Stephanie Foden, winner of RMG Exposed in 2016, is on the move

By Christy Chase

Photographer Stephanie Foden is going places.

Her love for photography keeps her moving year-round and her art is getting noticed, thanks in part to the Robert McLaughlin Gallery.

The former Durham Region resident won the Best Emerging Photographer award in 2016 at RMG Exposed, which raises funds for the gallery’s free arts programs. She also won the Community Choice award.

This year, Foden was selected by curator Charlotte Hale to donate a photograph for RMG Exposed: Out of This World. Her work, ‘Northern Sky’, will be part of a live auction of 10 chosen works at the Nov. 25 event.

“I’m so happy because I’ve been a big fan of the Robert McLaughlin Gallery for years,” she said, adding she’s always found the gallery warm and welcoming.

She’s also delighted her photograph is being auctioned alongside one donated by former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. A photograph of Saudi Arabia he took from the International Space Station will be sold in the featured auction.

Foden’s photograph of the Northern Lights was taken in Saskatchewan last summer and is part of her RV Diaries project.

“For the last two summers, I’ve been travelling around Canada in a motorhome,” she explained. “It’s essentially about my life on the road.”

Last year, she drove from Toronto to British Columbia, documenting her journey with her camera. This year, she headed east to Newfoundland.

And she’s done both journeys in her 1987 Chevy Elite RV.

“I’m very surprised that I made it,” she said with a laugh.

She calls herself a digital nomad, splitting her time and her photography between Brazil and Canada. The RV, which can be seen in her donated photograph, is her home base during her time here.

The cold months she spends in Brazil’s northeast coastal state of Bahia, where she stayed for more than two years after touring South America. Works from her time there were featured in her solo exhibition at the RMG this past spring, earned for her win in RMG Exposed in 2016.

Foden says the award last year has definitely helped her and her career.

She’s received other recognition since but the win at the RMG was the “first significant thing” to happen in her career and she’s grateful for it.

“Winning mostly was kind of like a confidence boost. It encouraged me to keep going on the path that I’m on,” she said.

The solo show, part of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, also saw her work featured in media outlets across the GTA.

This year, Photo Boite selected Foden as one of its 30 Under 30 women photographers. And her photograph taken for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation won the American Experience category in the Smithsonian Magazine photography competition. Her works can be found in galleries around the world.

The former Durham Region resident didn’t set out to be a photographer. She was studying print and broadcast journalism at college but developed a love for photography after buying a camera and backpacking through Asia one summer before graduation.

“I never pictured myself as a photographer. I never thought I was creative enough,” she said, adding what has happened is “ a lesson that you should just try it.”

She said her time in Brazil was “kind of like my education. That’s where I developed my voice, my vision.

“I shoot in colour. I have an eye for light, and particularly dramatic, beautiful lighting. My stories and photos have a positive angle.”

She’ll head back to Brazil in December and when she returns in the spring, she and her RV will head to the United States.

RMG Exposed: Out of This World takes place at the gallery, 72 Queen St., Oshawa, Nov. 25 from 7 to 10 p.m. There will be a featured auction, live auction of curated works, and a silent auction of works selected from submissions from national and American photographers. There will also be space-themed events. Those in attendance get to vote for the Community Choice award. Tickets are available at the gallery and at where you can also find more information about the event.

Christy Chase is a long-time resident of Oshawa and a writer. She enjoys exploring her artistic side as a volunteer at the RMG.

Not your typical art class

The RMG is rolling out 21st century learning

21st century learning is an exciting, new and impactful educational model that’s developed around an understanding of 21st century skills and knowledge; like the role technology plays in day-to-day life, being adaptable and collaborative, thinking independently and critically, and effective communication.

We’re really thrilled to be bringing this learning model to the RMG’s programming. With this new cross-curricular approach to art making, kids explore big issues with depth and meaning through a variety of imaginative exercises, sharing ideas and discussions enable them to think critically. They’ll be up and moving, acting, singing, sharing and exploring their creative capacity.

By encouraging a ‘culture of participation’ and inviting collective contributions and innovations, we’re hoping to inspire people to take control of their learning through creative and artistic expression.

Check out our new and upcoming programming for kids and adults here.

When Margaret met Alexandra

By: Raechel Bonomo

The career of an artist is contingent on change and evolution. An artist may grow through, or in reflection of, societal deviations and of course, the ones within themselves. Like Picasso in his Blue Period, in which the artist drew inspiration from poverty and his own personal suffering, these vicissitudes often reveal themselves through creation of work and are then consumed by the audience. But eventually, things for Picasso changed and subsequently so did his work – made evident by is successive Rose Period.

Art has the power to create a dialogue between its creator and its viewer. It’s a special kind of relationship, one that artist, writer and curator Margaret Rodgers developed with Painters 11 member, Alexandra Luke (1901 – 1967) through her work.

