Accomplished Art grad student first to be admitted under PLAR program
By Ann Dumonceaux
It took some convincing for graduate student Lori Blondeau to consider putting her career as an artist on hold to pursue a university education.
But thanks to the efforts of Lynn Bell and the Art & Art History Dept. at the University of Saskatchewan, Lori found herself looking forward to the contribution graduate studies in fine arts would make to her work.
"I wanted to have access to critical feedback from people who have enormous knowledge about their fields of study, which wasnt something I was getting while trying to pursue art myself. I want to be pushed, and the best way I can see to be pushed is to look for constructive criticism. I really felt that only graduate studies could offer me that."
One stumbling block was her unique background, and the potential limits imposed by her lack of education at the university level.
"I dont have an undergraduate degree, and I didnt want to give up my art career to go back and do one because I felt that my art production is probably way beyond BFA students. I felt it would be detrimental to my practice as an artist."
However, after considering Loris impressive credentials as both a participant in and facilitator of art exhibitions and performances, as well as her experience organizing and facilitating workshops throughout North America over the last 20 years, the U of S accepted her work and alternative education as equivalent to an undergraduate diploma.
In September 1999, she became the first student to be admitted into the Masters in Fine Arts Program under the PLAR (Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition) Program.
After completing her first year of study, which included three undergraduate classes in order to fulfil her degree requirements, Lori is anticipating working on her art practice full-time.
Explaining her work as performance art, Lori notes that it is most often categorized as visual art.
"Performance art uses elements like video, projection, slide projection, audio, and installation art, which is filling a gallery with objects and doing a performance within that."
Because performance art can be text-based or action-based, Lori describes it as ideally suited for her particular vision.
"For me being Aboriginal, and dealing with political issues, performance art gives me a forum that I dont think I would be able to have in painting or printing. It gives me the choice of being able to use my voice and do texts. For the Aboriginal people, its a great medium."
Loris graduate project will be installation art with a performance.
"Over the last five years Ive been researching Aboriginal women in history and how theyve been written from a non-native perspective, or how they havent been written. Ive been working with three personas of native women that Ive created one from the 1800s, one from the 1950s, and the other woman is timeless."
Noting that these stereotypes have been created for Aboriginal women, Lori explains that the roots of stereotyping occur in history.
"What better way to conquer a people than to dehumanize their women. It goes on in any country thats being colonized, I think."
Lori admits that she draws many of her images of women from her family toward the goal of creating a living history through her art.
"I use my mother and her sisters and their histories a lot in my work, as well as my own history. The really great thing about performance art is that Im able to create this living history at that moment in time. Im trying to juxtapose a fictional history against the history that has been created for us by Canadian or American history. I guess its playing with history."
Loris future plans include teaching performance art at a University, and sharing her own knowledge obtained by being a performance artist herself.
Ann Dumonceaux writes profiles of U of S graduate students as part of a fellowship with the College of Graduate Studies and Research.