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BFA graduate Shelby Lechman finds inspiration in unlikely places

By in Culture

Shelby Lechman may be one of many graduating from the fine arts program at the University of Saskatchewan, but her final show sets her apart from other graduates through its unique representation of the human experience.

In order to obtain a bachelor of fine arts, students must create and show a successful art exhibition in which they defend what is referred to as their artist statement, which is a brief explanation of their work that helps the viewer better understand the artist’s intent. Lechman’s exhibition Fragmented: Broken Peace was inspired by a chance encounter that she had with an elderly Hungarian man.

“He told me an interesting story about how whenever he puts his head under water in the hot tub, the sounds of the jets remind him of being a little boy riding on the train back in Hungary,” Lechman said. “I instantly had this vision of a flooded train car with this little boy on top of the luggage racks just peering down at all of the water.”

Students put many months of hard work and long days in to fully complete their exhibition pieces. The project is independent and gives students a taste of what it is like to put on and organize an art show.

Lechman’s final show required a lot of preparation and research as she further worked to understand the background and history of the story she wished to tell.

“He told me that he was from Hungary, but he didn’t mention anything else about the country. I began researching more about it and came across the Hungarian uprising in 1956 where the Hungarians rebelled against the Communist control of the Soviet Union,” Lechman said.

Lechman references Hungarian history while creating her own personal narrative. This exploration of personal experience and historical struggle brings the story to life. It is especially moving when seen through her paintings, which all stand an impressive five feet tall and are made up of nine tiles which create a puzzle-like image when fitted together.

“This piece is part of the inspiration for the title of my show [Fragmented: Broken Peace.] I chose to include paintings and printmaking in my show because I want to demonstrate that I am technically skilled in many areas,” said Lechman.

While Lechman enjoys a variety of art forms from drawing to printmaking, she focuses primarily on painting.

“With painting I am always challenged. I feel like I am able to push myself and grow through painting and I feel that there is lots to learn,” she said. “I also work for Alison Glenn, a painting professor here at the U of S. I am influenced a lot by her style. She paints impasto — which is painting very thick. I’ve always loved the look of thick paint and being expressive with your brush marks, but yet very realistic. I’ve learned so many techniques and she’s been a positive influence on everything I have been doing.”

Though Lechman draws inspiration from other areas in her life, her greatest influences come from history and storytelling.

“I’m really inspired by how different the past is from today, but also how similar,” she said. “Technology is changing, things are changing, but the whole idea of human suffering, power and conquest — it all remains the same. It seems to be a part of humanity. Experiences are always something that inspire me too, like meeting and talking to the man that inspired this exhibit.”

Lechman’s plans in the world of art don’t end after her exhibition. She intends to visit New York in order to immerse herself in the art that she loves so deeply.

“I chose that destination because of the city’s large selection of contemporary paintings,” said Lechman. “I am also planning on doing several out-of-country artist residencies to give myself the opportunity to work and collaborate with other artists.”

Fragmented: Broken Peace will be on display at the Gordon Snelgrove Gallery from March 23 to 27, with the reception taking place on March 27.

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