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Sempre Avanti
Canada 150


      Un Momento with Nina Leo

      Mar. 28, 2013

      Nina Leo is an amazing Italian Canadian artist, professor and writer in Toronto. Her multifaceted work is powerful and thought provoking. She forces us to examine who we are and how we interact with each other and ourselves. She is an energetic and inspiring teacher as well as a very giving and collaborative artist. Her work has been in numerous galleries, public institutions and spaces in Canada, the United States and Mexico. Nina teaches a The Ontario College of Art and Design University and is represented in Toronto by the Red Head Gallery.

      You are a multi-disciplinary artist. What does that mean exactly?

      Simply put, it means that my work is not limited to any one discipline. The work generally stems from a concept or idea and that often leads to the medium or mediums that best translate and communicate that idea. And, while my practice tends to be based in sculpture and installation, it also includes other forms of visual practice such as drawing, video, performance, sound, scent, etc. Most often, several of these components are brought together in a work.

      You are a professor at the Ontario College of Art and Design University. What do you teach and what is it like? Do you enjoy it?

      I teach in the Sculpture and Installation department at OCADU. The program also considers sculpture in its broadest, most experimental sense and often crosses over into other disciplines, so it is the perfect fit for me. I have taught several different courses, most of which are studio or studio/ seminar, as we tend to explore practice and theory together with one another.

      Currently I am teaching 4th Sculpture Installation Thesis. This is co-taught with two other faculty members, Ian Carr-Harris and Ginette Legaré, who are really wonderful to work with. It is really exciting to be involved with this, as each student who graduates from the program mounts a thesis exhibition in an outside professional gallery and produces a research support paper. The students are extraordinarily talented and committed and produce some really exciting work. It’s a wonderful energy to be around and I am constantly engaged in many different forms of practice and ways of thinking. Honestly, it’s just super fun. I can’t imagine a better job.

      You won the 2013 Eric Hoffer Award for prose for your piece, Only By the Spear that Smote You. Congratulations. Can you tell us what the piece is about and how you wrote it?

      Thanks! This was a really nice surprise. The piece is a short story that explores the psychological effects of chronic physical pain. I have suffered from migraines since I was young and have come to see the pain as a sort of companion. We spend endless hours in a room together working things out. I came to realize that, though it may be difficult, it is just like any relationship in that there is much to be gained from our time together – our imposed retreats that force me reside so completely within the physical, sentient self. I suppose the piece was a way of really exploring what those experiences offer and afford, in a way that could be articulated. In that way, the piece also relates to my larger art practice.

      Do you think your Italian Canadian culture has informed or guided your work in anyway? If so how and if not, why not?

      I don’t know that there is any direct link that could be identified. My work never addresses this specifically, but inasmuch as we all work from the perspective of our own experiences and understanding of being in and amongst the world, my culture has certainly played a very important role in shaping this perspective. I also think that as a second generation child, watching my parents navigate through a culture different from their own, and living in one myself that was different from many of my peers, I spent much time thinking about what creates or builds identity, and how this may come to be expressed.

      What project are you currently working on?

      Well, there are a few projects on the go right now. I am working on a collaborative collection of works with fellow artist, Lee Henderson that is very exciting. These projects seem to be developing as a series of responsive or interactive objects/ machines as well as a series of videos. We are also in the process of producing our first collaborative bookwork.

      Also, I am working on a series of olfactory projects. This is part of a larger body of research that I have been working on for the past year with the support of the Canada Arts Council. Smell, and the way we engage with and manipulate it in contemporary environments is very interesting to me, especially given that it is both elusive and a potent visceral, emotional trigger. Some of the new works look to explore how smell (and the growing development and implementation of chemically remanufactured smells) may influence the ways in which we experience space, our sense of place and one another.

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