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Alumni Profile: Anna-Lisa Shandro

Anna-Lisa Shandro (BFA 2020) is an expanded field painter whose diverse portfolio includes costume design and immersive spatial experiences. Anna-Lisa uses pattern, colour, and craft to break down the doors of how we collectively see the past, present and future.

What have you done since leaving NSCAD?  

Since graduating in 2020, I had an online gallery as part of Visual Arts Nova Scotia’s New Grad Program. I then did a large installation for a group show at Hermes Gallery in Halifax called Escape, which was a wild, outdoor-like cathedral that included knit and crochet. I have also done a couple of local music videos and have had a lot of painting commissions. I have a residency coming up from May to July at the Centre for Craft Nova Scotia’s Craft LAIR, which will include a virtual reality component.

What are you currently working on or have you most recently worked on? What is this work about? 

For almost a year now, I have been working on hand-tufting and embroidering really large rugs. The pieces will interconnect to create a painting of universal patterns of the night sky inspired by my childlike wonder of quantum physics, nature, biology and the patterns that made us all. Several of the pieces will have visual keys that will unlock a magical moment in virtual reality using an app called Artivive.

What continues to inspire your work? 

Quantum physics and a deeper-rooted love for experimentation and improvisation. I have come to understand the world we’re in as this elaborate improv. Growing up, I played the saxophone, which lead me to read this book called The Jazz of Physics that compares the improvisation of musicians with the patterns of the universe becoming what it is now. I like to see my own art through that lens. It’s hard not to have a magical sense of wonder in the surreal and sublime when you start to enter this world of physics and actually try to understand it.

How did your time at NSCAD contribute to your career path?

NSCAD allowed me to build a portfolio and I think that’s what it’s all about. At the beginning, you’re learning rules, learning what the art realm looks like and what it is to be an artist, and then you’re given resources and feedback to build your portfolio. Doing this in a safe and secure space like NSCAD helped build my confidence to move forward and bring my portfolio into other applications and situations.

What was your favourite part of NSCAD? 

Being able to completely immerse myself into what it means to be an artist on so many different levels. There’s so many people creating art in so many different ways and being able to wander around all of these different subjects was so important to me.

What was your biggest takeaway from your time at NSCAD? 

There were so many philosophical nuggets on what it means to be an artist that I learned during my time at NSCAD but the biggest one is that form is content. The form of the things I am making, the form of the materials I am using are the content of the piece. The form I take in this world is the content of who I am.

What is the proudest moment of your art career? 

Getting gallery space for my current project after working on it for so long. You can feel the energy in the rugs I have been making because I have put so much faith and love into them. Someone wanting to give me space for them makes me feel very proud. I also had a lot of proud moments at NSCAD when a professor I really respected would acknowledge my ideas or my art and how hard I worked.

What do you wish you had of known when you were a student? 

Like most students, I wish I hadn’t stressed out as much. There was also just so many different resources available and I wish I had of taken advantage of these even more than I did.

What is something you can’t wait to do next in your career? 

I am really excited to work even more with virtual reality. I like the intersection between physical objects and being able to bring them into someone’s home or turn it into another world. I think that this can touch people in a very special way and it’s not something that is being done very much in the arts.

Anna-Lisa will be showcasing her new project at the CraftLAIR, adjacent to the Mary E. Black Gallery, in Halifax from May 12 – July 3, 2020. Check out her website and her Instagram.