Luke has been a familiar face in many of Rodger’s projects, from her 1995 book, Locating Alexandra, to most recently as a guest curator of Legacies: Luke, McLaughlin, Donovan and MacGregor, currently on exhibition at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG).

When Rodgers first began exploring the life of Alexandra Luke [born Margaret Alexandra Luke], she believed that her and Luke were quite similar.

“I thought, ‘my name is Margaret too, I work in my attic too, came to artmaking as a professional later in life [and also] juggle family and other duties,’” says Rodgers. “Upon deeper study, I came to see the enormous gulf between an Oshawa society matron, married into the McLaughlin family, and middle-class me.”

This initial draw is what led Rodgers down the rabbit hole of what she describes as a “fascinating” fall through Luke’s work and life. In Legacies, Rodgers worked with contemporary artists, Teri Donovan and Gwen MacGregor to create modern work that reflects and celebrates the career of Luke and her contemporary, Isabel McLaughlin (1903 – 2002).

“Connecting the past to the present sets up a level of identification and understanding that enlarges the experience for everyone,” says Rodgers. “Luke and McLaughlin have a new audience in contemporary terms while Donovan and MacGregor can connect to the historical.”

As a curator, Rodgers found herself armoured with the variety and form that various kinds of artistic talent can take.

“I had no idea what each artist would decide to do, and invited them because of the kinds of work they had previously made,” says Rodgers. “Both Donovan and MacGregor rose to the challenge of riffing off Luke and McLaughlin. I like the way that Donovan has chosen to flesh out the life stories of Luke and McLaughlin, while MacGregor has created a path forward in two inclusive and diverse projects that speak to a variety of gender-related issues. I couldn’t be more pleased with the exhibition.”

Often in Rodgers’ own work, she reaches back into history and pulls out inspiration, merging it with current societal themes, such as socio-historical issues and systems of belief and cultural traditions.

“I have a deep interest in our local heritage and have done a fair amount of work that relates to Oshawa’s past,” says Rodgers. “Right now, I’m digging into my own family history to look at how people lived in late-Victorian/early 20 century Canada and making connections between life in small-town Ontario and how we live today.”

Even after a successful career as a writer, artist and curator, Rodgers isn’t retiring any time soon. Although she has declared that isn’t “hitting the ground running each day” anymore, there’s no stopping the ever-evolving work of Margret Rodgers.

“Each series [I’ve done] has engrossed me when I was doing it, and then once it’s been realized, there is a fadeout to make room for the next thing.”

You can catch Legacies: Luke, McLaughlin, Donovan and MacGregor at the RMG now until January 7, 2018.

Music, Culture, Love – Fiuran

By Stephanie Pollard

Fiuran, a Canadian Celtic band that performs songs in Scottish Gaelic blended with contemporary instruments and sounds, know their music probably won’t make the Billboard Top 100.

They don’t care.

Musicians and Scottish culture lovers Randy Waugh, Stephen Dick, Dave Mandel, Krista Grant and Zachary Stuckey came together as Fiuran (sapling), and debuted their first album Faodail (lucky find) to submit to the Junos in Spring 2016. Waugh created the band to re-connect with fellow musicians, and showcase Scottish culture by sharing old songs in new ways.

“I teach Scottish Gaelic – language and culture at the University of Ottawa (and)… I had this idea of putting together a band that fused Scottish instruments (bag pipes, Irish whistles), singing in Scottish Gaelic and (I) wanted to get re-involved with some of the folks I toured with in the 70s and 80s,” he said.

While bands singing exclusively in languages other than English hasn’t prevented international stardom, singing in Scottish Gaelic gives audiences a unique experience.

“The response we usually get is ‘we don’t know what’s going on, but it’s cool!’,” Waugh said. Some listeners get taken back to a place once forgotten, yet filled with love.

“…There might be something familiar for someone in the crowd (and they) say ‘oh my grandma used to sing that song when I was little,’ and it’s really exciting for those members of the audience because it’s a new spin on (these songs),” lead vocalist and musician Grant explained.

However, every blend doesn’t go down smoothly with everyone.

“The hardcore traditionalists don’t really like what we do because ‘we’re changing tradition,’ but we believe that no language or culture is static…we love the culture- we honour it, but we’re not stuck in the way things were done in the past,” Waugh said.

Despite some resistance, Fiuran does right by the culture they represent by putting their whole selves into the music.

“My upbringing wasn’t in the Scottish culture or even in Gaelic culture, but it’s super-duper intriguing- just learning the history, the beauty of the melodies, how passionate the songs are, it’s hard not to get hooked on it once you actually get into it…I feel very lucky that Randy invited me to be part of this project because it’s important for my spirit,” Grant said.

Fiuran plans to keep showing their love for Scottish culture by performing at First Fridays @ RMG -LEGACIES on October 6.