In the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s ArtLab studio, the participants of the gallery’s Dazzle Camouflage intensive teen summer art camp are building a large hanging sculpture out of spiralling, interconnected pieces of coloured paper.
The 11 teenage artists have been working with visiting artist Elizabeth Milton from Vancouver, whose practice focuses on theatricality and performance. She said the students were studying the absurdist sculptural costuming of the Dadaist and Bauhaus traditions.
“The students did drawings of some of the shapes that they saw in the costumes and then cut them out this way and now we’re reassembling them into kind of a sculptural form that’s going to be a bit of a jumping-off point for costumes that we then further build,” Milton explained. “So we’re working through a series of short, little exercises that are all eventually accumulating and going to lead towards a performance that we do.”
The Dazzle Camouflage participants have also been working with audio and video artists Elisa Ferrari, John Brennan, Charlotte Zhang and Steven Thomas Davies, whose work all appears in the gallery’s current exhibition, Estuary. Next week the students will present their own work in an exhibition, entitled divining, inspired by the estuary ecosystem. Dazzle Camouflage writer-in-residence Charlotte Taylor has been documenting the process online.
“I’ve been looking at it more loosely and through this idea of transformation or this shifting that happens through bodies of water,” Milton said. “And so we’ve been talking actually a lot about collage and remix culture and some of those possibilities. So how we’re working through this is almost taking one thing and mutating it into another form.”
This is 14-year-old Sonam Maki’s first year in the camp. She decided to sign up after taking part in the gallery’s Code Switching art program this school year.
“I’m comfortable with oil paint and acrylic paint and drawing, but I really love contemporary art, too, like sculpture, installation, performance or unconventional things that aren’t always super traditional and this program gives me a lot more of a chance to actually do it and experiment with it,” she said.
Fellow Code Switcher Daphne Davidson, 16, is back for her second year. She said Dazzle Camouflage was “probably the most life-changing art experience for me.”
“I felt like I learned a lot about what art is and what it could be and in general I think I just refined my skills a lot and I learned a lot about new mediums, about collaboration, about contemporary art and, really, it made me want to continue doing art,” she said.
Dazzle Camouflage coordinator Yvonne Vander Kooi said this year’s class of young artists is eager to participate various exercises and engage with the guest artists.
“They’re a wonderful group and they’re a lot of fun to work with and they’re really open and curious [about] different ideas and how they can push that,” she said.
WHAT’S ON … Dazzle Camouflage exhibition divining opening reception at the Nanaimo Art Gallery, 150 Commercial St., on Wednesday, Aug 28 at 7 p.m. Show continues on Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.