Backyard Wilderness III: Data Portraits – Leila Armstrong

Backyard Wilderness III: Data Portraits – Leila Armstrong

Backyard Wilderness III: Data Portraits – Leila Armstrong

I began working on projects involving our relationship to wildlife as part of the artists’ duo 12 Point Buck (2009-11). I continue to explore it today through exhibitions and public art. Wanting to enrich my understanding of the nature/culture divide, and to use art as a research method, I began my PhD in 2016. People often ask me what I plan to do with a PhD, and I explain that the degree isn’t a means to an academic end but a journey—a process through which I have been able to explore my interests in a supportive and challenging environment. My studies have allowed me to investigate our relationship to urban wildlife and to advocate for coexistence through my art practice.

This project, mixing animal portraits with charts and plots, may be the story of missing the mark. My goal is to create low tech, analog representations that are visually appealing, have people want to know more, read the labels, and begin to make sense of the artwork. I don’t want people to necessarily understand the data completely, so much as I want them to engage, and think about how urban wildlife fits into their lives. Previous exhibitions and public art projects (such as my billboard series) worked to attain this goal, but do these? I am now hoping to gauge reactions to the work, think more about what it is I want to achieve and how best to achieve it, and ponder it all. On one hand, I am a bit like cartoonist Lynda Barry who said, “I found myself compelled—like this weird, shameful compulsion—to draw…animals.” On the other hand, my goal really is all about engaging with audiences. To sum up, it’s all about process and I’m still working through it.

Leila Armstrong is a Lethbridge-based artist currently undertaking a PhD in the Evolution & Behaviour Program at the University of Lethbridge. Leila has a BA in Fine and Performing Arts from Simon Fraser University and an MA in Media Studies from Concordia University in Montréal. Her work addresses the intersection of nature and culture, focussing specifically on urban wildlife. Through an investigation into the urban ecology of a small prairie city, her aim is to challenge people to rethink their conception of nature as detached from our daily lives.

Date:November 10th, 2023  -  January 13th, 2024

Location:Casa - Project Space

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The cover of the Spring/Summer 2024 Casa Program Guide with a marigold cover and paper flower collage.

Casa Program Guide

The Casa Program Guide is produced three times a year; Winter, Spring/Summer and Fall. Inside the guide find listings for the upcoming class and workshop schedule, upcoming exhibitions at The Gallery, information about artists in residence and seasonal events in the building. Program guides are free. Pick-up guides at Casa or at facilities throughout the city.