It is a rare opportunity for a graduate student and her supervisor to be able to exhibit their artwork, arrived at collaboratively, in the same exhibition in a nationally respected art gallery. Mandy Espezel, one of the first Master of Fine Arts (Art) students at the University of Lethbridge, and professor Dagmar Dahle, spent last summer working on a series of paintings that appeared at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery as part of On Your Marks.
"We both invest a lot in the process and the materials," says Espezel. "Over the summer we exchanged studio visits, talked a lot and shared our working process."
According to Dahle, "For us, doing is thinking. It is both an intuitive and analytical process. We think and communicate through the visual."
She explains that their working relationship was very equal.
"Ours is not a traditional teacher/student relationship where information goes from the teacher to the student," says Dahle. "We work in a more collaborative manner, with open communication. That means I have to be more vulnerable, open to learning from my student. It's an exciting two-way street."
Espezel was not quite sure what to expect when she came to the University.
"I wanted to broaden my experiences," she says. "I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Alberta, where the emphasis is more on the formal elements of painting. Here, the focus is much more conceptual."
Originally, Espezel was attracted to the University of Lethbridge because of the Art Department's strong reputation, and the fact that the professors are nationally and internationally recognized.
"I found an open attitude where I'm encouraged to explore all sorts of media," she says. "I was given permission to experiment."
She was also exposed to a variety of approaches that helped her understand her craft from a variety of perspectives.
"Although the main approach here is based in the conceptual, I found that the faculty were all working and thinking in many different ways," says Espezel. "I've learned there is no one correct way; rather, there are lots of ways of understanding. Studying here is really helping me find my own language and voice. The program has exceeded my expectations."
Only in its second year, the MFA (Art) degree program accepts one to two students per year.
"The upside of our MFA program being small is that graduate students get lots of individual attention," says Dahle. "They are embraced and welcomed into a large creative community, both on campus and off."
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