Forty Feet Forward – BFA/BMS Final Exhibition

A letter from Shawn Serfas

The studio experience is often solitary and reflective, drawing upon necessity, hope, and creative freedom. The Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Media Studies experience offers emerging artists a community to hone and magnify process while exploring difficult human terrain, and the silent questions in us all.

Art traces and catalogues time, it captures raw experience and translates it into formal expressions. “Forty Feet Forward” exhibits student engagement in broad cultural themes, with an emphasis on ecological and neurodivergent education, gender and ontology, as well as mental health and physiological well-being. The exhibition also examines mass media and representation, the mundane, and asks important questions about form and language. There are moments in the exhibition that are uplifting, poignant and endearing. Art appeals to our lived experience and finds poetic resonance in the gesture of the momentary and the remnants of memory.

The Department of Creative Studies houses programs in Creative Writing, Computational and Visual Arts with additional specialized courses in Devised Theatre, Film and Digital Media, as well as Art History and Visual Culture. Our interrelated bachelor program areas are designed to offer unique and personalized opportunities for students to develop skills in a variety of disciplines while they engage in cutting edge creative arts research. We offer a hands-on experiential learning environment where students get to develop their own individualized artistic voice, and we encourage students to cross disciplines while refining their specialized practices. This is one of the most vibrant and dynamic art departments in the country.

I would like to thank our generous staff and technicians, for their dedication to precision and creative expression. A special thank you to David Doody and Andreas Rutkauskas, lead instructors in VISA 482/483 Advanced Art Practices I/II, as well as M.F.A. graduate student Victoria Verge, for her teaching assistance during the VISA 483 course.

Congratulations to our 2023 graduating class! I encourage all of you to continue forward on your creative paths, and I challenge you to help reshape the future, heal the land, and represent excellence wherever you call home.

Shawn Serfas


Department of Creative Studies

The University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus


Tour of Forty Feet Forward:

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Artist Statements:


My work focuses on neurodivergence and the personal lives of people with these conditions and/or disabilities. I wanted to create a resource for people that are easier to digest and to get a conversation going so people who don’t have these could better understand what these conditions are, and how to help and accommodate them better. I put a QR code to a list of resources for that type of neurodivergence if people are curious to learn more. I included both educational material and personal stories in those links.

I interviewed many neurodivergent people online and some in person to see what troubles and successes they’ve had in daily life and summarized their statements into speech bubbles I wanted to show that these are real people who struggle with real things others don’t have to think about.

These are designed much like infographics and are meant to help people understand what other people go through without providing too much medical information. I’m not a doctor, so I’m not qualified to make infographics about these conditions and disabilities. But I can report people’s experiences so others can empathize and accommodate a little better.

Makeena Hartmann






I strive to make art that captures the beauty of nature and encourages the viewer to examine the importance of protecting it. Cultivate is an immersive art installation which includes a large tree sculpture, native seed packets, and six graphite botanical illustrations of the types of plants contained in the packages. This artwork focuses on reimagining the contemporary human relationship with nature by elevating native plant species and inviting viewers to learn how to provide nurturement and support through thought and tangible actions.

My work advocates for nature, meaning natural ecosystems and the living and non-living entities that inhabit these spaces, while attempting to foster a mutually beneficial relationship with humans. The drawings offer visual representation of the latent potential of the seeds and the beauty of species often overlooked for non-native, potentially invasive plants lacking equivalent ecological benefits. To reinforce the work’s positive impact, I use salvaged materials whenever possible, such as with the steel supporting the tree, and the handmade recycled paper on the project’s surfaces. Additionally, the colourless installation invites viewers to activate the vibrant, beautiful hues of the plants through their fostered growth and flourishment.

By planting and tending to the seeds from Cultivate, viewers will nourish their relationship with nature, and support these plants in addition to pollinators and other wildlife that benefit from native plant reintroduction into spaces affected by urbanization, habitat-destruction, and competition from introduced species. I wish to stimulate production of creative solutions for issues facing the planet through spreading knowledge as well as appreciation for nature.

