Current artist in residence Meryl McMaster tells us her key influences, self-discovery along with her love of day-dreaming and how she has created a partly fictional and partly real world that is expressed within her art as a way of releasing herself from life’s struggles.
My photo-based artistic practice broadly explores the tensions that complicate our understanding of personal identity while inviting deeper reflection upon broader issues of collective identity. Within recent works I have specifically explored the sense of being in-between my Indigenous Canadian (Plains Cree) and European (British/Dutch) cultures and the conflicts found at the intersection of self-exploration and heritage.
A key influence on my work have been the transformative experiences I have had while exploring and working in remote natural landscapes within Canada and abroad. These adventures were an important catalyst in the process of making my personal identity more transparent to me. Within these environments I find myself highly attuned to my surroundings, enabling a deep introspection into my relationship with others and my place in the world.
I continue this process of self-discovery within my work with a distinct approach to photographic portraiture and self-portraiture. I am constantly overlapping the roles of artist, producer and performer. I incorporate the spontaneity of photography, the construction of objects or sculptural garments, improvisational performance and quiet self-reflection. I bring together all of these different elements within the finished images. These media form a mosaic that illustrates a journey of self-discovery, following me as I explore how we construct our sense of self through lineage, history and culture.
This process is layered and time consuming but creatively fruitful. Combining other processes has helped to broaden my perspective on how to make art and has helped to ensure that my creative process was not limited by being guided by a singular approach. Just as with personal identity, there are many facets to artistic identity.
Many of my images involve the representation of quasi-fictional experiences that reflect my thoughts and feelings. I have enjoyed many different influences that have informed this approach. I think I have always held on to those moments from childhood of getting lost within a story and transforming the words from a fictional world, imagining the imagery in your mind and going on an adventure. I love day dreaming during moments of boredom and letting my mind get lost in a storyline. I have created similar, partly fictional and partly real worlds that are expressed within my art as a way of releasing myself from life’s struggles and to allow myself to look at the world in a way not normally seen by the naked eye.
Throughout this process my work looks to the past to form a fuller understanding of the present. I often do this by creating images that reveal the contradictions and conflicts in my dual heritage, hoping to create moments for the contemplation of where we are and where we ought to go next. My work isn’t intended to resolve this dilemma but rather to create an opportunity for introspection and conversation. Each of us has a complicated relationship with the past with gaps and biases, and it is important to me to expose and explore these gaps so that we may encounter our next moments better prepared and with better understanding of ourselves and the world.
McMaster's work will be displayed throughout our second floor until Friday 2nd February. Her series is part of The Baldwin Gallery’s Betwixt, exploring the organic and psychic transference between selves and species. To learn more about this work or to purchase a piece from the collection, please visit here.