Megan Dickie

Megan’s work incorporates sculpture, video work, and performance.

Build It

HD video animation still, 2014.

The Gleamer Dueling

Aluminum, organza, adhesive, steel, wax legs, Italian leather shoes, 61” x 37” x 37” & 61” x 48” x 35”, 2012 / 2015.

Spin Off

Production Still, 2014. Leather, rope, vinyl inflatables, cardboard, fabric sculpture: 99” x 48” x 42”


Megan Dickie was born in 1974 in the small town of Crossfield, Alberta, just north of Calgary. Growing up in this rural farming community, Dickie’s exposure to visual art was limited to books in her parents’ collection, which included an illustrated text by Robert Bateman and three encyclopedic pages describing ‘art’. Her parents were both “makers of things”; her father was in construction and architecture and her mother was a schoolteacher who taught art and did sewing projects. Her small community lacked arts education, so Dickie proactively sought one out on her own. She took art courses by correspondence in high school before she left for the University of Calgary, where she earned a BFA in Printmaking in 1997. She experimented with more applied forms of art and dabbled in graphic design and interior design, but was unsatisfied in visualizing ideas that were not her own. Instead she pursued her MFA at the University of Saskatchewan, graduating in 2002.

As a student, Dickie was interested in shocking her audience. Using sexuality and humour, she played with the forms of the animal body as associated with the human body. The challenging climate and strained politics in Saskatchewan encouraged Dickie to move west to Vancouver Island in 2003. She began working at the University of Victoria as a sessional instructor in 2005 and became Assistant Professor of Sculpture in 2015. In 2016, Dickie began teaching video art, a medium she began working with in 2007. Her most recent work incorporates sculpture, video work, and performance. Using her own body as a character-performer, Dickie looks to platform video games as a means to critically examine the challenges that contemporary artists face, and to explore the humour that arises from human failure. Dickie will be presenting her work in a solo exhibition at Open Space in Victoria, BC in early 2017.

Selected Excerpts

Megan Dickie on her early artistic influences

by Megan Dickie

Megan Dickie on struggle, performance and interaction

by Megan Dickie

Megan Dickie on being a character-performer

by Megan Dickie

Megan Dickie on failure, humour, and the contemporary art structure

by Megan Dickie

In Conversation with Megan Dickie

Full Interview

by Megan Dickie | Oral Histories AH 493, Spring 2016, Kristi Hoffman

Full Interview Transcription

Edited and transcribed by Kristi Hoffman in consultation with Megan Dickie

Text in square brackets indicates additions or subtractions from original interview as recorded in the audio file above.


Kristi Hoffman (KH): So, today is February 15, 2016. This interview is taking place between interviewee Megan Dickie Assistant Professor of Sculpture at the University of Victoria and interviewer Kristi Hoffman also from the University of Victoria. Today’s interview is taking place in the Visual Arts Building at UVic.

Where were you born and raised?

Megan Dickie (MD): I was born just outside of Calgary in a farming community. The town was called Crossfield. I lived on a farm though. And so I was raised there, went to the University of Calgary, and left Alberta in the year 2000.

KH: Can you tell me about your early artistic influences?

MD: You know, when you sent me the [proposed list of questions], that was a hard one, I think especially because of the ruralness of my upbringing. It depends what you think of as early. But I will just start with that, that there weren’t a lot of early artistic influences, just because it wasn’t really a part of the lifestyle in this farming community. But I do remember both of my parents were makers of things. My dad worked in construction and architecture and my mom was a school teacher but also taught art and did sewing projects. So there was a lot of making going on around me. Probably the only visual art influence I had though were maybe two books that my parents had that had art in them. One was the encyclopedia and I just remember memorizing the three pages that described art, and looking at them all the time, and then a book by Robert Bateman, which I am embarrassed to say that my parents owned [laughter]. But you know, just really trying to consume whatever I could consume. And that led into just having to be really proactive with what I could get from art. Instead of it coming to me I had to search it out. In my small town we didn’t even have art in high school so I had to take it through correspondence. Then I went to the University of Calgary and that opened up my eyes a lot to what art was and even just art history, and I think at that time I probably was interested in more typical artists that you’d be interested in, like Max Ernst, a lot of the Surrealists, and definitely Marcel Duchamp. I’m still very interested in Marcel Duchamp.