Josie Hillman

As an artist, I strive to push the boundaries of what can be deemed as physical or psychological discomfort. Every individual has their views on what can be considered or felt as discomfort personally and through societal opinions. It has always been important for me to challenge my perceptions of discomfort to push past the barrier that is my comfort zone to create new and exciting opportunities within my life. I believe society has and always will control what is culturally, situationally or personally acceptable, and I want to create an environment within my art that allows us to move past the known into the great possibilities of the unknown. I have explored this concept of discomfort in the body and mind through different mediums of videography, public interaction, performance, painting and sculptural elements. I believe working with new and possibly complex materials and mediums helps me to understand what discomfort means to me, and how it can affect others in a universal or individualized manner. In everyday life, commonly, others will unknowingly impede in one’s bubble at one point or another, so why are these interactions awkward or wrong when produced purposefully? How and why do our bodies create visceral reactions to situations that make us uncomfortable? How do our core values and beliefs in a shared society and a personal matter shape how we view the world? These questions of researching and considering what creates discomfort drive my artistic practice as I can produce new forms of artwork that can explore different avenues of understanding discomfort from a personal or collective perspective. This ultimately challenges one’s actions, thought patterns and physical and psychological understandings of the world.

Chloe Jenkins

This body of work deals with subjects of time, place, and emotion in relation to interior spaces. Through my chosen medium of oil paint, I create atmospheric scenes that evoke specific times of day, such as dawn, dusk, or late night. This specificity of time is conveyed through strong directional lighting, which typically pours in through a window or is created artificially with staged lighting. The images that I paint are sourced from films. I carefully extract still images from various movies based on my own aesthetic preferences, and these still images become the basis for my compositions. When I paint these images, I exaggerate their moody and atmospheric qualities and harmonize their colour palettes. The resulting image is often moody, contemplative, wistful, and melancholic.

I depict these specific scenes because I am intrigued by their ephemeral nature. The light that appears in my paintings evokes times of day when that quality of light will only exist for the briefest of moments. It is this ephemerality that means this moment must be observed with an immediacy that typical daylight does not require. This immediacy of appreciation is what fascinates me. The fact that this moment of beautiful light is so fleeting means that observing its beauty must be prioritized above all else, because it may never exist in the same way again. There is an added layer of brevity in these real-life moments since it is difficult to photograph and capture the true essence of the moment as it is experienced. By converting a moving image into a still image, and further rendering that still image in painted form, I aim to restore a sense of sentimental ambience, and create a lasting still image that captures a fleeting moment in time.

Bella Jiang

My paintings explore the theme of the fleeting and impermanent nature of existence, as seen through the lens of Gautama Buddha’s teachings. He described life as “a drop of dew, a bubble floating in a stream; a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream”. The concept of everything being a phantom resonates deeply with me.

In my paintings, I want to capture the ephemeral moments of daily life through the use of still life, figures, and landscapes. These ephemeral moments are presented in a hazy, dream-like manner.

This approach aligns with my broader interest in exploring the fleeting and impermanent nature of existence, which is reflected in the use of soft colours and blurred boundaries between objects. By layering and wiping colours and shapes, I wish to create this moody and atmospheric feeling that expresses the transience and emptiness of life. Overall, I hope this series can offer virtually a deeply contemplative and introspective view of the world around us.

Simone King

My work addresses contemporary textile art, focusing mainly on needle-felting, while also incorporating other sewn fabric materials. I’m primarily focused on using these textile materials in a sculptural medium. My work explores a narrative of healing and comfort, while engaging with monstrous forms to further these ideas. By creating a collection of animal-like soft sculptures, each with their own character, I develop a narrative that revolves around their individual trauma and healing process.

This project stemmed from a need for personal catharsis, both in the narrative of my work and the grounding tactility of working with textiles. My monsters contain bits and pieces of my own life and experiences, and by taking care of them and giving them a safe place to be understood, I can bring myself that comfort as well. I also aim to have my sculptures be accessible to the individual viewer. Their stories are not explicitly my own, and I would like to invite others to see themselves in the work. I aim to have the emotions tangible to the viewer, and hopefully some of the feelings of comfort and healing can reach those who need to experience them.

