Blue Refuge: Joyce Ozier Dives Deep

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I met Joyce for the first time when I came to the Fazakas Gallery for the opening of the Beau Dick show in October. She struck up a conversation and, being new to the city I was thankful for a friendly face; even if it was one I didn’t know yet. I immediately felt comfortable around her, and told her I was starting an art blog and looking for events to write about. The conversation ended with a personal invitation from her to her art opening for Blue Refuge at that very same gallery in November. How could I refuse? Invited by the artist! I took her card and promised to be there.

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Me and my boots

The time rolled around and this time I even had a real date to the event, giving me a good excuse to try out heels in the city. Should I go for the 3-inch black pumps and low cut black dress? Nope, I wasn’t that brave. I wore the comfy 2-inch brown leather boots, tailored skirt and silk scarf tied into a top. Some great conversation and Mexican food under our belts we headed for the Fazakas Gallery to see the show. Once again, I was unfashionably early, but I consoled myself with the fact that I had dared to wear heels out in the city. Surely that counted for something.

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The other photographer – I took the good ones

It’s always great to walk into a party where you know people. Up North this is what all the parties are like. You walk in the door and there is your cousin and your boss and your ex all in one room. In the city, an introduction is required almost everywhere you go. As an introvert it has taken a bit of adjusting to. That’s why it was nice to walk into the Fazakas Gallery and shake hands with LaTiesha Fazakas and Christopher Tregilges of the Fazakas Gallery and the artist, Joyce Ozier. I knew them; not well, but I knew them. It was nice to realize that this funky little gallery had already become a bit of an oasis in the city for me.

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I started wandering around the show checking out the art as I usually did: spot the bright shiny one and walk towards it, up close, back up, then wander in a crisscross pattern in my Gemini, ADD fashion to figure out what I liked and what I didn’t. It was then that the artist took me by the arm and patiently explained that the art had a narrative and there was an order. As I followed her instructions and started at the beginning, I felt my energy suddenly shift from a social butterfly at an art opening, to being quiet reflection and feeling the impact of the story that complemented the paintings. The dialogue told a story of the holocaust that Joyce had written herself, but, as she revealed later, could have been the story of many jews during that time. The impact of the show went immediately from a room full of beautiful colours to a personal reflection on connection to heritage and collective struggle.

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LaTiesha, gallery owner, and Joyce both spoke about the evolution of the show, which was possibly my favourite part. I loved hearing how the gallery owner engaged with the artist to find a common ground that helped both of them achieve what they were looking for in the experience. LaTeisha wanted a show that told a story or carried substance. Joyce found a motivation to push her art to another level. As they both spoke we heard each side of the evolution as they both moved towards a shared vision of what the show could be. With art, we so rarely get a glimpse into how the vision comes to be, we see the final product: the final splash of paint on the canvas that the artist wants you to see, and then the polished and curated version the gallery wants you to see. In this case, the narrative of how this art show came to be was as much a part of the show as the show itself.

The night ended too soon. Joyce, in her kind way, emailed me later to apologize for not having had time to chat with me, being pulled in all directions that night. I don’t know if she realized that watching her engage with the people at the opening about how meaningful her show was to her was just as enjoyable for me as getting the chance to talk to her myself. We left the gallery for the chilly street outside and, once again, the noise of the Fazakas Gallery faded into the night. We climbed into the warm car and commented on the privilege of witnessing an artist’s expression of growth. It felt like a little window into those moments of vulnerability where real creation comes from. And as I placed the beautiful art cards Joyce had sent home with me – and everyone else at the opening – on the dash of my car, I knew that I had taken much more away with me than what I arrived with. 

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