Art is the only way to run away without leaving home” said Twyla Tharp. Look no further than Permanent Vacation for a ‘trip’ without having to leave St. Catharines. Permanent Vacation is an art exhibition showcasing the talent of Brock University alumni and can be found at the Visa Gallery at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. Alumni members of the art collective include Katie Mazi, Jenn Judson, Matt Caldwell, Alex Muresan, Jessica Wright and Ben Mosher.
The Permanent Vacation exhibit includes paintings and ensemble pieces. When you enter the space, the paintings jump off the wall. As seen with the juxtaposition of three large panel pieces by Caldwell to the left and two portraits by Wright accompanied by a textile piece by Judson. The viewer sees structure vs. liberation. A sentiment that can be expressed as leaving university (or any institution) into the world, where expression, independence and freedom are celebrated. The lack of ‘structure’ illustrated within the frame of Caldwell’s “More” canvas can speak to that freedom found in life after graduation. Of course there lies an inherent meaning within the frame of life, but it is up to you, the audience and participant to decide and decipher what meaning you make from this experience. Caldwell notes his inspiration behind these three pieces as, “… laborious tasks, and how they relate to real world actions, these images are seen by me in day to day life.” In a media release, the artists note that life as a recent graduate is difficult, especially when, “being plunged into an already heavily saturated art world, with no lifeguard on duty.” The Permanent Vacation Art Collective was formed around this group, to inspire these artists to keep making work together as they each push themselves into deeper depths of their practises. Permanent Vacation is, “as much of a challenge as it is a slogan, encouraging the artists to dedicate their everyday lives to entertaining their wildest ambitions. “
The driving force behind the formation of Permanent Vacation as an art collective as explained by Caldwell is, “a group of people who kinda connected at their time at Brock, we have the same ideas, get along really well we want to work as a group to have our ideas pushed in ways that other people might not consider.”
This ambition is illustrated in all the pieces found at Permanent Vacation. Muresan’s ‘Between Looking’ instantly catches your eye and sparks curiosity. As a two sheer panels cascade between a graphite illustration. On first glance, it seems chaotic as the black and gray tones contrast the white seamless flowing panels. Muresan explains her piece as, “created it mimicking a window, I am interested in the idea of perspective and what you can see and what you cannot see. I thought it would be an interesting concept to have curtains on the side that are drawn by the artist hand, so I am in control of what the viewer can see and what they cannot see.” Her control can speak to the control harnessed by alumni after graduation. It is no secret we enter a hyper competitive work force, but we do have some agency over how we manipulate and thrive in this environment.
Kate Mazi’s “Vase Phase” made of found objects involved an ensemble of ceramic pieces varying in shape, size and style. Mazi explains her process behind this piece as, “[a] grouping of collected ceramic vases was gathered from secondhand sources in and around the Niagara region. I formed this display based on similarities and how each vase compliments one another in form, colour, shape, etc.” “They are all working together to create one seemingly consistent aesthetic. Working for a floral business has definitely influenced this collection. I wonder about the different stores they were once sold in and the homes and businesses that they were once used to decorate in. Fresh and silk flowers arrangements are created and intended to bring some form of beauty into a living or working space.” The audience will see a similar theme and aesthetic held by the arrangement. Mazi explains this as, “ some vases had awful ‘dirty’ & ‘outdated’ silk arrangements that I removed in order to make the vase the primary focus. I look for vases that usually are made in Canada from around 70s/80s but this isn’t a requirement for selection — some date back as early as 1950s while some are from early 2000s.” Her brilliant piece exhibits these vases simply but effectively. Her goal here was.,“to find beautiful aspects in undesirable and outdated items without altering their original integrity. The used vase is somewhat of an artifact and a marker of time passed. Each of these containers have gone through a similar cycle beginning at a retail store, a residence, discarded and now brought together to restore their value. Giving the vases a good scrub/shine and displaying them on a long formal table changes their appeal and desire and invites the viewer to contemplate what these objects are and might have been. When thinking about these containers, and especially if they held revolving live plant material we are reminded of our own fragility. If they held fake plant material, again, we are reminded of our own fragility, as the plastic and ceramic things we buy, use, lose, trade, discard and find will often outlive us.”
Permanent Vacation showcases the immense talent and creativity that that Brock community harnesses. Students will find ideas to resonate with and even take with them into their daily lives. And if not, the post-card keepsake serves as a friendly reminder.
Permanent Vacation is a free community event and regular visiting hours for the Exhibition Space are Tuesday through Saturday from 1:00-5 :00p.m.