KH: So when did you first identify as an artist?

MD: Probably during or after graduate school. After I graduated with my BFA, I didn’t think I would become an artist. I thought I would work in more applied forms of art, like graphic design or interior design or architecture, something like that. And I found by dabbling in it that I didn’t like it. Mostly I didn’t like trying to visualize other people’s ideas. I wanted to visualize my own ideas. And that’s what pushed me to go back to school to get my MFA. I think it was while doing the MFA I finally realized that this is what I should be doing, and that I had enough experience and had shown some work that I could call myself an artist. But before that I didn’t feel like I had the experience or the wherewithal or the personal investment yet to do that.

KH: So can you tell me about your interests as an arts student? As you said, you did your BFA at the University of Calgary and then your MFA at the University of Saskatchewan. So what were the themes you were interested in or your concerns?

MD: I mean they switched a lot in undergrad. Now looking back at my work, I’ve always been interested in being a little bit subversive or sometimes a lot… A bit rebellious. And trying to do something that someone might think I wouldn’t do or shouldn’t do. And so in undergrad, I did a printmaking degree. In printmaking you tend to use a lot of other sourced imagery, so appropriated images. So I started using imagery from pornography, also as a way to just shock people a little bit. […] And I was interested in, not just the shock, but the questioning of what people think is good and what people think is bad. So I did a lot of playing around with pornography, but always in a humorous way, as a way to use sexuality to bring out humour, which I think is still prevalent in my work.

When I went to grad school, I was still interested in working with ideas of sexuality and humour and it was there that I kind of picked apart some of the things that I saw happening in Saskatoon. The University of Saskatchewan is interesting because they have a huge agricultural department. They have farms on the campus, so there are cows walking around. Our studios were in a crop science building and so we had this connection; we had to pass through the agricultural building to get to ours. I wanted to play with some of that and then I had this history of growing up in a rural area so I had some of that animal husbandry in my background too. I started to play with aspects of the animal body as associated with the human body. For my Master’s show, I did series of chickens that were all posed in sexual positions, like raw roasting chickens, but I cast them in wax and made them look very realistic; once again, just as a way to shake up what people would think should be happening in terms of animal products, but also to be lighthearted. I think that art can be sometimes too serious or that we might come across a piece of art thinking that it should hold all this serious amount of meaning to it, and I think that it can be much more playful than that. And those are the things that I was playing with there, and other apparatuses that might’ve had more sensuous materials. That’s when I first started working with leather which has been a part of my practice for awhile, and all the connotations that are associated with leather, in terms of sensuality and sexuality, but also it’s very utilitarian and based from the animal and trying to deal with issues like that. […]

KH: So how did you end up coming to Victoria, and when?

MD: After I finished my degree in Saskatoon I stayed for year and taught. Then my partner and I — it’s not an easy city to live in, I mean weather wise, but also at that time there were lot of negative things happening in Saskatoon, or in the province where the relationship between indigenous people and the police was at a height. In the year that we left, two or three indigenous men were driven by police to this water treatment plant and left to die in the cold. So there were a lot of stresses and struggles going on there. […] So we basically just sat down and chose two cities in Canada that we would want to move to. Victoria was one we had visited a couple times and Montréal was the other. We both decided we would probably have [a] better chance of getting a job in Victoria because we didn’t speak French very well. So we literally just moved. We didn’t have any prospects, and it was the year 2003. My partner is an engineer, and he had a job in a week and it took me over a year to get a job.

KH: So what was it about Victoria that brought you here?

MD: I think my partner definitely is someone that loves the ocean, and so I think that was a big draw for him. The weather, you know, the chance to live somewhere that is not -30 or +30 all the time. The beauty of it, the lushness of it, which coming from the Prairies is the opposite. You know, the Prairies are so stark. And we had some friends in Vancouver so it seemed like something to try out. And we were a lot younger, [laughter] so whatever.

KH: And so how did you come to work at the University of Victoria?