Part of how I engage with these topics is through the use of these monstrous and creature-like figures. To me, a monster reflects parts of ourselves that are strange or even ugly. They can reflect an otherness or isolation. Aided by the inherent softness of textiles, I would like to create a comforting place for these creatures, where they can be reminded they will find others who understand, and do not need to be perfect to be worthy of love and care.

Jordan MacDonald

My art is a bold and honest response to the highs and lows of my personal journey towards better managing my psychological health. As someone who has firsthand experience with anxiety, major depressive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, I utilize my artwork to raise awareness of the intricate and overwhelming interplay of a broad spectrum of mental conditions.

By combining sculpture and painting in my practice, I am able to convey the essence of my experiences, which have involved a great deal of introspection and reflection. In many ways, my art is a form of therapy—a way for me to work through my emotions and find healing.

Using minimalism, I create subtle and nuanced representations of my mental health journey through mixed-media abstraction. This approach emphasizes the importance of decluttering the mind, focusing on what is truly important, and promoting overall well-being by reducing stress and anxiety. It also encourages mindfulness, and being present in the moment, reducing worry about the past or future. Through minimalism, I aim to create pieces that are both beautiful and meaningful, conveying the depth and complexity of my lived experiences.

My art is an exploration of my emotions and experiences in a transformative and cathartic manner. By delving into psychological wellness, bereavement, and therapeutic strategies, I shine a light on difficult topics that are often shrouded in shame and stigma while also discovering new opportunities for personal growth and healing. Overall, my work is deeply personal, drawing connections to my own journey, struggles, and uncertainties, as well as emphasizing the exploration and processing of these experiences through an abstract lens.

Nayaab Master

My art is an arrangement of my thoughts that focuses on the insecurities I feel. Are the things I produce having an impact? These are the thoughts that constantly plague my mind. Moments alone help me clear my mind, and I focus on my breathing. How do I fit into the world around me? What makes me tick? Music blares through my phone speakers while the hot water seers me into focusing on the present, letting go of my anxious, uneasy thoughts. I then have a moment of relief as the soft glimmer of the candle surrounds me.

Creating photographic images within a controlled and private space allows me to avoid the awkwardness I might encounter in public. Here I am, safe; here I am, in control. I allow myself to unwind in the cozy warmth. Here in the half-light, I can begin to tear down the walls and obstacles that hold me back, and block my growth.

Producing these secluded moments of unrestrained, unbridled creativity reminds me of the importance of intimacy and the power of privacy. The camera’s shutter sound helps me capture intimate parts of myself. The camera grants me privacy and allows me to distance myself from my inhibitions and feel certain seclusion.

Instead of carrying the burdensome weight of the result, I place more emphasis on the playful and exploratory process. Abstracted and obscure, my self-portraits are fragmented. These incomplete images become the fuel for the following process. Bringing these ideas into the well-lit studio, I dab, dot and smear. I contour, trace and cover. Creating repetitive patterns and drawings on multiple images simultaneously, I lose myself in mark-making. This process transforms my fragmented photos, helping me gather my ideas and reach unimagined outcomes.

Katya Meehalchan

I am drawn to the idea of layering and the exploration of texture, colour, and form. In my work, I use collage as a way to bring together disparate elements and create a unified composition. I believe that layering adds depth and dimensionality to my pieces, inviting the viewer to engage with the artwork in a more immersive and meaningful way.

One of my main sources of inspiration is the experience of walking through a thrift store, where anyone can find a diverse array of objects and materials. I bring these found objects into my work, along with other elements such as painted lines and light. The layering of these various elements creates a sense of movement and flow, as if the artwork itself is alive and constantly shifting.

In my pieces, I strive to create a harmonious balance between the intentional and the accidental. I believe that the resulting interplay between the elements gives my work a sense of energy and unpredictability, drawing the viewer deeper into the experience.

