Visual art student Vanessa Ervin challenges societal norms through art

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: VANESSA ERVIN
One Lakehead student is helping to spread awareness of social justice in a creative and intriguing artistic format.

Thunder Bay (CUP) — Vanessa Ervin is a third year Visual Arts student who came to Lakehead from St. Joseph's Island in hopes of pursuing her passion of art. Her three-major outlets of creativity are painting, drawing, and sculpting, but she also enjoys photography. In addition her artistic studies, she is also pursuing a minor in Women's Studies.

Before coming to Lakehead, Ervin had always known that art was what she was truly passionate about. Despite her passion, she had doubts regarding the practicality of pursuing art as a career path and let the voices and opinions of her peers get into her head. In an interview with The Argus, Ervin mentions how she attempted to look into other careers as being an artist did not seem be to be very “realistic.” However, she decided to ignore the negative opinions of others and chose to believe instead that if “people can pursue math or science, I should be able to pursue my passion of art.”

Due to her strength and passion, Ervin has shown to many that art can be more than just something pretty to look that. To Ervin, as well as many other artists, art is a gateway to influence positive social change. She explains that it is because of this opportunity to influence change that she constantly “strives to make pieces that make people question societal norms and things within themselves.” She explains that because of the way her art challenges social norms, specifically pertaining to issues of women's rights, one of her main goals when presenting her pieces is to enable those who view it to “redefine their misconceptions of what feminism is.”

Fighting societal norms through art can be an overwhelming and very complex task. However, the pieces that are produced in relation to feminism can be extremely compelling as well as meaningful. In regard to navigating feminist ideologies and conveying them through art, Ervin states how an abundance of her understanding as well as inspiration derive from her Women's Studies classes. This is why she says that much of her art is “influenced by feminist concepts.”

Recently, at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Ervin displayed a sculpture that reinforces these feminist ideologies which she titled, Reclaiming the Stitch. The sculpture involved embroidery rings as well as various objects and drawings which spoke to the oppression of women both in the past and present. Ervin states that, “historically, sewing was a women's job and a form of oppression. I wanted to use things that oppress women today and place them on the embroidery ring, however, juxtaposing them with phrases that are reclaiming.” The piece was truly powerful, and its symbolic meaning transcended all the way down to the materials it was made of. Additionally, this inspiring piece earned Ervin the Dean of Social Science and Humanities Award, the newest award among her other accomplishments throughout her artistic career. It can certainly be said that Ervin's work is an inspiration, and it will be exciting to see what she creates in the future.