Vanessa Godden: RBC Emerging Artist Residency Exhibition

During their residency, Vanessa will create a series of new works in mixed media and performance. Exploring themes of immersion, acceptance, and joy, this work will embrace the complex layers of queer and diasporic identities. In particular, their research will consider how materials, cultures, and geographies can together serve as an insightful lens for understanding oneself and their place in the world. Seeking connection and support from other members of the Trinidadian diaspora in Durham Region, Vanessa’s project will be presented in the form of an exhibition and live performance.

Artist Bio:

Vanessa Godden is a non-binary Queer Indo-Caribbean and Euro-Canadian artist, educator, and curator. They are a sessional lecturer at universities across the Greater Toronto Area and a cofounder of the curatorial collective Diasporic Futurisms. Godden holds a PhD from the Victorian College of the Arts (Melbourne, Australia; 2020), an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, USA; 2014), and a BFA from the University of Houston (Houston, USA; 2012). Their transdisciplinary practice explores how the relationship between the body, personal histories, and geographic space can be conveyed in multi-sensory performances, videos, and installations.

Ioana Dragomir: not quite ever only

Adorned with drawings, trinkets, textiles, and text, not quite ever  only is an exhibition by interdisciplinary artist Ioana Dragomir. This new work, created by the artist during her residency at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG), is anchored by a homey set situated on a quilt of worn moving blankets, enclosed on three sides by a skeleton of stud walls. Hand-drawn wallpaper, sewn pockets, stickers, and research fragments form delicate layers around and within the exhibition’s central structure. Using materials she found at the gallery, including scrap wood, artist files, and exhibition catalogues, Dragomir’s work is a reflection of the transitory nature of relevance and proximity. Held in temporary and site-specific compositions, each moment in the installation is a poem for viewers to discover, in a pocket in a room inside a room, hidden in plain sight.

Over nearly six decades, the RMG has played host to numerous artists, curators, administrators, and visitors, and its collection houses thousands of artworks and archived materials. The history of any gallery is made up of these things, tangible and intangible, that lend both structure and character to the idea of that place. This is also true in reverse. The people who have made the gallery what it is carry something of this place with them: home libraries hold old catalogues; the institution’s name is listed on artists’ CVs; colleagues who became friends reminisce about when they first met. As if picking up a romance novel, Dragomir chose to be swept up by the presence of these types of stories in the gallery’s archives, drawing especially from the Joan Murray artist files, assembled in large part, and named after, the RMG’s Director Emeritus. Focusing first on artist couples, then more broadly on the theme of friendship, Dragomir savours the way private matters and poetic coincidence inevitably leak into institutional histories and her own work.

Carefully sifted and crafted by the artist, the works in not quite ever only reflect Dragomir’s own imagination and point of view as much as they reveal (or conceal) anything about her source materials, which include additions from her own friends. To borrow from Sarah Ahmed’s writing, this work is an exploration of willful misuse as Dragomir pulls text, images, artworks, and ideas from one context to place them in another. This process is an invitation to consider what is lost, gained, and retained by such an act of creation. As a gesture of collaboration, it is also an opportunity to be attentive to the surprises of temporary proximity and discover delight in the relationships that make us who we are.

Ioana Dragomir is an interdisciplinary artist currently based in Montreal, Canada. She holds an Honours BA in studio practice from the University of Waterloo, an MA in Art History and Curatorial Studies from Western University, and is currently an MFA candidate at Concordia University. Her artistic practice combines her interest in writing, literary analysis, and curation with drawing, printmaking, textiles, ceramics, and installation. In particular, poetic methodologies of juxtaposition, metaphor, and slippage are important to her practice. Her work has been exhibited at Cambridge Galleries, the plumb, Centre Clark, and Support, among others. She has organized curatorial and community-based projects for the Dundas Valley School of Art and the Landmarks Biennale in Cambridge.

Related Programming

The RBC Emerging Artist Residency Program is generously sponsored by the RBC Foundation’s Emerging Artist Project.

Kendra Yee: Commonplace

Opening + Artist Talk: March 3, 2024, 1-4pm (Artist Talk at 2pm)

Ceramic tiles have been used in architectural and interior design for thousands of years. They are found in the most private of spaces and where we gather with others. In this exhibition, Kendra Yee adopts clay tiles as a medium for expressing reverence for the ways memories function in our private and public lives. In particular, Commonplace explores how the memories we hold onto make us who we are and how sharing those stories with others binds us together.

During Yee’s residency at the RMG, community members gifted her their personal memories through online and paper submission forms and in-person workshops. In the studio, she spent time with each memory – observing how she felt, what she saw, what she read – before decorating each tile using a variety of surface design techniques inspired by the submission’s mood or event. After translating well-over 100 ethereal recollections into unique physical engravings, Yee has placed them on a long table draped in a white cloth in an archive of sorts. Laid side by side, the tiles invite remembrance and infinite speculation; they might even spur new stories as you wander from one to the next.

Making this work, Yee was curious about how we remember events from our past. She asked questions like: What does it mean to make a memory? What happens when you tell a story over and over? What about the things you can’t remember? Naming the exhibition Commonplace, Yee reflects on the power of storytelling to produce common ground for seeing and taking care of one another. She also points to the way common, everyday objects can act as souvenirs, reminding us of special people and places, or evoking vague or visceral feelings. Translating the memories she received through her personal lens, she also now holds the story fragments in herself, along with the embodied experience of making the tiles in clay. This creative act of translation is an homage to the mysterious, illusive, and persistently transformative nature of memory.

Kendra Yee (b. 1995, Tkaronto/Toronto) is an arts practitioner who seeks to materialize the truths and fictions of memory. Yee pulls tales from personal stories, lived experience and collective narratives to develop site-specific installations that carve alternative archives. Yee has programmed and exhibited with: The Art Galley of Ontario, MOCA (Toronto), Art Toronto, Patel Brown (Toronto), Heavy Manners (Los Angeles), The Artists Project (Toronto), Juxtapoz (NYC), The Letter Bet (Montreal), and Xpace Cultural Centre (Toronto).

This program is supported by the RBC Foundation’s RBC Emerging Artist Project.

The artist gratefully acknowledges support from the Canada Council for the Arts for this exhibition.


In “HEAVY/WATER/MACHINE”, artist Noah Scheinman uses a variety of materials and research methods to explore the boundaries of Durham Region, offering a panoramic view of a landscape and community shaped by industry. Swimming along the region’s southern border in the waters of Lake Ontario and travelling by car across the region’s northern highways, Scheinman meditates on the ways humans relate to the lands we live on and the local and global industries that power our everyday lives.

“RIP/RAP” is a two-channel video, which documents the artist’s swim-performance adjacent to the nuclear power plant in Pickering and stitches together archival and present-day footage of the historic radioactive waste disposal site in Port Granby. In the former, Scheinman shows the shore of Lake Ontario to be a site of permeability. With each repeated breath, Scheinman takes in views of the land, power plant, and sky before immersing his sights in the water. Each is inseparable from the other, all part of the same system. The second film considers the contrasting timescales of a single human life and the lengthier cultural epochs associated with dominant sources of energy, including the levels of consumption they permit and the generational inheritance of energy-based waste.

Scheinman’s other works draw on a variety of industrial materials, including window vinyl, broken windshield glass, and architectural remnants to fill in his visual representation of Oshawa and Durham Region. The artist also collaborated with local clothing manufacturer Frère du Nord to produce two textile sculptures using geosynthetic fabrics, which are designed to stabilize terrain in large-scale projects, such as land rehabilitation. His appropriation of these materials offers moments of poetic reflection on the physical impacts and cultural influence of large-scale energy production. Indeed, as an expression of the artist’s ongoing research, “HEAVY/WATER/MACHINE” is a rumination on the past and present systems that fuel contemporary life and an invitation into a discourse about what the future has in store.

Installation of HEAVY/WATER/MACHINE at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 2023. Images by Toni Hafkenscheid.

Related Programming

Watch the discussion panel with Katie Lawson, Ryan Osman, Dave Mowat, Laura Murray, Warren Harper, and Noah Scheinman that took place on October 14, 2023.

The RBC Emerging Artist Residency Program is generously sponsored by the RBC Foundation’s Emerging Artist Project.

pitch, slip

pitch, slip is an exhibition of new paintings by Oshawa-raised artist Alex Close concerned with the slippery nature of effort and trust. Employing organic tones beside brash bursts of colour, Close’s chaotic compositions disorient and destabilize the viewer, placing them in a position to question what they see. Like sedimentary rocks, these works are composites, not of fossils and minerals, but of abstract shapes and surface textures. For her, these works allude to distant memories and speculative places, but she is excited by the diversity of interpretations different viewers will find in these elusive planes.

The exhibition’s title might bring a handful of specific actions to mind: a singer strives to reach a certain note; a pitcher throws a ball to a player at bat; an employee pitches a new project to their boss. The title also points to a tent pitched and slippery slopes. These divergent definitions, of effort and uneven ground, all influenced the creation of this new body of work; however, Close is particularly interested in the mutual construction of meaning in public space. Her paintings invite the viewer to exert the same kind of effort they might put towards deciphering truth in an image-saturated world.

Alongside instances of voices wavering or tosses falling short, Close is also interested in the slippages of her own memory. Reflecting on an unrealistic desire to remember places and events with absolute clarity, she leans into the patchy nature of remembrance, allowing fleeting impressions to compose imperfect, but provocative images in her mind. Translating those memory maps into paintings, Close ponders the nature of trust as it relates to the images we encounter, not only in our day-to-day lives, but those preserved in our own minds. Like a fond memory reworked with each reminiscence, her compositions are approximations, ideas pitched and slipping, somehow faithful and deceptive at the same time.

This exhibition is supported by the RBC Foundation’s RBC Emerging Artist Project.

Installation of pitch, slip at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 2023. Images by Toni Hafkenscheid.

Nowhere. No, where? Now here.

Celebrate Brigitte Sampogna’s exhibition with us at our Spring Exhibitions Opening on March 31, 2023, 6pm. Brigitte will deliver an artist talk at the opening. More details to come.

In Nowhere. No, where? Now here. Brigitte Sampogna draws a connective line between laundry and the cyclical nature of self-discovery. From clothes to linens, textiles constitute an intimate layer of the material worlds we build around ourselves. Overtime, these garments pass through a, sometimes careful, sometimes hurried, cycle of personal or familial care. Stains endure scrubbing, holes are mended, and new becomes old so that layers of the past exist within the present. Eventually some articles may be discarded, while others pass to the next generation. In short, laundry is relentless, and consequently, it is an apt metaphor for the ongoing work of getting to know one’s self.

Sampogna’s installation consists of a clothesline laden with handmade garments hanging over an area of green turf. Waving in an imagined breeze, Sampogna’s textiles are constructed in translucent materials, including lace, organza, and plastic, which render them not entirely wearable. Whereas bedding, robes, and underwear typically protect, in Sampogna’s installation they are delicate and revealing, capturing the way identity formation can feel: intimate and exposing. Moreover, just like a clothesline in a suburban backyard, the garments are in plain view and therefore susceptible to scrutiny.

Nowhere. No, where? Now here. honours the role of rest and surrender in grappling with and expressing a sense of self, since, on a clothesline, each article is left to dry at its own speed. The notion of time is further explored within the installation’s title, which carries a sense of place, transformation, and now-ness into this work about identity. The installation also considers the potential for artificiality in confined spaces and the gendered nature of care work. Most importantly, it asks viewers to reflect on the stories they tell themselves about who they are and who they believe others to be.

This exhibition is supported by the RBC Foundation’s RBC Emerging Artist Project.

The Sire of Sires

The Sire of Sires is a new video work by Jordan Elliot Prosser produced during his artist residency at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery. A loose adaption of L’Après-midi d’un faune – first a poem by Stéphane Mallarmé (1876), then a symphony by Claude Debussy (1894), and then a ballet by Vaslav Nijinsky (1912) – The Sire of Siresis the latest chapter in Prosser’s expanding video series mapping personal and collective histories of Oshawa. In earlier works, Prosser turned to local landmarks such as General Motors and Parkwood Estate to reflect on the city’s precarious post-industrial identity. In this new work, he considers another performance-driven business that took root in Oshawa in the 20th century: Windfields Farm.

Through the late 20th-century, E.P. Taylor’s horse breeding enterprise at Windfields was the leading producer of Thoroughbreds in Canada, the most famous of which, Northern Dancer, was the first Canadian-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby. He retired as a sought-after studding horse at Windfields in 1965, ultimately siring the dominant lineage of Thoroughbreds world wide and earning him the title “sire of sires.” Many of Northern Dancer’s descendants achieved success in both racing and breeding, including his son Nijinsky whose namesake, Vaslav Nijinsky, was a prominent originator of modern ballet in the 20th-century.

In 1912, Nijinsky dramatized Mallarmé’s poem L’Après-midi d’un faune in a lyrical tableau set to Debussy. The original poem takes the form of an erotic monologue written from the perspective of a mythological faun on a summer’s afternoon. In Prosser’s film, the central figure journeys through Windfields’ defunct farm buildings and its surrounding suburban landscapes in a plaster horse mask. They explore the transformed rural pastures in ways that are at times curious and searching, and in others, bored and languishing. In addition to capturing a sense of this place, Prosser is interested in considering the ways that lineage and reproduction are valued in Oshawa’s industrial histories and civic identity. By drawing on the creative lineages of Mallarmé, Debussy, and Nijinsky, Prosser awkwardly inserts himself within these traditions, exploring the relationship between reproduction, legacy, and identity.

Jordan Elliott Prosser (b. 1991, Oshawa, Canada) is a multi-media artist who uses documentary methods to study the architecture of subjective experience. He received a Master of Visual Studies from the University of Toronto, a Bachelor of Architectural Studies from the University of Waterloo, and studied Literary, Musical, & Visual Thought at the European Graduate School. His work has been shown at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto, Hearth Garage, and Crutch CAC.

This exhibition is supported by the RBC Foundation’s RBC Emerging Artist Project.

Documentation by Toni Hafkenscheid.

Code Switch

Join Malik for an Artist Talk on July 21st!

In virtual spaces, expressions of identity are usually performed through avatars. Malik McKoy’s new body of work asks how these carefully mediated and constructed identities actually relate to the people they represent when they are used to connect or perform moral virtue. As an abstract self-portrait, Code Switch also considers how technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence reproduce human biases, and more specifically, how racialized bodies are subject to the harms caused by online escapism and the commodification of identity.

The exhibition features five new paintings and an augmented reality installation created during McKoy’s residency in the RBC Artist Incubator Lab. A central character appears in all six works. His shifting form and surroundings are composed of the disassembled pieces of a 3D human figure; as 2D shapes, they are unrecognizable as the basic figure McKoy built using 3D modelling software. The avatar stands in for the artist, travelling through abstract and fantastical spaces, which relate in some way to McKoy’s own online identity and the collective experience of disorientation that virtual spaces can produce.

The internet offers users the freedom to grow beyond their physical environment and try on new identities – it is also prone to prejudice, exploitation, and misinformation, when truth or identity can appear transparent one moment and opaque the next. McKoy is interested in exploring how Black and queer bodies in particular are fetishized and consumed as cultural currency. For instance, in DBLRM (Do Black Lives Really Matter), he adopts a cynical view of public promises for representation, inclusivity, and justice by highlighting the fragile balance between utopia and horror in virtual fantasies. As playful as it is discerning, Code Switch reflects McKoy’s ongoing effort to bridge his digital and paint-based practices and to grapple with the increasingly blurred line between online and offline selves.

The RBC Emerging Artist Residency Program is generously sponsored by the RBC Foundation and the RBC Emerging Artist Project.

Hįdú ɂAssı̨́i – K’inayele

Hįdú ɂAssı̨́i – K’inayele (Now Things, She Carries Them Around) by Laura Grier

Join Laura for their workshop, In Bloom: Lino Printmaking, on April 24th!

Laura Grier’s works in printmaking and word-making are expressions of relationships. In Hįdú ɂAssı̨́i – K’inayele (Now Things, She Carries Them Around), Grier works with TseYǝ́dı́ı (wood), tampons, pads, underwear, takeout containers, plastic beads, pill bottles, and Sahtúgot’ı̨nę Kede (the Bear Lake Language) to make words and patterns that adorn sheets of cotton and the gallery’s walls. These hand-carved wood block prints foil institutional expectations for printmaking by aspiring to be less precious and more useful than fine art prints on paper.

Making with wood and the Bear Lake Language teaches Grier how to recognize the potential for extending and receiving care; asking for and yielding to compromise; and cultivating joy and respect with non-human relations. Within Sahtúgot’ı̨nę Kede, Grier carves out space for their lived experiences as an urban Dene person by crafting words that reflect their reality. For Hįdú ɂAssı̨́i – K’inayele (Now Things, She Carries Them Around) specifically, Grier shares words that describe the floral designs of their textile works, honouring their self-care while confronting the tension they feel about menstruation and its associated waste.

