Grad School gives art student chance to pursue her vision
By Ann Dumonceaux
For Risa Horowitz, the decision to pursue graduate studies in Art at the University of Saskatchewan was a practical one.
"My attitude when I entered grad school was that I needed to do something to subsidize my art, and I felt that staying in the university, an academic and dynamic place of learning, was the route for me."
After graduating from York University with a BFA and completing one year at Ryerson Polytechnical University, Horowitz was faced with the realization that while the program prepared her for a commercial career in photography, her goal was to do something else.
"In the end," remembers Horowitz, "I knew that I wanted to make art to realize my own aims, not those of other people."
After three years of working full-time in a Toronto camera store, with little time to concentrate on her primary interest, Horowitz was ready for a change. She moved across the country to Vancouver, mostly working at minimum wage jobs but also volunteering in artist-run centres and galleries while "working to build a portfolio to get into grad school."
Horowitz was excited about attending the University of Saskatchewan because of generous funding as well as a requirement, rare among Canadian universities, that included writing a major paper along with exhibiting her art. "I am engaged with reading and writing and thinking about art, so that option was very fulfilling to me."
Explaining that "I wanted to give myself the opportunity and the privilege to spend two more years working on my art," Horowitz points out that the MFA program also offers her an opportunity to pursue her own interests.
"Im not being paid by supervisors to do their work Im doing my own work, and taking advantage of their feedback."
Describing her interest as "primarily in photography and installation," Horowitz explains that she works with a range of materials, which may include audio and visual components as well as two-dimensional work, "all used together to create a space, an atmosphere."
More specifically, Horowitz works in self-portraiture, which she describes as an attempt to "take some form of control over perceptions of myself."
"Before I ever even started making art, I found myself aware of being watched. What I mean is being aware of all the expectations, both social and private, which are placed on me, and on everyone else as well. Taking pictures of myself was a way for me to feel in control of the images of myself, at any given moment."
As well as preparing for her thesis exhibition on self-portraiture, titled "girl before a mirror" scheduled to run Aug. 28-Sept. 8 at the Gordon Snelgrove Gallery on campus, Horowitz also works part-time at BlackFlash, a photography-based magazine out of Saskatoon.
Admitting that artists have to be managers, accountants, agents and promoters, Horowitz notes that though "being an artist means learning to live with frustrations," she is confident about her future.
"Im going to make art, and Im going to promote my art by exhibiting as much as I can."
Horowitz singles out Linda Duvall, her studio advisor, and Keith Bell, her thesis supervisor, both from the Dept. of Art and Art History, for special thanks.
Ann Dumonceaux writes profiles of U of S graduate students as part of a fellowship with the College of Graduate Studies and Research.