Expressing what you are and what you are not

Thomas Hamlyn’s work sat on the floor in the middle of the VAV Gallery during Smelted. Photo by Hannah Ewen.

Smelted: An exploration of oneself

To cap off Smelted, VAV’s most recent student-run exhibition, some of the artists spoke about their pieces and the mediums they used to showcase their quest for identity.

The 11 students selected for this exhibition used funky materials such as terracotta, sofa cushions and even candy to express aspects of their individual identities. Using media  ranging from acrylic and oil paint to woodworking and photography, the artists explored themes related to materialism, health and sexuality.

Alicia Turgeon designed a flexible, ergonomic table and chair.
Photo by Hannah Ewen.

For Alicia Turgeon, a former industrial design student, her quest meant working on her cognitive and sensory particularities by making ergonomic furniture. After 20 tests and three prototypes, she presented Prompt 01-02, a wooden chair and coffee table with flexible features.

“To me, this piece was all about showing the process,” Turgeon said. The result is not final, but the chair embodies her idea. “I am still working on finding a way so that someone can actually sit on it.”

Isaac Smeele’s work explores breeding and consumerism. He presented Candyland, a textured, colourful portrait of a teddy bear made of candy, moss and garbage.

Isaac Smeele’s Candyland explores breeding and consumerism.
Photo by Hannah Ewen

Since Smeele selected items that decompose, he used large amounts of acrylic to exemplify and capture the hoarding of things. With the acrylic used to set the piece, he estimated it will stay intact for 10 years.

Family also played an important role in Smeele’s personal evolution. “I wanted to show something about how we tend to sugarcoat the hardest parts of ourselves,” he said. “As a father now, I realize the parts of myself that I need to work on.”

On the other hand, Meghan O’Kill-Dearden presented Things I like to Collect, an assemblage of meaningful objects she has accumulated over time. She recreated purses and bags with terracotta, glazes and epoxy. She also integrated elements that were intact such as dried flowers and fruit pits.

“I wanted to show how collecting objects can comfort me,” O’Kill-Dearden said. “[My work] questions their functionality and the enjoyment of these objects.”

Matieu Marin’s photographs explore chronic illness and the impact of medicine on his body.
Photo by Hannah Ewen.

All the pieces in the exhibition show some sort of internal reflection and questioning. Some do so with a lighter tone, and others with a darker approach, such as Matthieu Marin’s work. For him, that self-reflection happened using a self-portrait made with a digital camera. He examined his chronic illness and the impact of medicine on his body through photography. In the two pictures he presented, Marin is naked and uses motion blur (with the movement of his arm) to demonstrate the impact of medicine on his body.

“I wanted to show what it means to embody a sick body,” Marin said.

Smelted gave viewers intimate access to the artists’ personal introspection. It immersed the viewer in a world where they found themselves contemplating and questioning their ideas of identity. The exhibition successfully showcased vulnerability, uncertainty and, for some of the artists, finding purpose.


The VAV Gallery holds exhibitions every three weeks and will be accepting submissions for their fall programming until Sept. 14, including their special Black History Month in November exhibition. All submitting artists must be enrolled in at least one fine arts course during the 2018-19 academic year. More information can be found on their website:


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