Alumni Spotlight: Kim Edgar
by Victorya Montbleau
Welcome everyone to the Ottawa School of Art Blog 2018. As a second year student in the diploma program, I’m very excited to feature Kim this month. It won’t be long before many of us currently at the OSA become alumni! I’m sure we will all go in our own exciting and unique direction. Here is a glimpse into what life after OSA can be like!
Can you tell me a little about you? Where you’re from, how you got interested in art, what inspires you?
I’m originally from Ottawa, specifically Kanata, so I grew up in the suburbs. I’ve been interested in art my entire life, and have been drawing since I could hold a pencil. My great grandmother was a painter (who went to the OSA actually!) and she used to bring me art supplies, talk to me about colour, about paint, about her studio. We would draw together. I don’t really paint anymore but her influence still is strong; she was an eccentric, creative woman.
Currently, what inspires me (and what my body of work is about) is discomfort, and the therapeutic aspect of art, using it as a tool to push myself through topics I am uncomfortable with. Visually I take a lot of influence from biological diagrams/drawings, plants, insects, the natural world, tattoos, and the visual language and colour palette associated with current queer and soft-femme political art.
Can you tell me about your current art practice? What are you making and what materials are you using? What inspires you to make the things you do?
My artistic practice is varied but loosely based off of me confronting things I find uncomfortable or challenging or difficult. In the past that’s taken the form of Insect Street art (a fear of transgressing laws, of being out at night alone as a female, of insects), sculptures of dead animals (a fear of bodily decay), or performance with the league of lady wrestlers (discomfort with gender roles and expectations of women to be everything to men, discomfort with stigmas around mental health and ‘madness’ and exploring my own relationship to that).
Currently, I just received a small production grant from an organization in Toronto to produce and print a small comic book I am writing that explores sexualized assault, the trauma experienced, and the reactive emotions one experiences afterwards in an amoral way. The comic will be about my own experiences of assault (which is kind of hard to write about, but that’s the point), through the lenses of fictional characters. Then, these characters metabolize their trauma through a bacchanalia-like, intoxicated, and violent parade in which they kill their assailants. It’s really violent. But its meant to explore without judgment the hurt and anger that is a response to such traumas. Its not condoning violence, obviously, but merely saying “this is a thing many survivors feel”. Survivors feel rage, and that’s ok. We need constructive ways to metabolize that anger, or it becomes unhealthy.
In what ways has your art evolved since you graduated from OSA?
I guess my art has evolved in that I have had new experiences that I have assimilated into my art experience. The basic trajectory has remained more or less the same, though, in that I am still drawn toward projects that expose me to things I want to work through, things I would rather not look at. Art as therapy, in a way. I have experimented with new mediums since leaving the
OSA. I studied printmaking when I was there, and I find my practice has moved on to other forms, like textiles, sculpture, comic books, performance. I consider myself an interdisciplinary artist who chooses a medium based on what would work for the project. I’ve also since moved up north for 3.5 years, spent 6 months in India/Nepal, and moved to Toronto, all of which has left its imprint in the visual language I use.
What have you been up to since graduating and where has visual art taken you? (What opportunities and experiences have you had?)
My whole life since OSA is dictated by art, to some degree. When I was in Ottawa, I was able to be part of a group show at gallery 101 that was really validating, thanks to connections I’d made at OSA! I also did an installation at fieldwork in 2015, again hearing about the space through the
OSA. Living in an incredibly artistic community in the far north gave me opportunities to hone my teaching skills, allowed me to join the performance arts collective the League of Lady
Wrestlers, gave me myriad showing opportunities and the ability to create art in a very fertile, rural context, with other like-minded folks. I also was able to meet a lot of artists through
Dawson City’s residency program which was an excellent way to cross-fertilize my practice, and I even sat on the jury for the residency program as well as the odd gallery. I did a residency in Amsterdam upon graduating OSA for silkscreen and sculpture research, a residency in Vancouver in 2015 to experiment with making more sculptures and an installation, and a residency in Nepal with my partner this past march of 2017 to collaborate on a comic book. I’ve met so many amazing people through my work with LOLW and KIAC, and now in Toronto my experience teaching and leading programs in Dawson City has gotten me a job teaching children and youth art at the AGO. I also have a tattoo apprenticeship I’ve just started, and have gotten a small production grant, so the next couple of months will be all about me making this comic book and tattooing. I’ve been super lucky that I am part of a supportive community of artists, queers, and weirdos who have helped me and really sustained me through my practice.
I thought it was nice to chat about how the community aspect of OSA was/is such a positive thing. I’m wondering if you have any reflections on how OSA’s learning environment has influenced the way you engage in the greater art community? Did any teachers, students, or staff inspire you?
