Complex issues explored at fine arts exhibit

Tue, Apr 1, 2014

Metro Vancouver, B.C. – Vancouver artist Debbie Alexander is shedding light on dark issues through her art.

Alexander examines the themes of mental illness, schizophrenia and cancer at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s upcoming fine arts graduate exhibition. Titled Ninety-Seven Days to represent the length of a university semester, the exhibit takes place April 11 to 13 at KPU Tech in Cloverdale.

“My work is a response to mental illness in the hopes of making people aware of how many people suffer from the various forms of mental illness,” says Alexander.

Alexander is one of 13 graduating fine arts students whose work will be showcased in Ninety-Seven Days. The exhibit will feature a variety of artwork, from self-portraits and digital filmmaking to technology-integrated practices, and will examine the subjects of ambiguity, isolation, meditative journeys, fading memories, mutations and lost stories.

A recurring theme throughout Ninety-Seven Days is the essence of time - how it is valued, manipulated and exploited.

Roxanne Charles’ work examines the exploitation of Canada’s First Nations.

“My work explores the issues aboriginals are facing today,” says Charles, of the Semiahmoo First Nation. “A few of those issues are environment, suicide, addiction, violence, intergenerational trauma and the colonial legacy of Canada.”

Charles says her work reflects her own personal experiences of being a Salish woman living in contemporary times, and often feeling a pull between village and metropolis. Her submissions to the exhibit include weaving, painting and metal work.

Charles sees herself as a contemporary storyteller whose goal is to document the problems facing First Nations in modern times.

Tessa Nickel’s contribution to the exhibit is dedicated to her grandfather, who passed away with Alzheimer’s disease in 2013. She created her piece – a series of drawings in a grid beneath nails – as a way to deal with his death. The work is meant to depict the loss of memory and self that comes with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The nails that are not attached to any drawing represent a complete loss of memory.

“The loss of my Opa’s memory affected me when I saw his personality fade away with it,” says Nickel. “This piece has been an amazing outlet for me to both grieve and yet celebrate my Opa’s life through the study of my own memories through my art.”

The lone film submission to the exhibit belongs to Surrey’s Derek Le Beau, whose four-minute film addresses old Hollywood’s censorship of gay and lesbian content. Le Beau juxtaposes scenes from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Paul Newman and recreates them in suggestively homosexual scenes with modern-day James Bond actor Daniel Craig.

“Pretty much every decade since the 1930s there have been gay and lesbian characters erased from literature when it has been adapted for the silver screen,” says Le Beau.

The 13 artists were called upon to create, manipulate and explore themselves and the world around them, and ultimately, tell stories through works of art. These artistic creations will call attention to pop-culture, technology, self-exploration, survival and liberation.

WHAT: Ninety-Seven Days, an art exhibition featuring 13 graduating KPU fine arts students
WHERE: KPU Tech, 5500 180th St., Cloverdale
WHEN: Friday, April 11 to Sunday, April 13
INFO: The opening reception will be held at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 11 at KPU Tech. For more information, visit:

About KPU’s fine arts program:
Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s fine arts department offers a comprehensive program with a strong curriculum focusing on the ideas and techniques of producing contemporary art within a diverse and supportive liberal arts environment. This dynamic program focuses on the integration of studio art work with theory, research and practice. Graduates are prepared with the necessary skills to pursue graduate school studies, enter work-related fields or pursue contemporary art practice. For more information, visit:

Kwantlen Polytechnic University has been serving the Metro Vancouver region for 30 years, and has opened doors to success for more than 250,000 people. Four campuses—Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley—offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs, including business, liberal arts, science, design, health, trades and technology, apprenticeships, horticulture, and academic and career advancement. Over 19,000 students annually have a choice from over 145 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates and citations. Learn more at


Caption: Tessa Nickel’s contribution to the exhibit is dedicated to her grandfather, who passed away with Alzheimer’s disease in 2013. Her art symbolizes memory loss, which accompanies the progression of the disease.

Media contact:
Hayley Woodin
Media Specialist
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