’ class of 2018 at their June 11 convocation.

She points out that Mac is the first school that she’s both started at and graduated from — in her entire life. As a kid, Hamed moved with her family several times as her dad – McMaster mechanical engineering professor Mohamed Hamed – completed his PhD at Western and worked around southern Ontario.

And although she started out in sociology, once she discovered the existence of the Studio Art program in October of her first year, she knew that was the program she needed to be in.

“I scrambled to pull together a portfolio over a weekend in late October, interviewed with (associate professor) Briana Palmer on Monday and was accepted on the spot,” Hamed recalls. “I spent the rest of the semester catching up – the new girl in a tiny cohort of less than 10 people.”

After two years at Mac, Hamed did a semester in Sheridan’s Bachelor of Craft and Design program, specializing in glassblowing with a minor in textile art. After realizing that Sheridan wasn’t quite the right fit, she worked for a year, then came back to Mac to finish up her BFA.

“What I didn’t appreciate when I was first starting out was how important it was to be able to supplement my art practice with theoretical knowledge from other courses in various disciplines. It makes for work and a program that fuels critical thinking and shapes well-rounded students,” she explains. “Sheridan was a great experience – but I’m so happy I came back to Mac. It’s been a huge blessing in my life.”

Hamed says that her instructors at Mac have taught her fundamental lessons about the role of art in the world that she’ll carry with her always.

“One of the technicians, Agata Derda, said that art is a means to reflect, digest and express the things you learn from all the other disciplines,” she says. “And Dr. Ellen Amster in the history department told me that art is a way of communicating across all kind of boundaries – you can learn from art on a human level in a way that you wouldn’t be able to in a classroom or lecture. It’s a form of communication that’s relatable because it’s experiential. Those ideas have stuck with me.”

Hamed is also receiving the Dean’s Medal for Excellence in the Humanities in recognition of her outstanding achievement in scholarship and contributions to the cultural and intellectual life of the university, as well as having achieved the highest cumulative GPA in the graduating class. And while she’s personally grateful for the recognition, the award has a greater significance as well.

“I want to say thank you to the Faculty of Humanities for the award,” she says. “Artists are the heart of Hamilton – and for the university to acknowledge the value of what artists produce is really important to me. The significance of art is often overlooked, but this tells me people are starting to realize how important it is in the world.”

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