Ruth Skinner






Despite a sense of loss there was an air of optimism

This selection of student works and convictions, from the first 50 years of Western University's Visual Arts Department, coincided with the ArtLab Gallery's 50th Anniversary Alumni Exhibition.

The title excerpts a 1985 essay co-written by students Lesley Soden (Art History & Criticism) and Carolyn Vesely (Studio-Fine Art) to introduce their graduating show. Soden and Vesely continue: "The year's success was met through challenge," a sentiment echoed throughout five decades of Department experience and ephemera:

"Despite much opposition and at time great doubts, you have pulled together," Duncan de Kergommeaux (1974);

"It is with a feeling of great anxiety and anticipation for the future we are waiting for," Isaac Han (1987);

"The students have become increasingly excited and somewhat apprehensive of what may well be their ultimate visual experience," Maurice Stubbs (1974);

"This thesis is dedicated to the ducks in Harris Park behind my apartment," Shinobu Akimoto (1999).

The exhibition constellated published ephemera from student exhibitions, graduate theses, and hundreds of archival photographs of student work throughout the first five decades of the Department's history. The foyer to the space included an enlarged 1994 photograph by the late Brenda MacEachern showing the former site of the Visual Arts Department. MacEachern was Curator of the Visual Resources Library for more than four decades and her materials were invaluable resources for this exhibition. The exhibition took (heavy) curatorial, conceptual and aesthetic cues from artist-educator Fia Backström's 2015 counter-exhibition project, lesser New York.