Incorporating light into my work allows me to create a sense of depth, while also giving the piece a sense of life and energy. I use painted lines to define space within the composition, adding a sense of fluidity to the piece. In my work, I aim to create a sense of mystery and intrigue, inviting the viewer to explore and discover the various elements and layers within the piece. By doing so, I hope to create an immersive experience that encourages the viewer to look beyond the surface and engage with the artwork on a deeper level.

Mariah Miguel-Juan

Growing up in Canada as a first-generation Canadian with an immigrant mother from Guatemala, I was often aware of how I differed from my peers. Living in a neighbourhood that was predominantly of Euro-settler descent, I struggled to find representation of Mesoamericans in mainstream media or to find friends who could relate to my experiences. Like many children of immigrants, I felt caught in the middle of two cultures.

Intimate Migrations acts as a celebration, showcasing the intimate moments and familial relationships within my own family. By using family photographs as inspiration, my paintings shed light on the lives of minorities and gives a voice to their stories. My art creates a space where others can find representation and feel seen.

Through Intimate Migrations, my paintings capture the essence of intimacy through the size of the paintings and the attention to detail in their creation. Inspired by well-loved family photographs, I have incorporated the dog-eared corners and torn edges that are characteristic of photographs that have been thumbed through over time.

The paintings demonstrate the merging of two different cultures, highlighting the untold stories and experiences of an immigrant family in Canada. By sharing the personal stories of my loved ones, I hope to remind viewers of the people they love and the relationships that are important to them.

Ivy Munro

Painting, illustration, and animation are intrinsically tied together in my mind’s eye, all as methods to tell a story. These presented works are not part of a collection but more a peek into the movement in my artistic practice and how I chose to express my work.

OZYIS gets its name from the god of agony and anguish, an on the nose name for a very representational work of two people melting down into a hellscape. This is an example of an “On the Nose” representation of my more emotive works, less story based.

Ninth Circle is a painting that explores the theming of the Nine circles of hell, and was an experiment with materiality, the pigments all hand made out of non traditional materials. This is a more abstract representation of the ninth circle of hell where everything is frozen over, and the devil stands trapped in the centre unable to move, only observe.

From scratch was a digital animated video that was an approach of literal storytelling, talking a script and animating it in visually experimental ways.

Emily-Jayne May Myatt


My current body of work combines issues surrounding gender, art history, and the painted image. I am interested in the social construction of gender and how it has evolved over time. The gender binary that permeates the western world is a result of European colonisation of North America. It was enforced as a means of protecting patriarchal norms and upholding European nationalism. In my research, I am interested in subverting that narrative to expose the harmful effects that binary systems enforce upon us. I do this by embracing a full spectrum of visual sources; from neoclassical sculpture, to queer art history, to my own staged photographs, to online 3D models. I am interested in collapsing the time and space between these seemingly varied sources, to mimic that of a gender construct. Part of my research involves collecting images; whether my own, from the internet, or elsewhere. I must see some potential in the image for me to inject an alternative narrative, in order for me to keep it. From there, I work digitally to construct compositional studies. Working digitally in my studies provides me with the flexibility to change out compositional elements relatively easily, while providing me with an entry point to commit to a painting. I am increasingly interested in the space in between the digital study, and my hand. In some areas, I consciously work to replicate the study, whereas in other areas I allow the paint’s materiality to take over through washes, mark making, and texture. This contrast allows me space to explore meaningful relationships between the spectrum of gender, and the spectrum of paint application.

Julia Pearson

My artistic practice is centered on exploring my own identity, with a particular emphasis on the intricate relationship between gender self-identification and expression. I utilize props, clothing, and self-portrait photography, to create works that reflect my journey of self-discovery and offer insights into the nuances of gender and sexuality.

To further examine these themes, I employ a range of techniques, including photography, silkscreen printmaking, and installation. This interdisciplinary approach allows me to merge multiple modes of inquiry, each of which contributes to the overall impact and meaning of the final piece. The repetition of images through the printmaking process reinforces the notion of active identity construction and allows for a more in-depth exploration of the performative and creative aspects of my practice.

