With MGMT playing in the background and a glass of wine in my hand, I slowly worked through the throngs of art-loving hipsters at the Fridge Door Gallery (FDG)’s vernissage last week in Leacock 111. The gallery is entirely student-run and depends on the tireless work of its eight executives, along with the numerous art history students, who volunteer to help curate and organize the show.
As one FDG executive, Alysa Batzios, explains, “there has long been a need for a venue to display the creative efforts of McGill’s students, especially in the absence of a fine arts faculty.”
“We hope to encourage and inspire students to continue to be creative,” she adds, “and help McGill shed its reputation of being a school that ignores the value of the fine arts.”
As I examined the works of the 13 participating artists, I was shocked at their artistic ability. It’s not that I thought the artists wouldn’t be talented; it’s just that at McGill, it seems we tend to favour honing our essay-writing and exam-taking skills over our creativity. However, the vernissage opened my eyes to the immense artistic talent of McGill students who find time to create art on their own, despite academic pressures.
“The fact that most of the talents are untouched by art school influences makes the variation even better. The expressions of the artist [can] ultimately [be] more raw and genuine that way,” explains first-year student and Daily staffer Aquil Virani, participating in his second FDG exhibition.
The Fridge Door Gallery strives to be open and inclusive. As a result, they don’t decide the theme for the vernissage until after they have received all the submissions. That way, no one feels as though they can’t submit to the gallery because they can’t think of a piece that fits with the theme.
The 13 artists participating come from very diverse backgrounds academically, and it’s encouraging to see that art history, international development, biology, and English students can all produce such amazing works of art.
I was particularly impressed by Lila Jiang Chen and Gillian Chang’s Urban Grass, a piece originally designed as an architecture project. The “grass” is made of brushed aluminium tubes, steel rods, and a concrete base. I love the idea of the natural world being represented by something made of concrete and metal, the very antithesis of nature itself. In the piece’s description, the artists note that the “device acknowledges the presence of people as a fundamental factor in shaping the environment around us.” When viewers gently touched the piece, it would sway in a whimsical fashion, creating a musical sound similar to wind chimes.
Another favourite piece of mine was William Robinson’s Molasses photo series, in which a performance artist pours the viscous fluid over himself.
This was the FDG’s fifth expo, and the organizers’ experience was clear in the way the evening was successfully executed. However, it was also the last for most of the original creators of the gallery, hence the appropriate theme: Art Shift. “Art Shift is a reference primarily to our passing the torch…. The gallery is shifting into a new era, into new hands. The shift theme also refers to the organic and metamorphic feel that many of our pieces have,” says Batzios.
The reaction to the gallery has been positive, and each year more and more students submit their art and attend the expos. Even as the executives graduate, they are hopeful for the future. “We’re passing the torch to a new generation of art history students, and we hope that they not only keep the Fridge Door Gallery alive, but take the gallery to new heights,” adds Batzios.