Finding your voice

SMUS-Views-Bob

Student Art on Display at the McPherson Playhouse

This winter term a few voices have been lost, actually, as a rather distorting cold virus has run through our staff and students. A notable lost voice was that of Brian Christensen, who was forced to be atypically quiet at our weekly Prefect meeting on Monday. Brian has a lead role in the upcoming production of My Fair Lady – thankfully, since Monday, Brian’s voice has improved dramatically. Nor is the current cold snap – bright sunny frigid days more typical of the prairies than Victoria – encouraging those lost voices to return to their owners. Lots of vitamin C is disappearing from the shelves of stores our community frequents.

Students find their voices eventually – and even frequently – if they have enough opportunities. The arts create opportunities for students to try out their voices, and also to develop the confidence and security for those voices to be enjoyed. Last week, we at the Senior School watched a production, mainly en français, of Cyrano de Bergerac. Next week, as I mentioned, we have My Fair Lady. The following week, the Middle School is producing Oliver. And if you happen to be attending either of these last two productions, then you can also have a look at the Senior School artwork on display at the McPherson Theatre Gallery.

This Art Show opened on Monday night at the McPherson, a wonderful space that our Art teachers have laid claim to in order to give our students’ work a wider audience. It is impressive work, in a variety of media, featuring a variety of students, including our Advanced Placement Art students, some of whom have already received acceptances and scholarships to attend art college in various locations in Canada and the United States. What is remarkable about these pieces is their vibrancy, their accessibility, and their capacity to be thought-provoking.

I remember always being puzzled by most modern, non-representational art. For example, I found the work of Jackson Pollock, whose best-known work consists of many, many arcs and irregular circles of paint dripped onto a canvas. Like many, I looked askance at such offerings, wondering if there wasn’t a bit of the charlatan in the artist, sort of like Salvador Dali taking pictures of sopping wet cats thrown into the air. About ten years ago I went to a retrospective of Pollock’s work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and was compelled (compelled myself, actually, so don’t feel sorry for me) to digest what he was trying to do. In a nutshell, I came away from that two-hour stroll and rumination with a few glimmers; that these were very personal expressions of Pollock’s inner angels and demons, and that that was entirely what they were: pure self-expression, making their impact because he was so pure and uncompromising in his demand that the viewer make the effort to approach the work, rather than vice versa. A rather pure example, too, of someone finding a voice. Interestingly, his last pieces show him trying to introduce some order and shape to this expression.

None of our student art on display at the McPherson is so self-centred. The subjects and the technique definitely convey personalities finding their voices, constructing a form and vehicle that is a more inviting path to their very personal perceptions than you would find in Jackson Pollock. There are numerous examples of sensibilities working toward – or achieving – originality. Common themes are given a personal shape, common techniques are used in the service of personal vision. Do take some time and visit the McPherson Gallery, both upstairs and downstairs outside the theatre doors. Students finding the courage to speak, sing, dance, paint, perform – whatever medium their voices employ. Sends a shiver through you.

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Bob Snowden
Bob Snowden was Head of School at St. Michaels University School for 22 years, from 1995-2017.

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