I am heavily influenced by street graffiti art and its innovative use of colour. I believe that colours possess the ability to elicit strong emotions and convey complex feelings, making them indispensable to my artistic expression. I incorporate this belief into my work, guiding the placement of objects with consideration of colour and composition. This approach reflects my broader interest in exploring the intersection between art and emotion.

Ultimately, my goal is to create work that challenges and inspires, encouraging viewers to reflect deeply on the complexities of the human experience. By dispensing colour in a deliberate and meaningful way, I create installations that transcend traditional boundaries and invite the viewer to engage on a deeper level.

Sara Richardson

I have started to make a point of taking time to appreciate mundane encounters in my day-to-day life, like odd bugs in my backyard or marshes on the side of prairie roads. These small aspects of life bring me quite a bit of joy. Observing these small details started after I began to take more interest in environmental science, sustainability and how human activities have impacted earth.

I am interested in exploring the climate/environmental crisis on a more personal level, examining how small elements of my life are affected by climate change. I am exploring this topic by creating a fabricated environment that resembles a small wetland using my experiences from living on the prairies, in the mountains and on the west coast as inspiration. I have used objects commonly found in a house such as rugs, mirrors and paintings on a wall in order to create a sense of home. This makes the topic of sustainability more relatable, reminding the viewer that the natural world is just as much our home as our built one.

The materials for this installation were chosen as they resemble aspects of nature; a large painting mimics a prairie sky; tufted rugs resemble a nice resting spot in a meadow or wild grass in a marsh; the mirrors remind me of a still body of water in the morning; and the needle felting represents entangled interconnections within nature.

Delainey Vogan

I am fascinated by the concept of self-image and how it can be distorted and manipulated by both external and internal forces. Through my work, I aim to explore the complex and often contradictory nature of self-perception, and how it can be influenced by factors such as societal norms, personal insecurities, and the pervasive influence of media and advertising.

In particular, I am drawn to the idea of the “ideal” self-image, and how it is constantly being reshaped and redefined by myself as I approach different experiences and thoughts that change the way I view myself. My work often incorporates elements of distortion, fragmentation, and abstraction, as I seek to challenge the viewer’s preconceptions and push them to question the distortions within their internal imaginative thoughts.

This series is reflective of my internal self image. Through these drawings I’ve approached depicting internal thoughts through visual distortions. These distortions appear as line and colour that mirrors figures and disrupts the body’s form. These visual distortions question the internal self image and confront these thoughts as distorted idealization’s of oneself. In order to express the multitude of identity and self image these drawings derive from ideas of self expression, internal feelings, body image, and sexuality all of which make up myself as an individual.

Ultimately, my goal is to create a series of work that both challenges and inspires the viewer, forcing them to confront their own assumptions and beliefs about self-image, identity, and the distortions that lie within that internal reality.

Hei Yu Wong

My painting collection aims to create an illusion by combining juxtaposing elements to create this dream-like effect that blurs the boundary between reality and imagination. I focused on creating illusions by associating natural elements like plants and landscapes combining with parts of the human body. The human body is a rather intimate subject from its associates with one’s identity and physical presence; the separation of the body shows inability as its breaks away from where it is. The concept of nature is a powerful force that comes in arbitrary forms. The combination creates a co-dependent relationship as they affect each other from merging.

My influences come from optical illusion art and the artist James Jean, whose work illustrates a dream-like state by combining distinct physical and cultural elements. What makes the idea of illusion and dream interesting is how much the audience discovers and comprehends within the painting while the painting remains its maintaining harmony within the composition. Although my paintings disregard cultural elements, it is still present in ways of interpretation.

Angela Wood

Painting is a form of dance – a careful choreography of brush strokes and colour mixing that comes together to capture the ideas of my mind on a canvas. My intention is for my paintings to serve as a form of escapism. In the moment of viewing my works, one will be entranced by the playful movement of elements within them. My works transform the act of viewing into a visual symphony, or a dance for the eyes.

