UBCO BFA SHOW – Heather Leier & Lauren Gemmell

By Jennifer Smith – Kelowna Capital News


UBCO students Lauren Gemmell (right) and Heather Leier (right) are putting together the UBCO fine arts department’s final show—a whole building experience.

Swamped. It’s the only way to describe the last couple of weeks before the fourth year students’ end of year show.


Every April, the halls of UBCO’s fine arts building seem to teem with paintings and drawings and canvasses, half finished.


There are ladders standing erect in rooms where one can’t figure out what a person might climb to and couches left askew in the hallway.

And there are students, seemingly everywhere, no one looking their best.

If there were a portrait of end-of-term stress, it could be painted within these walls and yet, by the end of this week, their last week, the building’s studios will be repainted, the furniture whisked away, the prints and oils, watercolours and sculptures completely assembled in a showcase to launch the careers of 34 brand new artists.

Among those, this year, are Heather Leier and Lauren Gemmell, each with a very different creative side to show the audience.

Where Leier’s work is light-hearted and exploratory, Gemmell’s work is poignant and personal—and both will make you think.

“I’ve had an interest in science-y things because my sister has a degree in biology,” said Leier, a silkscreen printmaker who has 100 different prints to choose from for the show.

Rather than hanging her work on the wall, she’s hoping to build an installation with the prints and is trying out a waterfall-type wall of her mushrooms.

The mushroom prints are particularly unique, made from fallen spores.

While each piece may look like the iris of an eye, they’re actually the result of leaving a mushroom under a bowl until the spores dropped onto a piece of paper, creating a pattern for the artist.

“I just stumbled on it one day, either on the Internet or a book, and started playing with it,” she explained.

A similar curiosity brought out a vibrant blue and red wisdom tooth.

Playing with a gold-leafed tooth on a chain around her neck, Leier says the inspiration here was no big leap—she just had her wisdom tooth pulled and got braces on her bottom teeth.

Gemmell, by comparison, has a very serious subject matter. In a bold move, she’s used typically traditional watercolours, generally reserved for still-life work and landscapes, to explore her family’s dance with Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Originally, I didn’t even think this was what I was going to do for my fourth year, but my dziadzio (Polish for grandfather) passed away in the summer and he suffered from Alzheimer’s,” she explained.

Her work explores the idea of loss surrounded by worry, for herself and her cousins and the generations who will come next.



Gemmell’s family has Alzheimer’s Disease on both her mother and father’s sides of the family and she admits it’s something she’s currently processing. “Every one I do is usually a family portrait, someone important in my life,” she said.



There a picture of a baby cousin and her grandmother. A forget-me-not, the flower used by the Alzheimer Society of Canada, folds into the larger portraits of her and her grandfather working in his garden—her main memory of him.



Cast in the soft hues of the watery paint, they suggest a line of thought that’s not fully formed, of someone thinking things through.



The final show will be in the UBCO Fine Arts building and is open to the public from April 17 to 24, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.



It is free to the public and students will be selling their work.

Leave A Comment