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Central Alberta artist wins prestigious artistic residency on the French Riviera

Conceptual artist Emily Promise Allison was recognized for her passion and dedication to discovery
Penhold artist Emily Promise Allison in a photographic self-portrait. (Contributed image).

Penhold artist Emily Promise Allison didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when she was informed she had been chosen for a three-month master residency at a French castle.

This amazing news came out of the blue, she recalled, since she hadn’t applied for this award from the Napoule Art Foundation, a U.S. non-profit.

“As soon as it settled in, I was so excited and eager to connect with the amazing team in France,” said the 34-year-old graduate of the Alberta University of the Arts.

The conceptual photographer and performance artist will take up residence in a historic apartment on the grounds of the stone chateau near the Mediterranean Sea from September to December.

Emily was chosen for this prestigious placement for her passion, dedication, strong sense of exploration, and desire to produce evocative images that are both thought-provoking and “fun.”

Board members of the La Napoule Art Foundation were able to observe her practise while Emily attended a group residency of 10 Canadian artists in France last summer through the Fondation David R. Graham. The organization offers scholarships and cross-cultural opportunities for artists in France and Canada.

Since only one creative person is “invited” to the master residency every second year, Emily considers herself very lucky to have received this honour. But she also knows that she’s laboured hard to earn this award. “I think I deserve it because I have a very strong work ethic.”

During her three-month stay in on the French Riviera (the scenic 14th-century chateau with six acres of gardens is considered a French historic monument), Emily intends to soak up the historic aspects of this very old part of the world.

Just living beside this lavishly decorated palace, formerly the home of artists Marie and Henry Clews, is bound to be inspirational, said the artist, who is inspired by dreams, found objects, and the notion of prehistory — a time before humans populated the Earth.

Emily explained she intends to simulate volcanic explosions in her work by enacting small-scale chemical reactions that she will photograph. ”I’ve always very much been into science. I love chemistry,” added the graduate of Notre Dame High School, who credits her parents for fueling her love of travel and the sense she could follow her artistic aspirations.

Emily’s goal is to leave France with a body of work, both photographic and on film, that makes viewers feel a connection to the ancient beauty of the planet, “while still living in the present.”

By creating images that embrace surreal, metaphysical, and dreamlike qualities, she hopes “to activate curiosity, stimulate a sense of wonder,” and subvert viewers’ expectations, on both intellectual and emotional levels.

Emily wants her art to celebrate the imagination, “the strange nature of existence, and the absurdity of life.”

Some of her photographic works can be seen in Red Deer from June 2 to July 28 in the exhibit Futility Index at the Viewpoint Gallery in the Red Deer Culture Centre. Emily will present an artist talk at 6:30 p.m. on June 9.

Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
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