Photo credit: Angeline Simon
“Making art is very fun, and it's very inspiring. Sometimes it's also tedious, repetitive work, and some days you don't feel like doing it. But if you consistently put in the time and do the work, it's really rewarding. You get to have these exciting moments with an exhibition or an art sale or something where you get to connect with people and you get to share your work with others.”
Courtney Faulkner has made memories to last a lifetime during her time as a student at the University of Lethbridge. As they prepare to cross the stage and begin their next journey, Courtney reflects on their time spent at ULethbridge.
Courtney is graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art Studio. Prior to attending ULethbridge, Courtney received a diploma in Communication Arts from Lethbridge College and worked in marketing and public relations before deciding to come back for more post-secondary education.
She says she always felt attracted to the art department and had close friends who were students. She joined a friend in taking a summer sculpture class - and the rest is history.
“It was just super fun. I had such a good time in that class, I loved it, I was just excited to be thinking about sculpture and what I was going to make for my next project and exploring the world in that way. I signed up for full-time classes for the fall and I just knew that's what I wanted to dedicate my time to.”
Her commitment to her artistic practice is evident. In her first year at the University, she won the Young Artist Award from the Allied Arts Council in 2017, which recognized her as a young emerging artist. That spring she was also hired at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery to offer gallery tours for their longest running exhibition, Arts Alive and Well in the Schools, showcasing student art from K-12 in the Lethbridge School Division.
Courtney was then awarded the Roloff Beny Photographic Award in 2019, which allowed them to travel to Mexico City to study Frida Kahlo. They also received the David Lanier Memorial Award for excellence in photography in 2018, and won the Medalta Student Residency Award in 2020, which gave them the opportunity to attend a month-long ceramics residency at Medalta in Medicine Hat.
Winning these awards shaped Courtney’s artistic practice and contributed to the development of their undergraduate honours thesis, where she focused on the connections between ritual, witchcraft and queerness. Working with slip cast ceramics, they made nearly a hundred replicas of a rabbit vibrator that were subsequently bisque fired. However, before Courtney could showcase their work, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all exhibitions and gatherings.
Courtney says this really transformed her thesis. Rather than showcasing these sculptures in a public space, she documented them in her garden, experimenting with various interactions.
“I would have never done this if I didn't have to work from home. I ended up taking these objects and stacking them in the garden next to some violets that were blooming or tying string to them and lifting them off the ground, and rearranging them on mirrors with the reflection of the sky,” Courtney says.
“I accidentally broke a bunch of them because the string broke when I picked them up and I caught it all on video, and the video ended up sort of telling its own story as it was being made. Then the final video, it was raining outside, and I dug a hole in my garden and I buried them.”
Courtney’s thesis exhibition, you are the witch, I am your cat, was shown at the Dr. Foster James Penny Gallery and contained photography from her trip to Mexico City and ceramic alters with tiny ritual objects that she made during her Medalta Residency. She says the project was centred around intimacy with yourself. She also included videos of her performance with the ceramic rabbits in her garden, paintings, and an alteration of her rose petal grid, this time arranging the petals in a circle.
“It sort of became about grieving and letting go, in the sense that I buried these objects at the end. They just lived in my garden for a year before I dug them up and showed them in my final thesis exhibition.”
Courtney says their favourite memories of ULethbridge are working in their studio space and making connections with other artists. One of the most important lessons they learned during their education was how to be a better artist.
“I learned how to think more critically about my work and how to connect my work to a broader narrative. I learned the importance of understanding your place within a lineage of artists. Before I went to school I had this independent view of art making, and that it should be original and unique. Now I'm more interested in making work that's in connection with other artists, and understanding that there's been very important movements in art that have made meaning in the world for everyone.”
Courtney is already working to share her appreciation of art with others, having worked as the Public Engagement & Event Coordinator at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery Maansiksiksitsitapiitsinikssin for three years. She is now excited to transition into a new role as the Education Manager at Casa, the community art centre downtown. She says she is interested in exploring her ceramics practice in-depth and doing more artist residencies, particularly in Mexico City, and plans to pursue an MFA in the future.
Courtney’s journey as an artist at ULethbridge truly showcases the range of opportunities the department has to offer. Their advice to incoming art students is to make friends with others in their classes.
“If you see someone who's making artwork that you're interested in, chances are they're also interested in your work and would like to talk to you about it. Speak up in your critiques and be an active participant in your classes. Go to that artist’s studio that you think is interesting and chat them up,” Courtney says.
“I really encourage you to just be active in your degree, because I feel like I was very active in my degree and now I have these friendships and relationships that continue beyond my time at school. If you graduate and you stay in the city, or even if you move to a new city, the arts community in Canada is pretty connected. These relationships will serve you well beyond your degree.”
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