Point and Place captures post-graduate malaise with grace

For most of us, a lazy summer at the family cottage might produce a few cute Instagram pictures. But for University of Ottawa alumna Kelsey McGruer, it resulted in her latest art project.

Titled Point and Place, this collection of video stills captures McGruer’s organic movement around her cottage, exploring what she describes as her “ancestral home” in a totally new way.

“I was at my cottage and I needed to produce some work,” McGruer explained. “It was the summer after I graduated, I felt like I needed to make something. So I grabbed some props I had left over from the school year and brought them to the cottage with me.”

McGruer often appears in her own artwork, and this project, now showing at Allsaints Gallery, was no exception. She created an organic piece by moving about the landscape and filming her wanderings, and then turning the stills into prints.

“My performances, when I was in school, they would be more planned out. I would have more of an idea of what I was doing, whereas this was very impromptu,” said McGruer.

The stills are mostly McGruer either in a lake or in the forest, carrying a long piece of fabric and interacting with the natural world around her. It combines video and photography with performance art. She moves with no real end goal in mind.

Her past works have generally referenced art history, but her new collection offers a more spontaneous feel.

“It was very refreshing. It was a very nice experience,” McGruer recalled of the summer project.

This is one of several exhibitions McGruer has been featured in since graduating from the bachelor of fine arts program, and her first solo exhibition. 

McGruer credits the BFA program with her transition towards photo-media. She says she went into the program thinking she would do painting, like nearly all other freshmen, but in her first year was introduced to many different artistic media.

“As time went on, I realized that it is a pleasing mixture of several media that really intrigues me,” McGruer said. “In my work I aim to be very interdisciplinary.”

Along with introducing her to multimedia installations, McGruer also said the BFA taught her how to work on a deadline and provided her with a lot of resources, friends, and professors—things that are lost upon graduation. 

“When you’re on your own trying to make work in your spare time like I’m doing now, it’s very difficult to be structured and self-motivated,” said McGruer. “What the BFA teaches you is how to work on a deadline, come out with something, be able to justify it, talk about it, and be okay with it.”

Point and Place is currently on display at Allsaints Gallery, located at 10 Blackburn Ave. Admission is free.