MD: Well I think I had applied before I left Saskatoon, and I think I missed a deadline or something so I didn’t get any sessional work. But I knew that I had that ability, that I had taught at the University of Saskatchewan, so I could teach. I started teaching, actually outside of UVic, anywhere that would let me teach; the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Vancouver Island School of Art, there’s another one called the Victoria College of Art. And making no money at all, but just keeping up my practice of teaching. Then a call for sessional work came here. So I applied for that, but I didn’t get hired here until 2005 as a sessional and was a sessional just up until last year — so almost nine years of being a sessional in this department.

KH: So can you tell me a bit about your teaching experience here?

MD: It is so different now. When you’re a sessional, you’re a contract employee and sometimes you get work and sometimes you don’t, so it’s a very unstable place to be. You don’t know where your paycheque is coming from. At the same time, you’re continually applying for work every year, not just at this institution but other institutions, to see if you could get a permanent job. And during that time as a sessional, it’s also trying to balance your art making with your teaching, and learning what that’s like. But not having the security of a lot of income to invest in your artwork because you’re always trying to play catch-up by teaching an extra class. It just seems to really take away from your art practice. So I think at the beginning I did struggle a lot with that, and probably invested more time in my teaching than I did my art practice because that was what could give me some financial stability. And in hindsight, I probably lost a couple of good years of momentum in my practice, where it can kind of deaden out and then you have to rebuild it up in terms of promotion of your work, which is unfortunate. So there’s those things. I guess what else in terms of teaching? Like what I teach?

KH: Sure. What kinds of classes you are teaching in terms of medium?

MD: When I first started, it was mostly drawing and that’s just because those are the most classes and that’s what you usually get as a contract employee. So I mostly taught drawing, and then moved into teaching sculpture. […] That was a really great moment for me because I’ve always done sculpture, but I […] never took took a sculpture course, so it was really great for me to teach sculpture and be in that atmosphere of the sculpture studio and be learning at the same time as the students. I knew what I knew how to make, but then there’s all these other possibilities as well as our shop facilities with our wood and metal shops and getting used to those. […] Now I mostly teach first-year foundation sculpture which I really enjoy because so few students have a background in sculpture when they come to our program. You really get to see them light up and discover what contemporary sculpture is, because they might have a more classical idea of what sculpture is, and to see how inventive they can be with what they’re making. And also to see students invest in the real world, you know, everything is so digital and Internet based, and using your smart phone. It seems like the interactions of your hand to another substance are getting less and less. And to see the empowerment of students who really knew how to make nothing, or barely did anything with their hands besides maybe drawing or painting, to actually have the confidence to go, “well I know how to use this type of wood and I know how it will react,” and to develop material knowledge is something that I think is really important to keep going. It’s inspiring to see students learn that.  And then this year I taught, for the first time, a video art class. Maybe my first video project was in 2007 or 2008. I can’t remember the date now. But I’ve also just been self-taught with that, so it was really interesting for me to have to learn the history of video art, which isn’t that long — it just started in the ’60s — and be able to show students all this work and learn at the same time. It was like I did with the sculpture. It was challenging of course, a lot of work load to do a new course like that, but also very rewarding.

KH: So I understand that you were involved in the In Session – One exhibition, held at the Legacy Gallery in 2015. Can you tell me about your involvement in that exhibition?

MD: Well it was a few of us sessionals — because there are so many — Mary-Jo [Hughes] had put together a section of us. The framework of it was more based on image-makers, because she was trying to put people, video and photo together, and then there’s going to be another show later in the year, so that will be other mediums.

And so, because I do video work, I got put in that show. I also felt awkward in that show because I mostly do sculpture that is supported with video, but I’ve never just done a video work that sits on its own. It always has that sculptural component to it. So there were some challenges with that, in terms of the space and getting what I needed, and I think also challenges for the Legacy because they hadn’t done too many contemporary art exhibits or video installations either. So there were some struggles there. I’m happy with the work I made for the show. I’m not entirely happy with how it looked at the show, which is common when you’re in a group show; you can’t get everything that you want for the piece. But that’s fine [laughter]. It was a good experience, also in terms of working with your colleagues. I think Victoria is such a small city that there aren’t a lot of opportunities to have group shows with people that you teach with, and it was just nice to have a dialogue amongst us all the time. It was like, “Oh, what are you working on?”, “How are things going to have conversations between them?”, listening to a few the people in the show that had artist talks. And so being able to listen to that and learn more about their practice was really great. And I mean the staff at Legacy is always great.

