Last week, UTM’s Blackwood Gallery opened its annual exhibition of UTM art and art history graduates’ talent. Frequently Answered Questions explores how art is an opportunity for hypothesizing and not just an exchange of questions and answers.

“The theme [of FAQ] reflects how as art and art history students we came into the program with a lot of questions […] and now we’re ready to leave with those questions answered,” says Sophia Luo, designer of the 2016 class’s exhibit poster.

The Blackwood Gallery website speaks about the frequently asked questions the artists examined throughout their careers: “Questions of place, questions of material, and questions of self. What are constructions of personal identity? How are attachments formed to place? How are we affected by art? And of utmost importance, what art do we choose to make?”

On the wall across from the entrance to the Blackwood Gallery is Chelsea Quinton’s series Monsanto. The acrylic and graphite create a ribbon of movement across the page. From left to right, the pieces feature a ribbon of flying butterflies that turns into a farmer spraying pesticides, rises into corn stalks, and then falls into an ashy pile of dead butterflies.

“The piece refers to the incident that occurred a few years ago where the company Monsanto decimated the monarch butterfly population with their use of pesticides and herbicides,” Quinton says.

On the wall beside her are three pieces from Suzanne Yeh’s Dysmorphic series—What cannot be changed #1, #2, #3. The lino and digital print series explores society’s prescribed beauty standards for women.

Stephanie Payne’s Mearcstapas: while we wait, an installation of succulent leaves, thread, water, wood, and plexiglass, stands in the middle of the gallery.

“I use[d] thread given to me by an elderly lady no longer able to sew, and a succulent plant cultivated by my mother,” says Payne. “Through this generational generosity, my piece, in reflecting on the temporal, is painfully aware of its own mortal existence.”

At first, Holly Watson’s Vessel looks like a pile of white ceramic pottery patterned with black ink floral designs. After a closer look, you notice that mixed in with the teapot and teacups are a paper coffee cup, a plastic cup with a straw, and dish detergent. Watson’s installation of found objects, gesso, and ink juxtapose objects of high value with the everyday and make the viewer think about how a detergent bottle can look as beautiful as a handmade clay object when painted to look like ceramic.

On one of the other walls is Julien Balbontin’s Heal, Boy!, approximately 100 pieces of watercolour and black ink on cotton paper. Some of the depictions of dogs don’t have eyes. Some are only partially present, like a ghost fading in.

“During 2015, in an [attempted robbery] back in the Philippines, one of my dogs was lethally poisoned,” Balbontin writes in his artist statement. “After his death, my other dog refused to eat and [as a] result, also passed away. I had other dogs in my life; however, it was a different experience when an act of violence had killed them.”

Balbontin explains that the different colours bleed into each other as a symbolic representation of poison seeping into the dogs.

Frequently Answered Questions also extends into the e|gallery in the CCT Building.

Klasha Fernandes’ digital illustration Obey greets visitors first. The propaganda-style posters feature villains from literature and their slogans, such as “All animals were created equal, but some more equal than others” from George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm.

Kaylin Andersen’s Bust Character Study (series), which sits on a wooden stand in the middle of the space, is made of plasticine. Her fantasy-style busts reflect her watercolour and ink pieces displayed on the wall.

The first half of the exhibition will run until March 27. The second half will open on March 30 and run until April 10.

The other artists featured in the first exhibition are Thomas Bewick, Olivia Brouwer, Rebeca D’Alessandro, Kaitlynn Errygers, Natalie Lei, Janine Malaca, and Lisa Wong.

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