My paintings consist of vibrant abstract forms that are lighthearted and playful in nature. The organic forms of my works appear to flow both within the confines of their individual frames and beyond. Over the development of this project, I have discovered that these works speak to one another through unintentional continuities in form and line. The final arrangement of the works speaks to these continuities, with each work flowing into the next. The act of arranging the works for display is intuitive and unplanned, a final step in the choreography prior to exhibition.

These works are intended to be viewed both as a collection, like a segmented mural of interconnected flowing lines, and individually, with each work being unique in the ideas that they evoke. Though abstract, the forms of my work are tangible. Their tangibility is enhanced through scale, which creates the sensation of a portal that the viewer can step inside to become immersed in the works completely.

Claire Worrall

My work is centered around textiles and working with fabrics to create familiarity in my pieces. My grandmother’s textile creations are my main inspiration. She began a quilt for me when I turned 19 of all the nightgowns she made for me. I am now creating my own quilts with my own memories from my childhood.

This quilt takes shape of a fort-like sculpture made of sewn and patchworked quilts that form a long narrow tent. The work invites the viewer to interact with it by crawling underneath and through the blanket of memories. The sculpture provides viewers them with an experience that transports them back to their own childhoods and connects them with sentimental objects they shared. Using a variety of fabrics in a similar colour palette, each patch of varying colours is joined together with intricate stitches to create 4 quilts that will join together.

Each piece of fabric is sustainably sourced and hand-picked from local thrift shops in Kelowna, BC. As an artist who makes clothing and uses fabric as their material, I strive to create artworks that operate on sustainable principles. By limiting waste and thrifting all my materials, I can upcycle fabric, thread, elastic, lace, and more and prevent them from ending up in a landfill. Each quilt I make is designed using repurposed or vintage fabrics, meaning it contains reused materials.

My goal in quilt making is to create sentimental pieces, while also being mindful of the people and planet they come from. Constructing a non-traditional quilt allows me to represent certain sentimental objects and memories from childhood. I hope that this work allows the viewer to ponder the memories from when we were young.

Haonan Zhang

My name is Haonan Zhang. As a fine artist I mainly focus on digital painting and media practices. My art embodies styles of realism and expressionism. My project is a series of digital paintings combined with animation, 3D, and other media effects, which tells a story under a fictional world that I create. My goal of creating this work is to explore the area in between digital painting and media, and to create an immersive exhibition spatial experience.

My work centers around a story of resisting the oppression and injustice. I want it to be multi-perspective that connects to various topics like history, my cultural background, politics, as well as the life itself. Through my work I speak to my audience that even though we may experience struggles and feel oppressed in our lives, we should not give up and always keep a heart of resisting the darkness. My work incorporates various elements including digital painting, 3D and animation, as well as media effects like snow falling, combining them together to create a film-like visual presentation. By collaborating new media practices like camera movement, visual and sound effects with traditional painting theories and techniques like the use of warm and cold colors, composition, blending, and so on, my work is able to connect its visual elements with the story and to create an immersive experience for viewers.

Presenting it through a 4k projector onto the wall on a relatively large scale and working with sound, I want my work to create an immersive experience that brings the audience into the story and the world I create.

Sikun Zhao

I strive to make artworks to record the happiest memories between my pets and me. I used to be a person that almost gave up everything. But one day, a little kitten just came into my life. I started to know the feeling of being loved and how to love others. I would like to say my works are not just artwork, but also a love letter between my babies and me. I want to share one opinion with all my audience that you are needed not only for a second but also for someone’s whole life. And don’t be afraid to let someone walk in your heart, try to feel that warmth in this cold world.

My work is a 2 minute keyframe animation which is inspired by my cat Qiuqiu. He is my first cat. But he is not just a cat for me, he is also my family member. And unfortunately he passed away this february. I would like to tell a story about how we met, what we did, the sweetest moment that we were together.

Different types of animations have influenced me since my childhood. Animations are not only for teenagers, but also for adults. Sometimes a story may change one person’s life. In the future, I would like to spend more time on creating different forms of animations. And trying to produce high quality and meaningful work for all anime lovers.

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