KH: Yeah, it sounds quite collaborative. So from what we’ve talked about, you work in the media of sculpture, video, and printmaking. For example in one piece that I saw on your website, Spin Off, there was that combination of video animation, and sculpture with that large dumbbell. I also noticed that there were photographs of you, I assume you, in the video animation and then a photo of the same figure handling the large dumbbell. And in fact, I noticed that there are several images and videos of your work, which capture engagement and interaction with your sculptural works. So is there an element of performance, would you say, in these pieces?

MD: Yeah. I’ll talk to you about how I got to that. Because I’ve never been, I mean there are some artists that are born performance artists, but I never have been. How it came about is that I like the physicality of sculpture and it was by making one particular piece called Ready to Rumble, which is a big brick wall, that I realized that I could display that physicality […] and […] struggle through video works. So to show that struggle, I needed a performer to perform with these sculptures. And what I wanted to be performed is just so weird that I couldn’t really ask anybody else to do it and I also didn’t know how to ask someone, because it was more of an intuitive thing that I was doing. I couldn’t really direct somebody as how to interact with something. And also, I guess at that same time, I was wanting the viewer to interact with my work, and not just have it be a static object in space. I was struggling with that a lot because we are schooled not to interact with an artwork. We are schooled not to touch it, so how do you elicit the sense of interaction. And so I thought by doing these video works where I’m obviously interacting, that that might be permission for someone to touch or investigate with their hands. So that’s how that started.

 Spin Off Production Still, 2014. Leather, rope, vinyl inflatables, cardboard, fabric sculpture: 99” x 48” x 42”

Spin Off Production Still, 2014. Leather, rope, vinyl inflatables, cardboard, fabric sculpture: 99” x 48” x 42”

And also when that started, I decided to make myself a bit of a character and I think that was more about being a bit self-conscious about being in front of the camera, you know, as myself, and that has just seemed to perpetuate in my practice. I think, by being a character performer, I can control some of the content or some of the points that I’m trying to point viewers to with the work. I’m always dressed a certain way, which is a very feminine way; usually I’m wearing heels and a dress in the performances. I usually have something over my face to disguise myself and that’s all really important for me. […] I still think there’s a lot of content and discussion [that needs] to happen in terms of the female body in an artwork as well as a woman that is a sculptor in a still very male-dominated realm. So I like the idea of the character being able to push those questions out to the viewer.

Then Spin Off is from this video game project that I’ve done. […] I had originally conceived that I was going to physically do all this stuff that is quite aggressive and could harm me. And I worked with a student assistant that I hired, and she had brought up that it doesn’t have to be real There are ways to do this on the computer, that we can stretch reality. Which I really wanted to invest in, which I had done in my printmaking prior. And so a lot of it’s me making poses like I’m doing something aggressive or like rolling around and falling, but it’s not actually happening. It’s all done when we put it into the computer and animate it. So that was really a good experience. But also trying too, because in the older works where I just physically interact with something until it fails or I hurt myself, there’s a truth to that and I think a lot of the humour comes from the true failure of the human body, the foibles of the body, the body not able to do what you want it to do. And so that was hard in the video game work, to retain that honesty but still push it further and be more fictional.

KH: I was really drawn to The Gleamer too. I watched the video of you moving underneath. Can you talk about that piece a little bit more?

MD: The Gleamer is a […] body of work that has probably stayed with me the longest. I keep playing with it. And The Gleamer started really simply in that I had already made this other sculpture that was a net shape and I was fascinated by how this articulated net could change forms. And I just thought of how I could transfer that to something else, and came up with this idea of adding triangles to a fabric structure. That’s what it is. Just metal triangles glued to this organza fabric. And to discover what it could do. A lot of my practice is about building objects that mutate, transform, are unpredictable, and I just basically come up with the basic structure for it, and then it tells me what it’s going to do, how it’s going to move. And I really enjoy that sense of uncertainty, knowing that it will do something but I don’t know what it will do.