Ugh YES! I loved how community oriented the OSA was! Having a small school where everyone knows your name and wants to help you was such a wonderful base to grow. The fact that the school isn’t some big corporation but is instead a registered charity made it a) accessibly priced and b) didn’t make me feel like I was just money for them! Everyone there seemed genuinely invested in fostering creativity in the students and in helping. It was such a fertile, welcoming atmosphere. I think all of my teachers influenced me to be honest! The whole experience was so foundational. I don’t want to leave anyone out? Guillermo Trejo has always been so supportive of me and I really valued that, he’s helped me get into certain shows and generally just been such a good influence. My mentorships with Rob Hinchley (in lithography) and Carla
Whiteside (in installation) were super important!! Especially the installation apprenticeship with
Carla, it introduced me to a whole other visual language of space that I had previously never even thought of, including a couple of books and readings that were actually super important to me (especially The Poetics of Space by Bachelard). Erin Robertson and Dawn Dale were also incredible professors for open studio, Erin also showed me Fieldwork, which I later had an installation at. Farouk Kaspaules, Gail Bourgeois, Chantal Gervais, really any of the professors I had in my final year were such a huge inspiration. Also of course the late Jim Thomson, who taught me ceramics. Honestly though all the staff and my co-students were all such great people to be around.
Do you have any art goals or an idea of where you want to go with art in the future?
I don’t know if I have any concrete goals beyond wanting to be able to support myself creatively, whatever that means. I currently have an Etsy shop and have been tempering the comic work
I’m doing (which is heavy and exhausting) with fun, cute illustrations. I think fundamentally I want to make work exploring and engaging with the world and with the problems I experience and see. I want people to be able to relate to it somehow. I think, in the state of the world we live in right now, that work should be political to some degree. It’s kind of our duty, as artists. We can’t just plug our ears and pretend not to notice the shit going on around us, that’s irresponsible. I don’t want to make luxury goods for the extreme wealthy to trade in. I make work through the lens of my own experience, sure, but that lens is focused on and observing the world I live in. I don’t want to be blind to that.
When I say art should be political, this doesn’t mean all work should be the same, or even overtly about politics, but that you need to make work that engages with or reflects the world you live in somehow. The personal can be political, of course, so making work that is personal isn’t necessarily apolitical. I have a very wide definition of what is considered ‘political’. But work needs to engage with the world. You can engage with it in a direct manner, or through engaging with yourself and your own vulnerabilities, but I want my art to be challenging to someone, ideally. Whether I’m there yet or not, that’s my goal.
Any words of wisdom for current students? (In terms of after graduation, but could also be as a student!)
Use all that studio space and those resources while you have them!! Studio space is ^%$#@! expensive when you graduate!! Absorb as much of it as you can.
Also, I try to just create things first, and be critical later. I don’t think I personally can put on my critical thinking hat while I’m making things, I have to make intuitively and then use critical thinking skills afterwards to push in new directions. Not everyone makes things this way, mind you, but it’s nice to try this out to see if that’s something that works for you. My process is intuitive making, then critical analysis, then using the critical analysis to push myself in a different direction. I tried and failed to make things with a critical analysis or a concept first. If you find that’s not working for you, try to work intuitively first! Everyone works differently though; so don’t compare your practice too harshly to others. Also, take in a lot of different kinds of artists, a lot of different kinds of practices, a lot of different kinds of mediums, and take the philosophies and ideas that work for you. Have a variety of influences.
I remember Mashid Farhoudi telling us, in one of these sort of wonderful tell-it-like-it-is rants that she used to make in class, that “being an artist is the hardest job in the world”. Mashid is a tough woman, and I never questioned her for a second. And it’s true. Trying to make a living as an artist basically means you are constantly working. You never have time off. You’re doing side gigs to make money (if you’re lucky) or you’re working a full time job you don’t want to make art on the side (if you’re unlucky). You’re constantly being rejected for 90% of the things you apply for. When you do get an opportunity, suddenly you have tons of work to do. And people judge artists very harshly. I think being an artist means sticking with it out of either necessity (I can’t imagine myself doing anything else), out of foolhardy determination, and learning to be flexible in your practice (for example, taking on tattooing in my case, which I am interested in and could feasibly support myself on, or an acquaintance I know who started an art center and considers the space she created to be part of her practice of ‘social sculpture’). And having a side-career isn’t a bad thing, I suppose. I don’t know?
Also, don’t get intimidated and lose the actual joy of making in the first place. I think that’s easy to do, to want your work to be watertight or conceptually sound and to stress out over that.
While that is fine, don’t let that paralyze you. Remember that most of us got here through a genuine love and joy taken from making things. Go back to that joy periodically; rekindle the fun part of art. It doesn’t ALWAYS have to be hard (and it will be hard, a lot).
I don’t know if I know a lot about being an artist (I still consider myself an emerging new artist) but these are some things that I have learned I guess.
Thanks for reading!