Taking risks in her art
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 her final year of her 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.”
Yee describes herself as a “2.5-generation Cantonese, struggling visual artist based in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal, unceded Mohawk territory.” An interdisciplinary artist, she often combines oil painting, drawing, fibres and digital media. Her 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 her early artistic success in large part to the support she 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,” she says. “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 her the courage to take risks with her 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,” she 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.”