The Gleamer Dueling, 2012 / 2015. Aluminum, organza, adhesive, steel, wax legs, Italian leather shoes, 61” x 37” x 37” & 61” x 48” x 35”

The Gleamer Dueling, 2012 / 2015. Aluminum, organza, adhesive, steel, wax legs, Italian leather shoes, 61” x 37” x 37” & 61” x 48” x 35”

But The Gleamer was pure magic. So the full Gleamer is a 15 x 15 foot blanket, and it started with a little model. I remember making it, putting it between two tables, getting under the table, just putting my hands under it while I video taped from above. And when I saw that initial footage, I was just blown away because it’s so simple, but because it’s made of triangles in this silver colour, it also looks very digitized, you know, like pixels or something that’s not analog at all. But here it is, a blanket with a person underneath it. So then that pushed me to do it larger, because I just knew I wanted that interaction to be even bigger and more than just with my hands, but my full physical body. So I produced it. And there’s also, I think, a bit of an obsessive quality with my own practice in that I really like to work. So I find these situations where I want to do repetitive things over and over again. I think it comes from being a printmaker. So I had hand-cut all those triangles and glued them down. And it’s stupid, right? [laughter] But there’s a gratification there too. Yeah, and then I did some test shots with me under it, and then I took it to Calgary for an exhibition. In this exhibition I learned a lot about what it’s like to have interaction with the viewer and the loss of control by the artist by letting the viewer play with your work. So what I did was I designed this project called Get the Gleamer. It is quite sharp, because it’s made of this very thin aluminum and even the fabric is quite thin, so it kind of pokes through. So I had to sew these robes that people put on, like protective robes and hats and stuff. And asked them to get under the blanket, also so I could see what it looked like, not as a participant but as the viewer, and then had that recorded with video — two videos: one prerecorded and then the other one was live-recording but on a one minute delay so the person could go in and play around, and come out and see what they had done. But it got destroyed. Not that people tried to destroy it, but they don’t know the frailty of it like I do and so that was also interesting to learn. With that and a couple of other projects, I really did learn that I’m making these physical works, not for the viewer to physically interact with but just for myself to physically interact with. […] I used to frame the work as interactive sculptures, and now I frame them as performative sculptures because I think, it’s like having your child hurt or something [laughter]. It’s like no! That’s mine! What are you doing!

KH: Well yeah! it sounds like a lot of time invested into a piece like that!

MD: Yeah, and I mean The Gleamer has grown. I was never pleased with the presentation of The Gleamer, as an object in space. I like the video work of it, but whenever I put The Gleamer in the gallery beside the video, it just seems really boring. And so for the Legacy show, I re-did that. There’s this one photograph of me under The Gleamer where my legs are showing, and I liked that counter of the human to something that looked really industrial or not human. So then I decided to cast my legs to put under The Gleamer to bring that back in, but have it be a sculpture on its own. And I haven’t had a chance to show it since that show, but right now I think that is the way that I like to show it.

KH: So you have an upcoming exhibition next year at Open Space.

MD: Yeah.

KH: Can you tell me about your plans for that exhibition, and I guess also your most recent concerns and themes in your work?

MD: Okay. So that show will be based on the video game project: [including] the Spin Off one that was on my website. It is the largest project I’ve worked on, multiyear. When did I start working on that project? 2013? And I’m still working on it. It started as a video trilogy, and it started from a really silly inspiration. […] I was watching this television show called American Ninja Warrior, which is like an obstacle course game, but to the extreme. It’s ridiculous. And the physicality of the obstacles in it, the impediments, instantly made me think that I wanted to make my own impediments like this. […] And when I was thinking about that, I thought, “Well what kind of other references are there in history or in pop culture that are about these courses or games and competition?” So video games came up right away. And not contemporary video games, but the games I grew up with as a kid, like Atari games. Like clunky platform games, where you jump off one thing, like Super Mario. And so I wanted to frame it within that context, and have the video reference these old style video games.

