U of S fine arts graduate lands BMO regional award

Saskatoon's Shelby Lechman has turned her passion for art and fascination with history into a new award-winning series of paintings.

Lechman, who graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Great Distinction at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) spring convocation, has been named one of 12 regional winners from across the country in the 13th annual BMO 1st Art! Invitational Student Art Competition. The 24-year-old Lechman, who earned a $5,000 award, was one of 263 candidates from more than 100 universities and colleges across the country who were nominated by faculty for a competition featuring the next generation of young Canadian artists.

"I'm very honoured," Lechman said. "It just really makes you feel that all of your hard work is paying off and all those late nights spent at the school working on my paintings just reinforces that I am on the right path and it's a very good feeling. I am very honoured to represent the U of S … and I was very excited to learn that I was selected (for the regional award)."

Lechman's winning entry for the region of Saskatchewan, entitled Exodus, is a large-scale oil on canvas painting inspired by the story of the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 when more than 2,500 citizens were killed and an estimated 200,000 people fled the country after Soviet occupation. Lechman's inspiration for the work came from a random encounter with an elderly Hungarian gentleman as she worked a shift as a lifeguard at a pool in Saskatoon. He chatted with her about riding the rails as a youngster in Hungary.

"I have always been kind of fascinated by history, so I started researching about Hungary to learn more about his homeland … and I ended up recreating a narrative like a historical fiction novelist would do," she said.

Lechman, who also earned the $2,500 U of S Film Society Prize for 2015 as well as the Judy Poole Award in Art and Art History, will be flown to Toronto in October for the official BMO awards ceremony. All of the winners' work will be displayed in the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery at the University of Toronto from Oct. 22 to Dec. 18.

Lechman currently works part-time as a studio assistant for U of S professor and figurative painter Allyson Glenn. She is also completing an artist residency at the Kent Sutherland Architect Group, a local firm in Saskatoon, and hopes to earn her master's degree in the future.

For more information on the competition, see the BMO website.

Lechman was featured in a recent article in The Sheaf.  Her own website is at http://www.shelbylund.ca.
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