Universities support research that will further disciplines and fine arts is no exception. Although it seems at odds with the picture of an artist ‘working it out’ in a chilly garret, art now moves increasingly towards interconnectivity with social, environmental and political issues as the subject matter, and co-operation rather than competition is a guiding factor.
Social and political orientations often have to do with a sense of place. Landon Mackenzie’s work begins with cartography and maps her journeys through a unique and expressive mode of mark making. Paired with the Kelowna Art Gallery, the University of British Columbia Okanagan, (UBCO) brought Mackenzie to the Okanagan as the principal mentor of a new learning path called the Mentorship Program.
University of British Columbia in the Okanagan valley is located in a tastefully urban setting. Development of buildings for educational spaces is criss-crossed with expanses of green space. And there are The Lakes, a district where pristine vistas can be appreciated. UBCO’s present location is upon Syilx First Nations territory. The Creative Studies Department consisting of Visual Arts, Creative Writing and Performance Programs use ‘research’ to reach beyond personal expression to aim at creating culture that can exert influence on the direction of contemporary society. In a modern context where consumerism, advantage-ism and lingering racism scream for attention, UBCO works to turn out informed, confident and enabled artists whose practice can override the cacophony.
An integrated relationship with the land is reflected in the UBCO Summer Indigenous Arts Intensive, a program within Creative and Critical Studies that explores indigenous perspectives. Titled A Pedagogy of Place: the Principal Element of Indigenous Art, the graphic on the Internet is a pictograph. Early Native pictographs can be found at several sites within the Okanagan. Stephen Foster, now Associate Dean of spearheads this program. Jordan Bennett whose work (Beat Nation, Vies des Arts #227) gained international attention in Canada’s Terra Nova Art Foundation, with Under the Surface: Jordan Bennet and Anne Troake, (curated by Chris Clarke at the 2015 Venice Biennale), is now completing his Master’s degree with UBCO and first came to the campus as part of the program. This summer the program hosted James Luna when the critical, creative, enigmatic Luna (wearing a black wig) aired concerns for the place of indigenous peoples within recorded history.
In 2014, The Nicolay Family, June, Deitz and Christian (a graduate from UBCO who has now an international exhibition schedule) established a fund for The Mentorship Program with UBCO’s Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies. “This new program will assist students to learn from successful artists through presentations, one on one clinics, informal round tables, visits and collaborative sessions,” says June Nicolay.
The first year the Mentorship Program brought in Adrian Stimson, aka Buffalo Boy, and Cheryl L’Hirondelle, a multi / interdisciplinary artist and musician, also featured in Beat Nation.
This year the Program collaborated with the Kelowna Art Gallery to host Landon Mackenzie who presented in Gary Pearson’s (Vies des Arts # 237) UBCO classroom in October 2015 where she initiated a collaborative “mail art” project between Emily Carr University and UBCO students. Mackenzie led the first of three informal round tables and critiques. The discussion included students; independent emerging artists (such as alumni Charles Conner, whose solo exhibition was showing at Kelowna’s The Alternator Gallery) and professional members of the art community including Patricia Ainslie, curator emeritus of Calgary’s Glenbow Museum; Robert Dmytruk, senior painter; and Katie Brennan, artist and curator. Again, in December, Mackenzie will come back from Vancouver for another round table, artist’s lecture and art historians/art critics panel, in conjunction with her exhibition that holds over two hundred objects and images spanning forty years of works on paper, all parallel to the production of her large works in painting that Mackenzie is nationally recognized for.
Through this Mentorship Program, UBCO enables younger artists to draw upon the expertise of established, practiced artists, research potential is expanded and authenticated, and emerging artists have a better chance of staying connected to each other.
LANDON MACKENZIE PARALLEL JOURNEY: WORKS ON PAPER (1975–2015). Curated by art historian Liz Wylie Kelowna Art Gallery. October 23 — January 16, 2016
Retrospective book published by Black Dog Press, London, UK.
EMILY CARR AND LANDON MACKENZIE WOOD CHOPPER AND THE MONKEY. The Vancouver Art Gallery. September 2014 — April 2015
Mackenzie, recipient of the Ian Wallace Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2009, teaches at Emily Carr University of Art + Design.