This is the first edition of our new “Art History Student Blog.”  As the snow melts and days get longer we are extremely happy to present fresh new ideas.  Thanks to Leona for getting the season underway!

March Madness and Kent Monkman – March 12, 2013

March is stress month – as an Art History student, that means writing as many as five essays by the end of the month. I should be used to this as a third-year student; after all, it’s the same at the end of every semester.  The work load seems to explode and my life transitions from watching episodes of Parks and Recreation in my bed to spending hours buried under a pile of books in MacOdrum Library. But being holed up in the library all afternoon night for a month isn’t so bad when your books are full of pictures. Art History textbooks are exciting! I mean, it’s mostly the text I need to refer to for writing that ten-page paper (sigh), but frequent visual content is a great way to distract myself from feeling too overwhelmed. And as much as it may seem that I dread writing these essays, the truth is, I really do enjoy it. I love to write and being able to express my curiosity for a certain topic in art through writing is quite rewarding.

Study breaks are crucial.  Especially in this is-it-spring-yet weather where the dusky classrooms and cloudy grey skies seem to blur together in a single muted mass, a change of scenery can really refresh the distressed student soul.  And living in Ottawa for almost three years, the city has yet to let me down. There is always something to do here, whether it’s a vernissage at one of the many small commercial galleries or artist-run centres, a much-anticipated exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada, a performance at the National Arts Centre, or an event at our very own Carleton University Art Gallery. I often feel extremely privileged to live in such a lively city; I spent most of my childhood in Saskatchewan, growing up in a small city that had little to offer in regard to arts and culture. However, as my friends from much larger cities will not cease to remind me, Ottawa has an unfortunate reputation for being boring, quiet, and uptight due to its role as capital city. Well, as I quickly discovered in my first year at Carleton, the city is much better described as animated, eclectic, and fun. The thing is, apart from its reputable national institutions, Ottawa has many hidden gems. If you know where to look, you’ll find it quite easy to enhance your experience as an Art History student. Because, studying Art History should be more than textbooks and slideshow lectures; it is about getting involved in the local art community.

Earlier this week I had the exciting opportunity to attend Kent Monkman’s guest lecture at Ottawa U. Monkman, a renowned Canadian contemporary artist, drew an audience much too large for the seating provided. I sat squished on the jam-packed ledge along the windows, waiting with bated breath. Would Monkman appear as his artistic alter ego in his outrageous Miss Chief Eagle Testickle costume? Would there be a performance? Contrary to my hopes, Monkman appeared on stage in a rather conservative suit. Yet, the lecture was as fascinating as I had anticipated. Monkman spoke warmly to his audience as if he was giving an intimate tour of his studio. He narrated the evolution of his artistic production with an accompanying slideshow of images, offering insight into his politically and culturally subversive paintings, videos, and performances. Although I had briefly learned about his work in class and seen one of his impressive paintings at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Montréal, it was a wonderful experience to hear the artist himself explain the subversion of the tension between the Aboriginal people of North America and the European colonisers in his work. With a heavy dose of humour, Monkman explores themes of sexual and cultural repression, the traditional gender roles of each culture, and the power dynamics of subjugation. To top it all off, at the end the audience was treated to some excellent free food (there was sushi, San Pellegrino, and at least seven varieties of cheeses)! Pro tip: don’t be afraid to indulge in the free food usually offered at university lectures and exhibition openings. Coming back for a fifth plate of bread, brie, and grapes is totally okay.

Take a well-deserved study break with one of these upcoming events in Ottawa:

March 10 – April 7: Lorraine Gilbert and Christopher Varady-Szabo present the Arbor Vitae exhibition at City Hall Art Gallery.
Artist Talk (March 10) Facebook Event:

March 16 from 7:00 – 10:00pm – Vernissage for UNSEEN, an exhibition of work from SPAO students at La Petite Mort Gallery. The exhibition runs from March 16-21.
Facebook Event:

March 24 at 2:00pm – Sanjeev Sivarulrasa’s artist talk for the Night Light exhibition at Karsh-Masson Gallery. The exhibition runs from March 15 to May 5.
Facebook Event: