Artist of the Week – Jennifer Wilson-Bridgman

May 17, 2012 § 11 Comments

Jennifer Wilson-Bridgman

“We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.” Desmond Tutu, on ubuntu

Her eyes, even in the most dim conditions, seem to sparkle with an inner light. They dance, they laugh, they sing. She possesses one of those rare and pure gazes that has the ability of seeing right into a person. It is not invasive or unwelcome; you simply get the feeling that she wants to connect, to share stories and emotions, to bridge that part of all of us that keeps us apart: space.

The many years that Jennifer Wilson-Bridgman has spent in selfless service, being involved in missions from an early age in Asia and Europe, becoming an elementary teacher and  a professor, then using those skills as the president of a Christian humanitarian organization working in parts of Africa and the Caribbean to improve education for children, have served to shape both her and her outlook on life.

Some might argue that pulling away from those efforts, giving it all up to create art, well, it might seem a hair… selfish. Until, upon seeing her creations, you realize that she is undoubtedly doing the world a greater service by becoming an artist.

“My aim is to evoke universal emotions in the viewer that will encourage him or her to tap into the spirit of “Ubuntu”:  what it means to be truly human – “to be wrapped up in the bundle of life”,” she writes.  “I have become profoundly aware of how interconnected we are – with each other and with nature. Art is a vehicle through which I can explore and honour that.”

There is unquestionably in all of her artwork a touch of the whimsical, a hint of fancy. But when you actually look at her work, you will find countless other attributes that are nuanced and revealed with such subtlety and nobility, that you will wonder why it has taken Jennifer so long to share her inner-artist with us.

Her mixed-media pieces are liable to be made of nearly anything from metal and wood to glass and eggshells. The juxtaposition of these materials is equally as stunning as the work themselves: on the one hand there is a feeling of permanence, a sense of longevity and durability; yet, the organic materials incorporated flawlessly into the work reveal a fragility and offer the distinct impression that the function of everything on earth is ephemeral, merely awaiting its next stage where it will be re-purposed and given a new task.

Of all of her pieces, each one unique with no duplications, perhaps one of the most striking and powerful is that titled Offering. Made of river stones, burlap, concrete, branches, and metal it depicts a woman kneeling with her arms raised, hands in a gesture of giving, and face tilted toward the heavens. When looking at it, you’re struck by an overwhelming sense of power; there is no surrender in her offer, no weakness. The woman is offering herself, as she is – heart, body, mind, and soul – to a greater power, and in this way shows her vulnerability as well. There is no weakness, true, but in offering everything she has to give, there is without question a sense of vulnerability: what if her offering is refused?

       

Jennifer cast various pieces of herself for the project: hands, feet, face, torso, buttocks. And, while it was a very emotional piece to create due to its symbolic connections with the artist’s own beliefs, the sculpture itself maps out beautifully what it means to truly be a woman: strength and sacrifice.

And, what it takes to be human: courage and hope.

We can’t wait to see what Jennifer creates next. She has been recognized by the college not only for her exceptional work but also her consistently positive outlook on life, and will be the valedictorian for this year’s graduating class. Jennifer was also recently nominated for the BMO Student Art Competition and our fingers are crossed for her!

For more information about Jennifer Wilson-Bridgman, please contact her by email at jwilsonbridgman@sympatico.ca or by phone at 905-730-8839 . Her website will be coming soon!

picture of jennifer wilson-bridgman

Jen, doing teacher development training in Kenya, makes friends with a couple of “orphelines”…

Artist of the Week – Ashley Kirby

February 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Ashley Kirby

Her jewellery journey began in 6th grade when she purchased a Fimo bead and hemp bracelet how-to book. By tenth grade, she was already selling her jewellery at a flea market just outside of Parry Sound. Before the end of high school, she’d “tried it all” – as much as any eighteen year-old can delve into… Hemp, gimp, beading, weaving… She even took a drawing and painting class here and there.

Now, a two-time graduate of HSTA’s Certificate programs, she’s begun to bring it all together: years slaving away making knotted jewellery trained her for the complex wire knots and beaded masses that she calls rings. “Almost all of the rings are one single piece of wire, woven in and out with beads, pearls, and crystal. Each ring tends to take on a life of its own. I generally let the beads and the wire dictate to me how the ring will be shaped. It makes every single one unique.”

And indeed they are. From cocktail parties to everyday fun, the bright colours and one-of-a-kind construction certainly make for a great piece. “I started off with the idea of having a ‘Champagne Collection’; you know, mostly bridal and black-tie bijoux. But, I just couldn’t resist the colours… Whether I wear it with jeans or a fancy dress, just wearing one of the rings brightens my mood.” Not that her mood needs much brightening, when she attended HSTA she was always caught with a smile on her face. Best of all, this young woman is proof positive that a particular area of study, does not dictate what medium an artist works in. Her areas of study? Blacksmithing and Photo Arts…

“Well, when I took the blacksmithing program,” she explains, “mostly it was because I’ve always been drawn to history prior to about 1900. I’m the sort of person that still seals envelopes with wax when I send letters to my friends.” She sends letters? Like in the actual mail with stamps? “As for the photography… well, I’d always wanted to take photography in high school and simply never had the chance… So I came here to remedy that.”

Today, she blends (very) small-scale metalwork with various beads into delightfully colourful, fun, fresh, and elegant jewellery. And her camera is there to document it.

Ashley can create custom jewellery to match any occasion or taste, as well as size. Each piece is individually made. She can be reached at 226-929-6871 or visit her website at www.ank-designs.com where she can be reached via email.

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