String Theory tied together by ‘creative limitations’

The latest show at Arts Underground is proof you don't need heaps of material to be artistic. String Theory is being put on by 15 students at the Yukon School of Visual Art in Dawson City.

The latest show at Arts Underground is proof you don’t need heaps of material to be artistic.

String Theory is being put on by 15 students at the Yukon School of Visual Art in Dawson City.

Each student created a unique piece of art. Some are 2-D, some are 3-D, some are abstract, and some are representational. But each piece is connected to the rest by the six items students were forced to use to create them.

They all contain fur, wax, thread or string, ink, watercolour and paper.

It’s a technique the students chose themselves, known as “creative limitations,” explained instructor Veronica Verkley.

“That’s basically giving yourself, or being given, some kind of limit on what you can do in a project. You initially feel that they are limitations that are going to stop you from doing whatever you want,” she said.

“But at the same time, being able to work within those limits can make you really stretch and push yourself and move you into something even more interesting than you might have done if there was no limit at all.”

The annual SOVA show is always student-driven, Verkley said. The class is involved in every step of the process, from making images for the invitations, to writing the press release, to figuring out how to hang the art.

The idea of using limitations to channel creativity is not a new one.

Verkley pointed to famous children’s wordsmith Dr. Seuss as an example of when placing rules on your work can help everything go right.

As legend has it, Seuss was once asked by his publisher to write a story using only 50 different words.

Out of that challenge, came the Seussian classic Green Eggs and Ham.

Student Malanka Topper said forcing herself out of her comfort zone was a challenge, especially when it came to combining all the different materials into one piece of art.

“Fur and thread would be usual, and wax and paper would also be pretty usual, but to have so many in one, was really interesting,” she said.

Though she is normally most comfortable working with pen and ink or paper sculptures, Topper said she is pleased with the mountain landscape piece that this type of work allowed her to create.

“I was really happy. It was cool because it’s not the kind of thing I usually do. In some ways I had lower expectations for myself,” she said. “But when you’re looking at it with fresh eyes it’s really interesting.”

It also allowed her to enjoy the creativity of the other students in the small class.

“Everyone’s was so different,” she said. “It’s actually really neat to see all the variety you can have even though we all had to use the same material.”

Student Amy McAllister called her piece, which resembles something similar to paper dolls but uses the outline of animals, “probably the most fulfilling thing I’ve done while being here at school.” That’s in part because of the freedom that came from having no direction aside from the material, she said.

While some artists may find working with required material overwhelming, McAllister said she didn’t.

“Not at all actually. It’s like I meditate or something. I close my eyes and something comes out of my head immediately,” she said.

In the end, the final show is something all the students can be proud of, Verkley said.

“I think it’s pretty neat. When you look at all the work together, even though there was no limit in terms of subject matter or approach. I feel like they are all really cohesive together.”

String Theory runs until March 1.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com