DefSup RetroGraduate Exhibit

New Generation of Students Hits the Art Scene

By Sara Sadeghi Aval, Photos by Keegan Richard

Not unlike birds leaving the nest, the 2021 and 2022 Lakehead University fine arts graduates debuted their work at this year’s RetroGraduate exhibit and entered the world of professional art, some of them for the first time. This year’s show included nine students, and a variety of mediums. Each student displays the result of their university evolution, focusing on the development of their approach, from the small ceramic forest created by Brynn Monteith that has taken over the main gallery to the steampunk-esque sculptures by Christopher Rantala that are fully functional and include moving parts. As one walks through the gallery, the themes of environment (both natural and artificial), pollution, and internal reflection are visible—themes that feel very fitting for a generation creating art through a global pandemic and environmental decline.


The exhibit is a showcase of meaningful creations and snapshots of each student’s talents. Katie Untinen’s large-scale paintings impress with the level of blending and use of colours. Her piece depicting fires in Fort McMurray is both haunting and captivating. The highlight of Nathan Cross’s work must be his three-piece set of face sculptures. Each head rests on a custom platform and behind each face hangs a textile background. With all six eyes looking up, the onlooker naturally does the same, and embraces the self-reflection and struggle the trio encourages. “My artwork reflects the feelings and effects that addiction encompasses, and is influenced by the growing number of people around me with mental illness and addiction,” says the young artist on his inspiration. 

Hanna Marion, the artist behind the unique forest scenes and perfect depictions of light filtering through trees and leaves, says her art is her “way of sharing deep appreciation for the natural world while also exploring different mediums, styles, and techniques.” Monteith’s ceramics sit in the spotlight in the secondary gallery, a mixture between sculpture and the unique wiring she integrates into her pieces. Camille Vernier displays her take on Woodland pop art with a futuristic twist in her paintings.


David Karasiewicz, creative director at Definitely Superior Gallery, talks about the longstanding relationship between the gallery and Lakehead University. With a 35-year history of fine art professors being heavily involved with DefSup, it’s no wonder their primary goal has always been to “support the artists of the future,” as Karawiewicz says. Many of the artists who participate in the RetroGraduate exhibit go on to create art professionally, while others enter the teaching sector. Creating a space for first-time artists remains a priority for both the gallery and the university. “Many of these artists were not able to share their art with the public. Even a piece like Katie’s, seeing it online and in-person are completely different,” explains the director, setting a good reminder that the pandemic may have slowed artists down but has not stopped them from creating. 


Congratulations to Taylor Anderson, Christopher Rantala, Nathan Cross, Brynn Monteith, Hanna Marion, Katie Untinen, Camille Vernier, Julia Mills, and Erika Niva on their exceptional work. 


The show is open to the public until June 5. Follow @defsup for more details.