U of A grad pours art and soul into award-winning sculpture

Fine Arts alumna Tiffany Adair nabs coveted international student achievement award in sculpting

Angelique Rodrigues - 05 September 2014

Fine Arts alumna Tiffany Adair nabs coveted international student achievement award in sculpting

By: Angelique Rodrigues

"I hate my body."

It's a statement made by countless women the world over, and a concept that led recent Fine Arts alumna Tiffany Adair (`14 BFA) to create a series of sculptures and prints that explore and reject society's obsession with physical appearance.

One of these sculptures, titled Mind Frame, has nabbed Adair a prestigious award from the International Sculpting Centre (ISC), and the chance of a lifetime - to be featured in a world renowned gallery and touring art show.

The ISC awarded Adair the Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award this past June, making her the first ever UAlberta student, and one of very few undergrads worldwide, to receive it.

"We are taught to hate our bodies, to be ashamed of our differences and it's really confining," mused the soft-spoken artist, who says the winning piece was influenced by both Buddhism and Surrealism. "The theme behind the sculpture is a search for hope, in realizing that this is just a fake cage built for us by others."

Adair says she was shocked to hear she'd won the coveted award for her mixed-media sculpture, which is crafted from wood, fur, rope and hair.

The ISC's award program includes participants from six different countries and 151 universities - a pretty daunting pool according to Adair.

"I still can't believe I actually got this; it is just so big and so prestigious," she said, adding that the Arts professor who nominated her - award-winning sculptor Royden Mills - frequently spoke of the esteemed ISC awards. "He always said it would be really hard for an undergrad to win this, so that's pretty cool."

Mills, whose latest work was featured in local art gallery Latitude 53, says he wasn't just using the line to encourage students, he genuinely believes Adair's win is a nearly impossible feat.

"I cannot emphasize enough how big it is for the research of an undergraduate student like Tiffany to win out over graduate students applications and undergraduate applications from the biggest metropolitan-based art universities in the world," he said. "I hope this award to Tiffany is just one more thing for Edmontonians to… be proud of about artists from this city."

Adair hopes the award will shine a light on the calibre of UAlberta's fine arts program and is adamant her time here has shaped both her art and soul. "It's this amazing small program, with awesome facilities and learning opportunities and the program is filled with passionate people," she said. "It's propelled me through the challenges of getting a degree and taught me to think critically about what art can do."

Adair has already packed up her winning sculpture to be shipped to the ISC's gallery in New Jersey, and she plans to attend the Grounds for Sculpture exhibition this October with her mom.

As for what's next, Adair says she'll keep working in both sculpture and print. Her next project, a poetry book collaboration, is set to be completed in early 2015.

Some of her sketches for the book can be viewed on her website (link to www.tarobert.wix.com/tiffanyadair) along with other examples of her work.

Her winning piece will also appear in the October issue of the ISC's publication, Sculpture Magazine.

Though she's found a solid foothold when it comes to jump-starting her career, Adair is finding the transition from Arts student to working artist a little bittersweet. She's already started to miss life at the U of A and the hours she spent bent over a project in her dusty corner of the sculpting studio in the Fine Arts Building.

"Everywhere you go in here you meet amazing, passionate people and there's this great support team," she said, gazing nostalgically around the brightly lit studio. "I've had a once in a lifetime experience here."

To read more about the ISC award winners, visit www.sculpture.org.