Recent school of art graduate Tayler Buss has been announced as the Manitoban winner of the 19th annual BMO 1st Art! Competition for her mixed media sculpture “Rearview.”
The BMO 1st Art! is an annual competition in which deans and instructors from institutional studio art programs across Canada nominate three students from their graduating classes to participate based on their ability and imagination. A selection committee then reviews these students’ submissions and selects one winner from each province and territory, as well as one national winner.
Buss said being named Manitoba’s regional winner was shocking at first, but now that her win has been made public, she is reliving it all over again.
“I’m very happy and honoured to be the one that was chosen,” Buss said.
Buss’s artistic career began in the field of competitive dance, which she participated in until high school. Buss then took art classes throughout high school, but it wasn’t until joining the school of art at the U of M that she started to embrace fine art more seriously.
“Originally, I was kind of a painter and drawer, but then ever since I went to U of M, I started doing photography and that has become my main practice,” Buss said.
“A lot of my ideas and concepts revolve around the ideas of photography but might express themselves in sculpture or other mediums, so that’s kind of where ‘Rearview’ comes in, as a piece about photography, but not represented with photography.”
“Rearview” is a sculpture composed of a steel towel rack, a rear-view mirror, blonde hair extensions and a keychain containing a digital photograph. The hair extensions hang off the towel rack like a curtain and the keychain hangs from the mirror at the centre of the rack, which is mounted at eye level to the wall. This keychain contains a photograph that depicts a pair of hands sensually caressing a shiny and ambiguous yellow object.
These seemingly disparate parts, which reflect Buss’s interest in the mediations between the physical world and its increasing digitization, ultimately converge to create a symmetrical and unified piece that maintains an air of introspection and grace.
“It came from a lot of personal feelings,” Buss said, “but also just thinking about how the media interacts with the images that we see on social media and advertisements.”
“Coming from a mixed-race background, […] Eurocentric facial features and just physical features were always kind of something to strive for, so I wanted to kind of play off of that and use the blonde hair as almost this way of like pulling the viewer in,” Buss said.
From here, Buss began conceptualizing what the objects within“Rearview” symbolized not only to her, but universally and societally.
“I started thinking about this kind of fetishization of the blonde hair and how the photograph is these hands caressing this blonde object, or yellow object thing. [It’s] presenting this fetishized object.”
Another important aspect to “Rearview” is the way audience members interact with the work and are pulled into its dialogue, particularly when viewed in-person.
“The blonde hair draws you in, but the mirror kind of cuts that gaze, because you’re looking right back at yourself and it’s almost like the sculpture’s staring back at you in a weird way when it’s your own reflection,”Buss said.
“It’s almost confronting you.”
As for the future, Buss looks forward to working more in sculpture and combining it with photographic influences.
“My photographs kind of always had objects in them, and they never really focused on the figure or like, landscape, it was always very [grounded in still life] and objects,” Buss said.
“I think it was kind of like a natural progression to venture into actually manipulating these objects physically, or making objects of my own.”
Regarding the role of her winning piece in this evolution of her practice, Buss said, “I would say it was kind of this breakthrough in a way that I had with combining sculpture and photography. I think now that I’ve kindof done it and feel a bit more confident in what I’m saying, I can almost abandon the photograph, but still have those themes of photography.”
“I want to continue with more sculpture and thinking about these physical objects that emulate this sentimentality, or this lack of physicality that is photography now because everything is digital.”
The upcoming BMO 1st Art! virtual exhibition will mark Buss’s artistic debut on a national scale.
Images of Buss’s winning sculpture, “Rearview,” are currentlyavailable online. The full BMO 1st Art! virtual exhibition will be up andrunning between Nov. 16 to Dec. 8.