In the trilogy there is Spin Off, which has references to Marcel Duchamp with the spiral. There’s another one called Lighten Up which originally was about references to art that was hot around the ’80s that used a lot of fluorescent light tubes, or neon in them, and my love/hate of that; sometimes it’s tacky and sometimes it’s good. But it has grown into being more about just lightening up, you know, like chill out. Like don’t take something so seriously. And then there’s a third one called Build It. That one is about the buildings of contemporary institutions. And in that video game, there’s basically these buildings that undulate up and down and I try to jump over them and I fall and fail. And in the Lighten Up one, it’s just like a rotating diamond and two characters try to jump on the diamond, and they’re always falling off. Nobody wins in the video game. When I showed Spin Off, this guy was watching it and he said, “I just want her to win!” And I said, “She’s never going to win!” [laughter] She just constantly fails.

Build It, 2014. HD video animation still.

Build It, 2014. HD video animation still.

I just try to make work that I want to make. But also, the longer you make work, you know that you’re going to keep perpetuating certain things that are of concern to you. And this whole idea of using humour as a way to talk about things is something that I’m really still engaged in. By doing this project I realize that failure is a big component of humour. When you see somebody fail, and especially when somebody fails and it doesn’t have any consequence, like in a video game, you just start and play again. […] I wanted to address that. And I also wanted to address a lot of the failures I have had as an artist, you know, not getting shows, not getting a job, like all these things. The struggles of constantly pushing yourself all the time, and that it is a very competitive world and so the whole project uses humour but also at the main basis of it, is this questioning of the structure of the contemporary art system. […] These institutions hold your future in their hand, and if you can’t get a show in a decent gallery, you won’t be a decent artist. That is just basically the way it is. […] And so I just wonder, can you subvert those steps? Are there ways that you can change the course?

So there will be those three video works that deal with that and the dumbbell. I usually always make the sculpture then it turns into a video. But with this project, I knew from the beginning that the main thing would be video. And so a lot of the sculptures ended up just being props that I didn’t think were special enough to display as sculpture, or present as sculptures. Except for the dumbbell. So right now what I’m working on are two projects, one for Build It and one for Lighten Up that are the sculptural components. And they’re not describing what happens in the video; they’re just a form that is influenced by the imagery in the video, that influence some of the processes I went through.

The show itself will also be the largest exhibition I’ve had in terms of space, which I’m excited about. And it was proposed to Open Space because I knew it was going to be a large installation. That has been a struggle for me to try. I made a model of the space and I’ve tried all these different things as to how to have an immersive environment in a large space. […] It’s challenging and I’m really enjoying that. And I think the next steps will be finding writers, guest speakers and stuff that can look at what the content of my work is, and think about their own research and keep adding to the dialogue that I’ve started. Because it’s questioning the contemporary art system, but there’s also questions in terms of technology too. Like I was describing before how students don’t know how to use their hands to make things because we’ve become further and further removed from the real world. So I’d like some things like that to come out. You know, here I am looking like a digital character in a video game, but everything in that video game is a real thing. Like the dumbbells are real eight-foot tall, big dumbbells, the buildings… that I climb over, were big eight-foot tall buildings. I didn’t end up having to climb over; we kind of CGI’d that. But yeah, so getting people to see reality differently and fiction differently.

KH: I want to know little bit more about your relationship to the arts community in Victoria. So first of all what is it like to be an artist in Victoria as opposed to where you were raised, or in Saskatoon perhaps?

MD: Right. It is different than the Prairies. A lot. Even though we are really remote on this Island, geographically we are not. We are still close to Seattle and Vancouver. We’ve got these big cities close to us. Even California is so accessible. Whereas Saskatoon is really remote. I found that the arts community in the Prairies is much more welcoming, I think for a couple reasons. One is if […] you’ve decided to be an artist, that’s a big risk because there’s not a lot of income for you to have. People want to have a job that pays them, so they can live and survive. It’s a very hostile environment to live in. So to take that leap of maybe not having a good income, it is a risk. I think when you say you are an artist, people really take that seriously and and invest in you. And also I think in the Prairies, because of the remoteness, there’s a camaraderie, where if we don’t accept ourselves — we can still be competitive with each other — but we still have to support each other because there’s nothing else around there. And I found coming here, it was much more competitive than that. I mean now that I’ve been here for 12-13 years, I don’t feel that way. I feel like I have a really great support community and lots of great colleagues and friends that are interested in the arts. But in the beginning it was very, “Who are you?” But I think that’s also the Island because of the temperate climate, people come here a lot, but do they have the wherewithal to invest in this place? Or are they just going to pass through?

