New Blue Art Star: Amery Sandford Wins “Best New Artist in Town”

Mary MacDonald likens our city's "Best New Artist" to moonshine

If Amery Sandford made moonshine she would be at skill level Appalachian hermit. As a practice, the making of a proper distilled shine requires a large amount of technical skill (check!), a great balance of ingredients (check!), and just a slight touch of danger (check!).

Sandford drifted onto the St. John’s arts scene in 2014, when oil prices began to plummet, a guy in Shea Heights got stuck in a snow bank, and a weeklong power outage caused our dark humour to shine even more brightly.

In stepped Sandford, a recent graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University, who carried with her a broad range of technical and creative skills. Working with lithography, screenprint, and relief (woodcut), she set upon distilling her new found land.

Sandford was selected from a wide range of applicants for St. Michael’s Printshop’s Don Wright Scholarship, a unique year-long residency for recent graduates to explore their practice. Her breakout brew of an exhibition entitled FOMO ISLAND opened this past September and showcased many months of artistic experiments.

Her candy-colored prints flip St. John’s tired jellybean trope on its head, instead pointing to what makes this place beautifully weird and wonderful. In Sandford’s cultural imaginary, a tattooed seal might offer you a Blue Star, or a plastic blow-up palm tree might give you respite from a rolling fogbank. These are the hopeful and hopeless symbols of a new Townie aesthetic.

Originally from Canmore AB, another tourist town, Sandford has been percolating throughout the St. John’s arts community in more ways than one. Sandford and partner-in-crime writer Allison Graves co-curated Maybe, Probably, a group exhibition of contemporary printmaking for Eastern Edge’s summer festival HOLD FAST.

Collaborating with MDDLSX (Robin Follett) Sandford mixed design and fashion to produce a unique line of undergarments, and infused Lawnya Vawnya’s talkshow with a solid dose of down to earth poo-humour and live action drawing. In addition, Sandford has been an active volunteer for both artist-run centres, a teacher, and screen printing soldier at Living Planet Studio.

Looking beyond her activities here in St. John’s, Sandford’s work is making waves outside too. She was recently featured in East is the New West, a curated selection of printed matter and unconventional publications at the Vancouver Art/Book Fair and gave an artist talk at MUN’s Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook.

In 2016 Sandford will be collaborating with Ricardo Ruiz on a curatorial project for SGCI: Flux in Portland, Oregon and working on a new body of work at Living Planet Studio which draws inspiration from cultural spectacle’s such as the Mummer’s Festival.

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