Artist Sandra Brewster gives a Sawyer seminar on art, migration and memory
His pieces, a video projection and eight worn grayscale portraits of out-of-focus black subjects on a white background, are on display at the Hartnett Art Gallery in an exhibition titled “Precious Sense”, the latest installment in his series titled ” Blur”.
His process gives his pieces a weathered appearance, with creases, tears and print imperfections that mimic the look of old photographs. Subjects sit and move around while being photographed using a slow shutter speed. She manipulates the images, prints them upside down, uses a gel to transfer them to archival paper, then erases the original media to leave only the ink.
She discussed her work on Zoom with a small in-person audience at the Humanities Center on Wednesday. The lecture was part of Sawyer’s “Unbordering Migration in the Americas” seminar series which, according to their website“enables interdisciplinary research into the movement of peoples in the Western Hemisphere both past and present, with an emphasis on issues of social justice.”
Brewster said her art is about migration, memory, community, identity, intimacy – all topics she covered during the runtime of the “Blur” series.
The relocation of her parents to Canada from Guyana in the late 1960s is a central source of inspiration for her work. She said her pieces take the idea of migration and embody it in the movement of her subjects while commenting on the preciousness of the memories passed down.
In fact, she started the talk by presenting the audience with examples of weathered old photographs of her parents from the 1960s and 1970s to highlight this inspiration.
“I often refer to the artwork’s connection to old photographs and the preciousness of these tangible archival pieces that we keep, no matter how tattered they are,” she said via email. mail. “They can be fractured, crumpled and tattered but at the same time beautiful because they mean so much to us.”
The blurring of his subjects’ faces also serves as a commentary on the tension between maintaining individuality while being part of a group, and negative media portrayals and perceptions of minority communities.
“What also interested me was the inability to fix these people,” Brewster said. “One of my continuing interests is the whole perception of certain communities as monolithic, the idea that people from the same community are the same despite the richness of each person’s individuality.”
Leaving the viewer unable to pin down the identities of the subjects, the facial blurring in Brewster’s art aims to emphasize everyone’s right to retain parts of themselves even while embracing community, she says.
“Precious Sense” is open for free at the Hartnett Art Gallery on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. until February 19, and the Sawyer Seminar Series will hold lectures periodically throughout the semester.