‘Crude’: oiling the art machine

Nicole Myker presenting one of her works. (Tye Dandridge-Evancio / The Quill)

Brandon University Fine Arts student Nicole Myker presented her thesis exhibition this past week.  Titled “Crude”, the show is an exploration of heavy machinery as well as other themes associated with the oil industry.  “I wanted to put myself out of the element of what I usually do, [so I] chose machinery and steel,” says Myker.

The show meshes of a variety of media.  On one wall, a series of expressively-drawn images of pump jacks in a prairie landscape are flanked by large vividly-coloured images of industrial machinery on either side.   In another area of the galley, there are several cut-out images depicting bucket-wheels and a Wabco truck in an abstracted manner.  Perhaps the most arresting of the images sits on a central wall of the gallery, visible from outside as well: an impressive mixture of rigid lines with loose and expressive strokes that add life, character, and beauty.  It is a powerful image, presenting the world of oil and machinery with a warm and inviting smile that draws passersby off the street and into the gallery for a closer look.

While the images are all visually appealing, Myker’s purpose went far beyond the creation of the images. “I’ve basically taken images [which] an acquaintance of mine who works in the oil patch sent me and I [put] them into my art work for this exhibition. I really wanted to tie these pieces in with the oil industry,” she says.  “So what I did was I actually mixed oil, motor oil specifically, in with the paints.”  But with beauty also comes pain, as Myker admits that the process was not always smooth sailing.  “It was not my favorite whatsoever,” Myker laughs while relating her experience with the overpowering scent of the motor oil. “Sometimes you could only spend about two hours in the studio depending on how much oil you were using.”

Not one to dwell on the negative, Myker goes on to explain her fondness towards the completion of her project.  “It was just the physical process, ‘cause I really got attached to a lot of the pieces here, but also made me realize why I was really doing this- which was basically finding a new ‘myself’, […], and finding another interest.” And what might that new interest be?  “[…] right now machinery, and factories, and anything with steel and metal is really interesting to me.” She laughs with a grin.

This is the first in several student-presented thesis exhibitions. Be sure to stop by the Sutherland Gallery of Art for “Evolving”, a thesis exhibition by Angela Tompkins. The exhibition starts Thursday, March 14th and goes until Saturday, March 23rd.

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 24, March 12, 2013.