Chicago-based visual art alumnus Brendan Fernandes (BFA ’02) is the 2019 Louis Odette Sculptor-in-Residence at York University. One of the five Ontario artists nominated for a Sobey Art Award, Fernandes works at the intersection of dance and visual arts.
During his residency, Fernandes will be develop new work related to his recent exhibitions: Ballet Kink, which premiered at the Guggenheim Museum and The Master and Form, currently part of the Whitney Biennial.
For the public component of the residency, Fernandes will discuss his recent work in dance, queer politic and contemporary forms of agency and resistance in an illustrated lecture taking place Thursday, May 23 at 2:30 p.m. in Room 312, Joan & Martin Goldfarb Centre for Fine Arts at York University’s Keele Campus. Admission is free and all are welcome.
The Louis Odette Sculptor-in-Residence is held in conjunction with the Intensive Sculpture Workshop, a fourth-year course offered by the Department of Visual Art & Art History and taught by Professor Yvonne Singer. The workshop provides a valuable apprenticeship and mentoring experience for students, allowing them to work closely with a renowned artist.
Ballet Kink featured dancers in Shibari rope bondage and it explores the power dynamics of ballet and how the techniques used to form dancer’s bodies are fetishized. While at York University, Fernandes will be creating bronze casts of rope formed into Shibari-styled knots. The other work he is developing for The Master and Form is composed of a series of sculptural pieces that enable dancers to perfect and extend iconic positions. Fernandes is building new scaled models to continue the series.
Fernandes feels it is doubly appropriate to continue the development of this work at York University. While his major was in visual arts, he was accepted by audition into dance technique classes that are normally reserved for dance majors. (Half of the current sculpture studio used to be a dance studio and it is affectionately known as the fishbowl, given its floor-to-ceiling windows.)
“I loved dancing in the fish bowl because there was always the sense that you might have an audience,” said Fernandes. “It was never just a class because it also felt like a performance.” Fernandes would often go straight from dance class to the sculpture studio next door, slipping his coveralls over his ballet tights. The sculpture studio took over the fishbowl space as a spacious and sun-filled wood shop when the Accolade buildings were built and the Department of Dance moved technique classes into the modern studios on the second floor of Accolade East.
“It’s amazing to return to where this all began for me,” Fernandes said. “It was at York that I really learned the material practices and developed the skills to take my work to a professional level.”
Visual art student Alaa Asim’s creative focus is exploring language and space in relation to time through a self-portrait sculpture in plaster and calligraphy on a transparent film that is incorporated into her work. “It’s really nice to work with someone who was here as a student and has gone on to such a great career,” Asim said. “The course is only a month but I like working under pressure. I think we all work harder with a shorter time frame. It’s more like a real-world experience.”
Digital media student Andrew Sidworth is excited about exploring bronze casting as part of the workshop. “I’m 3D-printing original designs and then heating them up and moulding them like clay. I’m also printing elements that I will cast in bronze,” said Sidworth. “It’s my first time doing casting and I’m curious to see how these forms, that started as something digital, will look in metal. When I told Brendan about my projects, he made suggestions that I was already planning to do and it was really affirming. I’m enjoying watching his work develop too.”
Visual art student Katrianna Pisani wants her sculpture intensive work to provoke reflection and discussion about drinking and fetal alcohol syndrome. She is building a basinet out of beer cans and plans to contrast the can’s sharp and metallic qualities with a sweet and fluffy blanket. “I hope that when people see the work they will think more about how drinking can affect a family,” she said, noting that she has appreciated the opportunity to get a professional’s opinion about her work in progress. “Brendan is so inspiring,” Pisani said. “I hear about the things that he has done and think that is the level where I want to be.”
More about the Louis Odette Sculptor-in-Residence program
The program is made possible with the generous support of the P. & L. Odette Charitable Foundation. The program strives to create a dynamic learning environment, which supports the advancement of the art of sculpture, and where students benefit from participation in, and observation of, diverse professional studio practices. The residency provides the opportunity for upper-level undergraduate visual arts students to develop an enhanced working understanding of sculpture techniques from the perspective of eminent guest artists.