 […] I’ve always been a proponent of being a volunteer. One of the first things I did when I moved here was I started volunteering for Open Space, just as a way to meet other artists. I’ve done work with the Art Gallery [of Greater Victoria] and this other arts organization called Xchanges. I’ve done a lot of work with them. And I think that’s really an important thing to do in a small community because if the artists that are in the community don’t support the organizations, then it kind of just defeats the whole purpose of everything. I haven’t done that as much as of late, you know with this new position, trying to find my ground in terms of workload and stuff. […] But I have an urge to reinvest again, maybe to suggest different things. Maybe go back to the Board at Open Space. There has been a lot of talk with my colleagues here — we teach all different genres of art making in our department, but almost all of us have a background in sculpture — and so I think that’s a really important thing with our department, and unusual. And it would be great to find a way to push that out into the community. Do we hold sculpture symposiums? Or do we find landlords that are willing to do pop-up shows? Or public sculptures? You know, like really start to get the community invested in it too, and then see if that can bring more attention to what we’re doing here.

KH: Going along with what we’ve talked about already; your relationship to other women artists in particular. I know you said there’s a little bit of a sense of competition in Victoria, as opposed to to in the Prairies. Do you feel like there is a sense of community among women artists?

MD: The longer I’m alive, and the longer I’m a woman [laughter], the more that becomes important and… I just, I don’t know how to describe it. It’s important for me to have that support of other female artists. And I didn’t find that I needed that before, but then you have experiences that maybe aren’t a good experience, that you need to speak with another woman about, and about their experiences too. “Have you gone through this too?”, you know. I’ve recently gotten in a new studio, and there’s three of us. One of my colleagues Jennifer — she’s also a sculptor — [and I talk] about the difficulties of that, and she’s done a lot of public sculpture works, and there is more of a gendered bias in that. Yeah, so I think it’s really important.

When I was talking in this class a few weeks ago, I think it’s also important to note that things still aren’t equal between men and women in the workforce, and definitely in the art world. And so I think that that still needs to be talked about, and don’t think it needs to be as forthright as it was with Feminism in the ’70s — and I’m very happy that that happened, as it gives us opportunities we have now — but I still think that it is something to question and to keep talking about. There’s tons of stats that show that it’s still a male-dominated realm. And higher education is still a male-dominated realm, not the student body, but the faculty. And not in our department, but if you look at stats for the University there’s definitely much less women.

KH: So the studio that you share, is that with Jennifer Stillwell?

MD: Yeah.

KH: And who is the third?

MD: Cedric Bomford.

KH: Okay. Interesting. Is that downtown?

MD: No, it’s just off of Burnside. Kind of by the SPCA.

KH: And so what kind of changes have you seen in the Victoria art community since you’ve been living here on the Island?

MD: [pause] I have to say, you know, and it might be just getting used to the community… I found it more vibrant when I first got here. Maybe more energized? You also have to think about economic climates at the same time and if that trickles down to everything. I just found that there were more events going on, there were more… like… I’ll just say parties, it seemed. Not like parties are a special part of art-making, but it seems like these instances for people to gather together and to converse as groups of artists were more than they are now. […] But it’s still a pretty tame scene. And I don’t know how you change that. There have been cuts to everybody in terms of what they can do and staff and all this, so you can’t really ask these institutions to do more than they possibly can. […] I do have to say, I find in general in Canada, things have gotten more conservative. I remember looking at Canadian Art magazine, and I actually stopped subscribing to it because I found that the work was really stale; the work that they’re showing is not risky. Why are we giving praise to work that is easy to digest? Why are we not giving praise to work that challenges us? And I think that’s just a constant struggle with arts but I have just felt — and maybe it was our Harper government that we were under for so many years, I don’t know — but where’s the risk? And I think that’s just something to keep asking. And how can we bring that back and not just fall into loving pretty things?

KH: Is there anything else you’d like to add that we haven’t spoken about yet?

MD: I feel like I’ve been talking and talking [laughter]. No.

KH: If you don’t have anything else to add, that’s all I’ve got for questions. So thank you so much again for your time.

– END –



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