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Taking risks in their art

Florence Yee is grateful for the Ann Duncan Travel and Tuition Award in developing their practice.
April 17, 2018
By Joseph Leger

Florence Yee was drawn to the world of visual arts from watching painter and television host Bob Ross on PBS television as a child. What began as a desire to paint landscapes evolved into a need to challenge ethnocentric stereotypes.

“I used to just make boring landscapes,” says Yee, who is in their final year of their Bachelor of Fine Arts with a major in painting and drawing. “But then I got to university and suddenly my work was being ethnicized. People started seeing characters that looked vaguely Asian in the trees and something green suddenly became ‘jade.’ As people kept asking these questions I felt compelled to answer through my work.”

Florence Yee “Funding is one of the most vital parts of developing your practice and feeling assured your work is worth it.”

Yee describes themselves as a “2.5-generation Cantonese, struggling visual artist based in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal, unceded Mohawk territory.” An interdisciplinary artist, they often combine oil painting, drawing, fibres and digital media. Their work has been shown in Canada, the United States and Australia.

Yee was also recently named the undergraduate coordinator for Concordia’s Ethnocultural Art Histories Research Group, a student-driven working group. “I’m very interested in art history, curating, archiving and collecting. I’ve been happy to find a community of people who are equally interested in what I’m doing as I am in what they’re doing.”

Necessary financial support

Yee attributes their early artistic success in large part to the support they received from awards, such as the Ann Duncan Travel and Tuition Award, funded by Concordia’s Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery.

“I wouldn’t be anywhere if I didn’t have the funds to travel and transport my art,” says Yee. “I think the biggest barrier to most art studies is definitely financial. No matter how hard you try, it’s really difficult to break into the art world — at least the mainstream — if you don’t have the money. Funding is one of the most vital parts of developing your practice and feeling assured your work is worth it.”

Yee reveals the financial support gave them the courage to take risks with their art, travel to conferences in the U.S. and complete a residency in Ottawa. “I feel so lucky to have this funding because without it I wouldn’t have tried going to Concordia or applying to fine arts, or known how to deliver my art to another city,” Yee says.

“In the art world, a lot of things just snowball. When you do one thing, another thing happens next to it and it really builds your momentum.”

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