The annual Open Artist Studios at Western kicks off this Thursday, March 30 at 5pm and runs until 6pm on March 31st. Accompanying the tour is this year’s graduate symposium “Community: A Participatory Art Conference.”

By that title alone, clearly Fuse was all over it! One of the conference organizers Ruth Skinner said, “it focuses on what defines a community, how communities function, how communities might be different, and how artists might contribute to and shape communities.” Awesome? Yes. See a full schedule of events and talks at the bottom of this article.

Now, the artists!

What does Open Studios entail you ask? Well, it’s quite literal. Every artist in the MFA or visual PhD program opens their doors to the public. People tour the spaces and artists can offer personal accounts of what their art communicates, why they’ve taken a particular approach, and other details on their practice.

Our marketing intern Emma Marr and I got an early taste of the tour, lead by (the extremely delightful) MFA student Tyler Durbano. We saw several different artists in their quaint, productive spaces where each appearance was entirely different than the last.

Time after time, we were amazed by the eclectic passions presented to us. By the end of the tour, we were definitely in agreement that we could do this every single day! Alright, let’s meet these artists.

Sharmistha Kar

As a first year MFA student, she works primarily in painting, drawing, and hand embroidery.

Sharmistha Kar
Photo by Nicki Borland

“I’m trained as a painter. But, from 2010 onwards, I got into hand embroidery and am trying to explore it as the kind of idea where I can relate myself to learning something new. And for the past few years, I’ve been trying to see myself as the protagonist of a traveler blog. I’m trying to see the similar shift from India to Canada in myself.”


Paul Chartrand

In his second year of the MFA program, he works with living sculpture as well as drawing focused on ecological principles.

Photo by Emma Marr

I guess what I’m trying to work through is using hydroponics as this kind of system that I can adapt to different situations. It’s used to support these plants in a kind of a collective whole thing. Not an allegory, but a way of relating to other bigger systems out in the world.”

Matthew Trueman

With a background in engineering, Matthew’s studio was one of the most eclectic. From kinetic sculptures to light suits, this sure was an experience!

Just chillin’ in the light suit. Photo by Nicki Borland

“I have an engineering background and I left to pursue the arts. I never really liked how engineering didn’t ask that “why” problem and the solid solutions would end up creating another problem… it was like a cycle. So what I do is look at the intersection of the arts and sciences, sort of take a techy approach… it’s the idea of something hybrid, something technical and something human. Our lives are so mediated by technology and I think it’s very important to ask questions surrounding that.”


Oh were we ever entertained here! Through a variety of different characters, this MFA student uses performative video art to “explore issues of race and sexuality in the Iranian diaspora.”

Photo by Emma Marr

“We have Coco the dancer, Oreo the YouTube tutorial girl, and Fatima the self-exotifying Orientalist. When I’m performing these characters it can take a few days to get into the role. You’re always kind of acting so I ask “how would she walk to school today, how would she do this, how would she do that” which is okay, as long as I don’t order my coffee as one of them [laughter].”

Michelle Wilson

Michelle is a PhD studio student who works in a wide variety of media. From textiles to ceramics, this studio was a feast for the eyes.

Photo by Nicki Borland

“My media depends on the content I’m trying to express or work with. I deal with concepts of the animal and what is considered important or grievable life. So there’s a certain amount of death in it as well. These ceramic works are life-size replicas of taxidermy forms (what would go under a stuffed form). They speak of individuality in a way that the stuffed form doesn’t because that becomes a stand-in for the species or the power of man to overcome this animal and take its life.”

Colin Dorward

A PhD student as well, Colin’s studio was filled with large and small-scaled paintings you simply couldn’t take your eyes off of.

Photo by Emma Marr

“I’m a painter for the most part. I work from what’s around me, my visible surroundings. I do a lot of painting right out back [of the Visual Arts Centre]. I’ve always enjoyed working on a larger scale, it’s a different type of picture you can create when it’s big.”

Claire Bartleman

Claire’s studio felt like a funhouse. And when I say “felt like,” I really mean it. We were encouraged to touch everything… so that we did. Including her two adorable dogs!

Photo by Emma Marr

And we simply need a reaction shot!

You really should go try this for yourself. Photo by Emma Marr

“I work in painting and textiles and I’ve been working with the notion of tactility and touch in art. So all of my works are made to be touched and physically engaged with. I’m thinking about objects as visually aesthetic and if it’s then physically engaged with, how that perception might change.”

Joy Wong

This MFA student works in “painting, printmaking, text-based art” looking at “psychoanalysis in art, the abject and grotesque, decadence, [and] decay.”

Joy Wong UWO
Photo by Emma Marr

“I’m primarily a painter but have been working with a lot of pseudo-sculptural stuff right now. I’m really interested in bodily imagery and the intersection of disgust and beauty. Things that are super attractive but also super repulsive. It’s like you don’t know how to negotiate with that intersection.”

Charles Harris

Charles’ work was mesmerizing to the eye and asked you to look closer. The carved wood and symmetrical patters were fascinating and we hadn’t seen anything else like yet on the tour.

Photo by Emma Marr

“I work in relief printmaking mostly but recently have moved over to making printable structures, ones that are able to be printed by hand using the repetitive motion of the structure itself. I’m interested in the border between art and design, it’s always compelling.”

Tyler Durbano

In his first year of the MFA program, Tyler was our (previously mentioned) wonderful tour guide. His work was as fascinating as he was polite so we were in for a treat!

Chest Piece 1 Tyler Durbano UWO
Photo courtesy of Tyler Durbano

” I make artwork on the topics of gender, performance, masculinity and socially constructed identity. Currently I’m is making large-scale oil paintings, and sculptures using silicone, hair, painted wood and sheet metal.”

What a day it was! Thank you to all of the artists who met with us and shared what it is that inspires them to create. Be sure to check out the Open Studios and graduate symposium. See below for the full itinerary!

Thursday, March 30th
Open Artist Studios | 5:00pm – 9:00pm
Vs Vs Vs – 7:00-8:30 | Art Now Talk

Friday, March 31st

Open Artist Studios – 12pm – 6pm
10:00–12:30 | MA Student Colloquium
12:30–1:30 | Lunch, with Cohen Commons opening and Open Studios
1:30–2:00 | Jessica Cappuccitti (UWO) – Rui(N)ation: Narratives of Art and Urban Revitalization in Detroit
2:00–2:30 | Jill Clair from East Village Arts Collective (EVAC)
2:30–3:15 | Breakout session #1 – Collectively design a space for the community
3:15–3:30 | Break and time to re-gather in lecture hall
3.30-4pm  | Elizaveta Zhurkovskaya (OCADU) – It Is All Made Up of Stories
4:00–4:45 | Breakout session #2 – Storytelling as community building
4:45–5:00 | Break/catch up back to lecture hall
5:00–5:45 | Keith Cole Keynote Speaker
6:30 | Bus returning to Toronto
6:00–9:00 | After Party at Forest City Gallery

Feature photo by Emma Marr


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