Each design in this new body of work began as experimental drawings made with objects from Grier’s life related to bodies and periods. Grier translated those marks into digital form, then combined them with others into patterns reminiscent of Dene textiles. Though not sewn with beads, this imagery allows Grier to connect with the visual language of Dene craft as a printmaker. The work also creates opportunities for Grier to contemplate the harder-to-recognize relationships in plastic, whose versatility as menstrual products or pill bottles tends to disguise its deep-earth origins. Camouflage is at work in Hįdú ɂAssı̨́i – K’inayele too. As it invites moments of disorientation and discovery, the work asks you to look with fresh eyes on the materials that populate your everyday life.

The RBC Emerging Artist Residency Program is generously sponsored by the RBC Foundation and the RBC Emerging Artist Project.

Laura Grier is a Délı̨nę First Nations artist and printmaker, born in Somba ké (Yellowknife), and raised in Alberta. Through the use of traditional print mediums, they instrumentalize the power of the handmade to reflect political sociology, culture, ecology, and Indigeneity. Responding to lived experiences of urban displacement as a Dene woman through print, Laura’s work is also inspired by the dynamism of Indigenous art practices and uses printmaking as a tool for resistance, refusal, and inherent Bets’ı̨nę́. They hold a BFA from NSCADU (K’jipuktuk) and an MFA from OCAD University (Tkaronto). They have exhibited at Xpace Cultural Centre, Harcourt House, DC3 Art Projects, SNAP Gallery, and ArtsPlace. Laura has received grants and awards for their work, including the Indigenous project grants from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Toronto Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, and was the 2018 RISE Emerging Artist recipient. They currently reside in Tkaronto.

This exhibition is supported by the RBC Foundation and the RBC Emerging Artist Project.

How to Give Ghosts a Sunburn

How to Give Ghosts a Sunburn by Florence Yee

Exhibition: October 30 – December 5, 2021

Join us for an Interactive Artist Talk on Zoom with Florence Yee on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 at 6-7pm.

In this exhibition, Florence Yee presents recent embroidery and text-based artworks that dissect the motives, values, and assumptions that produce public monuments. Drawing on commemorative methods like bronze casting and photography, Yee recontextualizes experiences from their own life to create works that favour process over completion, uncertainty over authority, and consensual recognition over exploitation.

The exhibition’s title reveals a few important things about Yee’s work, including a recurring theme in their practice: futility. Without skin, sunburns are likely a nonissue for ghosts; in this context, How to Give Ghosts a Sunburn reveals Yee’s skepticism of monument-making itself. Nevertheless, the ‘how-to’ title gives the unmistakable impression that this work seeks an approach to monument-making despite these doubts. It also reveals the type of monument Yee is after, one that, through close proximity and searing attention, proves the existence of something immaterial or gives temporary shape to that which is hard to define.

In two of the works, Yee has embroidered the word “proof” across the surface of two images. One is of the Anti-Displacement Garden in Toronto’s Chinatown and the other is a moment of queer intimacy. The watermark designates these works as prototypes, but it also indicates Yee’s desire for the series to be read as evidence of small, but vital gestures: in this case, acts of resistance to gentrification and queer love respectively. Other works explore how memories can fade or spread like a virus, and another posits whether multitudes can be held within commemorative acts. How to Give Ghosts a Sunburn assembles these recent ruminations and invites audiences to consider their relationship to these and other monuments to memory.

The RBC Emerging Artist Residency Program is generously sponsored by the RBC Foundation and the RBC Emerging Artist Project.

Florence Yee is a visual artist and recovering workaholic based in Tkaronto/Toronto and Tiohtià:ke/Montreal. Their practice uses text-based art, sculpture, and textile installation through the intimacy of doubt. Their work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art (2021), the Art Gallery of Ontario (2020), the Textile Museum of Canada (2020), and the Gardiner Museum (2019), among others. Along with Arezu Salamzadeh, they have co-founded the Chinatown Biennial in 2020. They obtained a BFA from Concordia University and an MFA from OCAD U.

This exhibition is supported by the RBC Foundation and the RBC Emerging Artist Project.