By Rosalind Sweeney-McCabe, ARIA Intern, McGill Visual Arts Collection
This past December the Visual Arts Collection launched its first De-Stress + Sketch on-campus event on the fourth floor of McLennan, home to the VAC’s Visible Storage Gallery. The initiative, developed by VAC employee, Rachel Vincent-Clarke, was designed to give McGill students an opportunity to sketch works from the VAC collection and take a break from the monotony of studying. Now, in response to a new sort of monotony brought on by the COVID pandemic, the VAC relaunched De-Stress + Sketch as a weekly at-home sketch series, accessible to the wider McGill community via Instagram, Facebook and email.
The original De-Stress location, the Visible Storage gallery, gave students an opportunity to sketch highlights from McGill’s collection brought together in one place. In a similar spirit, De-Stress online allows the VAC to showcase works which are spread out across McGill’s campuses and many buildings – some of which are in staff-only areas or private offices. Many works chosen for the weekly posts have been pieces which are new to the collection. This is the case for this week’s work and De-stress’ first sculpture, The Judge by Peter Monk (ca. 2004 -2005). Or the photograph of a fish adorned mantelpiece by Charles Gurd from his Montreal Mansions photography series (1974).
Another work recently shared in a De-Stress post is a Japanese woodblock print from the Edo period. Sharing this new work, which was part of a donation given by Dr. Joanne Jepson last year and is affectionately referred to as “Batman” by staff, led to a friendly exchange of similar works between McGill and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Instagram. This interactive series has given more visibility to the diversity of artworks in the Collection and its new acquisitions.
If you choose to participate in De-Stress: once you have the week’s artwork framed by your chosen screen, desktop, laptop, tablet, phone, whatever suits your fancy – you may make your choice of medium. The VAC has seen a variety of tools chosen: from pencil to watercolour to digital collage, the choice is the artist’s. To promote a truly immersive experience, the VAC has also curated playlists on Spotify which are inspired by each work!
In a drawing of the painting Comet at Four Years by Propter Dolby (1868), a young ingénue decided a multimedia approach was most fitting: combining crayon, acrylic paint and marker. He brought out of Comet such emotion which lays hidden in the restraint of the original oil on canvas work (hung at the Macdonald campus). Indeed, if you look to participate in an upcoming De-Stress + Sketch the VAC encourages you to follow this young gentleman’s lead and lose yourself in the work.
In summary, digital De-Stress + Sketch follows the intent of the original event but with the hopes of serving the wider McGill community. Out of the library and off campus, the VAC aims to bring the McGill community a moment of calm with some of its favourite works.