Workshop explores relationship between art and anthropology

Audra Townsend art on display at gallery

Art exhibits can serve as powerful forms of public anthropology, putting on display an individual’s creative exploration of what it means to be human. As part of its Anthropology Beyond the Academy series, the York University Department of Anthropology’s Winter 2024 event will demonstrate just that by featuring the work of abstract and mixed-media artist Audra Townsend, a York alumna.

Audra Townsend
Audra Townsend

Titled Art & Anthropology, the Feb. 9 event will showcase Townsend’s artwork in the Vari Hall Rotunda from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by a workshop from 3 to 4 p.m. where Townsend will discuss her professional path and her work in exploring humanity through art. All are welcome to attend.

Townsend is a British-born, Jamaican Canadian artist based in Toronto, who believes art is a manifestation of our curiosity about the material world and an essential part of what it means to be human. A former Ontario public servant, she is a trained sociocultural anthropologist who currently works as a data privacy consultant.

“Anthropologists use art to explore the essence of lived experiences, enabling a more immersive and emotive engagement with the subject of their studies,” explains Othon Alexandrakis, Chair of York’s Department of Anthropology. “By integrating visual storytelling into their research, anthropologists enhance the accessibility and impact of their narratives, fostering cross-cultural empathy and promoting a deeper appreciation for the richness of human diversity.”

When Townsend examines the relationship between art and the human experience, she borrows from intuitive and tactile art forms. Her work is characterized by a dense network of criss-crossing and squiggly lines separating rectangles of multiple shapes made of different materials, earthy and celestial colours, and textures of sand and stone, among others.

“We are excited to welcome Audra back to the department for this exciting workshop,” says Alexandrakis. “Audra’s art is extraordinary. We invite the York University community to come meet Audra, hear about her journey, and learn about art and anthropology.”

To register for the workshop, visit Winter Workshop: Art & Anthropology w/ Audra Townsend. For more information about Townsend’s art, visit her website.